Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“A good friend knows all of your stories; a best friend has lived them with you.”
This is a chick post. A shout out to my Home Girls, Sisters Who Aren’t Family, Partners in Crime and BFFs—the girlfriends who have walked this long and winding road with me and kept it real.
The longer I live the more I appreciate these amazing women. They are the glue, the air currents; the big things and the hundred million little things. They are that special group of women who helped me become me. When I look in the mirror I cannot see myself without seeing them.
Women experience life differently than men. We are hardwired to be friends and to cultivate friendships. We have multiple roles as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, all of them demanding our time. We are natural care givers; investing ourselves in the lives of those we love and sometimes we are spread pretty thin.
So who nurtures us? Many of us have spouses and partners but it’s our girlfriends who remind us who we were before. These relationships helped define us long before we took on these other roles and they keep us defined outside of them. When it comes to keeping my life in perspective it’s my girlfriends—straight up, no lie.
My girlfriends speak the same language I do. They are the mind readers and magicians who have walked me through hardships and celebrated me through accomplishments. These are the kind of girlfriends who can write my obituary.
Friendships with women influence our choices and shape our lives. If we are lucky they become life-long relationships. Growing up, it was our girlfriends who kept the sacred places where secrets were told, dreams were born, and plans were hatched. They were the anchors we tethered ourselves to as our lives unfolded.
We are older now. We are not girls anymore, we are women. It’s a different time in our lives; it’s a different kind of friendship, but it’s built on history.
For those of you who had a home town and the good fortune to grow up there, your best friend was probably next door or down the street.
Growing up as I did, a best friend ended up half way around the world from you every three years. We were classmates and sometimes neighbors (depending on the housing situation) for short periods of time. If you were going to stay in touch, letter writing was the only option and it wasn’t easy. There were no long-distance phone calls and Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet, so it took a lot of discipline to keep relationships going. We worked hard at it, but even good intentions fall short. Distance and time worked against us and, for a while, we lost touch.
The virtual world changed all that. Those I had lost touch with were quickly found. Technology helped us connect and stay connected. Email and wireless plans made it easy to talk to one another. Social media sites and Skype bridged any distance that remained. We are still besties, but we are, for the most part, still far away from each other. Living apart means an expanded circle of friendship. It means making new friends.
The Middle Ages
We have entered the middle age of our lives. Do we still call each other girlfriends? I think we do even though we are no longer girls. We are older – way older – than those teenagers who met in a foreign high school many years ago.
We have welcomed wrinkles, grandchildren and, for some of us, retirement. We have lived through the heartache of loss—our parents, partners, friends, and even children. There’s a lot of weight to our relationships. Some of it is around our waists, but I’m really talking about the weight that comes from life-changing experiences that live deep inside of you. It’s the anchor from our childhood, grown even stronger. It’s part of who we are and we bring it with us to these new friendships we are building.
We have settled in cities, neighborhoods and careers. We have learned to make friends in middle age the way others made friends when they were kids—except it’s harder to make friends when you are older. We are less easygoing, less carefree and more in demand from the people we care for. We are more cautious, and a little more reserved but we still long to hear someone say “wanna be friends?”
Friendhsips in middle age appear at unexpected times and places. I met one of my closest friends when she saw me power walking. She asked if I’d be interested in walking with her and we discovered we had a shared weight-loss goal. We’ve been walking partners—and so much more—for almost 7 years. Through her I met more amazing women and the circle grew. We share an eclectic passion for cooking, crafting, reading, and Girls Night In kind of fun.
We are neighbors in the truest send of the word, living near each other in a small town where we are connected through church, community, schools, kids and each others’ friends. When I find myself at a crossroads, it is these women who offer no-holds-barred advice and support. It’s therapy without the bill.
A long time ago a man I loved dumped me. The only way I could cope was to get on a plane and cry on the shoulder of my BFF, Jan. I cried and she listened. I told her what a horrible person he was and waited for her to agree with me. She said nothing. I listed his faults and his flaws and I cursed him repeatedly. After each pronouncement I waited for her to add her own. She did not.
When I ran out of words and tears Jan handed me a glass of wine and said, “Well then, you’re well rid of him, aren’t you?” That was 30 years ago and we’re still laughing about it. When the real thing came, along my girlfriends knew it. They informed me that if we broke up I was out, he was in. We still laugh about that too. By the way, he’s still here—I wasn’t taking any chances.
I am thankful for all of these women. Their love weaves the fabric of our friendship and binds us together across distances and across the street. Each of them enriches my life with the girl power of understanding, in-your-face honesty, recipes, laughter and shared glasses of wine.
We are all growing older but there are still secrets to keep and adventures to plan. Some things never change.