“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Edna Buchanan, journalist and author.
As women we define ourselves by our relationships with others. It’s not only about our external roles…daughter, sister, mother, friend…but how we validate our internal emotions. Only another woman can understand the pain of miscarriage. Only another woman can understand the loss felt when you suddenly go from being the primary caregiver of young children to an empty-nester to having to care for an aging parent, a parent who might not even remember who you are.
A girlfriend will try to catch you when you try on those gorgeous 4-inch heels and then laugh with you when you both end up sprawled on the shoe store floor while everyone else stares as if you’re drunk, or perhaps insane. A girlfriend always has a tissue handy when you’re crying or a bottle of wine chilled and ready when you’re angry after a bad day at the office. It doesn’t matter if your one great love broke your heart, your pet died, or you’re watching that same sad movie for the umpteenth time, your girlfriend always has an understanding ear and a ready shoulder.
There are friendships that inspire us, such as Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald. The famous sex symbol so idolized her friend, the Queen of Jazz, that in a time when black musicians couldn’t get hired anywhere but a black nightclub Marilyn promised a white nightclub owner she would sit in the front row every night for a week if he would hire Ella to perform in his club. Then there are the television friendships that spilled into real life. Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance were fast friends both on screen and off. Who doesn’t still laugh out loud when watching the chocolate factory scene? You can’t fake that kind of chemistry,not for all the awards in Hollywood. Although Vivian (“Ethel”) wasn’t on screen for vitameatavegamin you know she had to be standing right behind the camera stifling a laugh as she watched her friend stammer and stumble through that commercial pitch time and time again, each more ridiculous than the last.
Without our girlfriends we feel isolated, alone. Just try telling your husband about your bad day. Instead of listening, nodding, pouring you a glass of wine, he’ll tell you why his day was worse and then proceed to tell you how to “fix” your problem. A girlfriend doesn’t do that. In my novel, “Mary Bishop”, Mary mourns the loss of all the close women in her life: her mother, sisters, friends. Some have died while others disappeared after the Civil War ended. Only another woman who’d lived it could understand what they went through during that divisive and uncertain time; only another woman knew what it was like to have a son or husband, a love or a brother or father, march off one day never to return. Mary’s pain has formed a wall around her heart that she struggles to break through as she looks to form new friendships in a new town where anger and bitterness seem to be the predominant moods.
I’m one of the lucky ones. My best friend is my sister. We just returned from six days in Las Vegas. It’s an annual trip we both look forward to. There was a lot of laughter and a little gossiping. We talked about our children, our jobs, school (she recently went back for her degree). We drank, we gambled, and, yes, we tried on shoes. Let’s just say she rocks those 4-inch heels. Me, not so much. I’m more likely to be the one on the shoe store floor.
Tell me about your best girlfriend or sister.