Monday 5 March 2012

That's What Little Girls Are Made Of

On Saturday night, over tea and a bottle of very nice wine, my friend and I got to talking about our long-standing female friends.

Women are complicated, I think we know that much. But I always assumed that as we got older, we would mellow out. That the gut-wrenching, screaming rows we had with our BFFs when we were teenagers would simmer down and make way for a new, mature style of relationship with no jealousy over who was hanging out with who, no guilt over letting somebody down or leaving them out.

For some reason though, our oldest friends still have a way of tapping into those old Just 17 feelings, and the smallest misunderstandings still make us feel like the world is ending. It's almost as if the point at which somebody came into your life is the age which you seem to revert to when you argue with them.

Is that too neat an explanation?

More likely the longer we've known somebody the more we care.... or the longer we've known somebody, the more they know how to push our buttons. Possibly the hurt actually says more about our own insecurities than it does the other person's behaviour.

Whether we actually sit down and solve these arguments depends on how badly we need to. At our age so many of our good friends are in different parts of the country, or in another country altogether. Some are married and have families. Some have incredible, all-consuming careers, some are completely changing the way they live their lives. Any of these things can take you away from people you used to be close to, so why bother to work on fixing things?

My best friend and I have known each other for over twenty years, and we used to have horrible fallings out when we were younger - real claws-out screaming matches that left us both red-eyed and shaking with tears.  They're few and far between now, but in times of crisis they rise up again, like forces of nature. About two years ago, after a particularly horrible row, we finally we decided we just needed to sit down and work out what we were both doing to piss the other one off, because we were pretty sure it was the same pattern every time, and it was getting frustrating.

It was gut-wrenching to do it. The hardest part was the realisation that all the things you fear about your character flaws are generally true, and holding your hands up and admitting to them is almost painful. The best part was not being judged for any of it by the other person. That requires total trust.

I'm aware  that it sounds a bit hippy dippy self-help book, and it definitely wouldn't work for everyone, but since then every miscommunication has been quietly defused before any of the old habits have kicked in.

Whether we'll keep this up over the next 8 months of planning her wedding remains to be seen...

Do you still fall out with friends? Does it bother you?


  1. I tend not to fall out with friends so much but you're spot. on. about regressing into previous roles - when I fight with my sister we go back to being 14 and 15, throwing hair brushes at each other. Once we rowed in the car while waiting for the red light to change and I nearly threw a road atlas at her.

  2. I very rarely 'fall out' with friends, apart from one notable exception(!) but I do find that its the smallest of misunderstandings that cause grievances and because of our new adult and 'mature' roles they don't ever get addressed. I tend to lean towards trying to understand why they did what they did and then letting it slide, after having a moan to Pete and do also try to think what I have done. For example I don't see several of my friends with babies as much now and it really upsets me. I feel like they don't care about friendship anymore when I value it so much. But then I also think that I tend to withdraw from them, even more as the baby count racks up because I'm partly disinterested in another drooling baby and partly disinterested in the newly mind-numbing conversation. I have no-one to blame for that but me.

    I think you were right to sit down and sort things out, cringeworthy as it must have been, but that's a very hard thing to do in certain circumstances.

  3. Gemma - I think it's always tough with family. It's as if the rational part of your brain just evaporates. I hope the road atlas is OK.

    Rebecca - That's a really good point about the baby thing. I'm lucky enough to not have really gone through it with my group of friends yet (we're all late bloomers I think!) but good friends of mine have been really burned and it always seems such a shame. I hope there's a way around it - either that or every woman in my social circle needs to get pregnant exactly at the same time...


  4. An alternative view to the baby thing is that having a baby can actually be very isolating and the time when your new mum friend needs you the most. I found that I have never been so tired, emotional and at times lonely in my life. Having a baby was not in my plan any time soon but I think it doesn't make that much difference whether it's planned or not, you can't prepare yourself for how much your life will be turned upside down. I certainly feel that I love to see my friend's in order to just feel that I am still a person in my own right rather than a care giver 24 hours a day but instead have had a stark reminder of who my true friends are (the people who don't care that you are too tired to hold a proper conversation or that your social life has gone out the window like it or not and so you have nothing else to talk about). I think the friends you can argue with as if they are your sister are just as close as family, you do right to treasure them and put in the time and effort that you have even if it's difficult for you.

  5. Oh Sally I'm so sorry you've had to feel that way. I think any big changes in life can be a jolting reminder of who your real friends are. I'm determined not to let this happen with any close friends who eventually have babies, and desperately hope they'd do the same for me... but as you say, you never know until it happens, and that can be so disappointing and hurtful. I think the bottom line is that a big change of any kind on either side can be a catalyst for friendships evolving. Some friendships fade away for a while, and other new, awesome ones arrive to take their place. Treasure the good ones who will be there to the bitter end!


  6. Don't get me wrong, Flo is he best thing that ever happened to me, but the huge change in your lifestyle changes your whole outlook. I think there are probably a lot of my friends who I haven't heard from in a while who think I am now baby obsessed now and have no time for them but it's more that I don't have the opportunity to think of anything else for a while whether I like it or not. I'm sure it won't be long before there are lots of little punk rockers running around Leeds.

    S x