Remember the first time you walked up to that stranger who now knows every single detail of your life? Who knew that one awkward introduction over tepid tea in the college canteen would lead you to your biggest cheerleaders- your friends! They know how you feel even if you do not utter a word. They understand you when your family is unable to and they give you a shoulder to cry on when you desperately need one. In simple words, friends are like music, life becomes a little more tolerable with them. But what about friends who take you for granted? Or what about times when you took your friends for granted?
While a close-knit group of dependable friends is important to everyone’s well-being, female friendships are special in more ways than one. They become anchors of our life in moments of distress. They provide a refuge from demanding parents, a respite from gruelling academics and a repository for all your feelings. Certainly not in the sense bromance is shown in the media but more to the core and nerve. A study by the University of California, Los Angeles suggests that women’s responses to stress are characterised by patterns that involve caring for offspring under stressful circumstances, joining social groups to reduce vulnerability, and contributing to the development of social groupings, especially those involving female networks, for the exchange of resources and responsibilities. This implies that we are wired to connect with other women, expand our social when we are stressed out.
Why Female Friendships End?
However, sooner or later, these prized female friendships tend to recede from our lives, ending like a a Damien Chazelle film, instead of becoming Ekta Kapoor’s everlasting dramas. But why does this happen? One of the possible reasons is that us women are more likely to avoid confrontations; as we don’t want to hurt the person that we love; or simply because the process giving our friend a chance to explain themselves seems too painful and tedious.
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Another very popular reason is that we simply do not like to talk about conflict. Thus over course of years, female friendships get burdened by unresolved complaints, many of which we carry to our graves. Let us face it, we all know that many of our disagreements can be resolved with mere talks, or actions, or showing some accountability. So what comes in the way? The guy, those other friends, our roommates, even our family and last bust not the least- our reluctance to accept our mistakes and forgive each other. That one moment of reluctance sometimes lasts a lifetime, and from there, there is no way back. The bond that is cultivated with absorbing each other’s fears and vulnerabilities gets reduced an awkward “Hello” at reunions- just like that first meeting.
From a young age, women are conditioned to feel threatened by each other. The top the ladder is occupied by men and there is very little room for women- thus if we want to succeed- be it in live or career, we must see each other as rivals and try to pull each other down. For instance, classic fairytales like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty all see vengeful and jealous women attacking members of their sex. We have unlearned this stereotyping of other women as rivals, but sadly after generations paid the cost in form of lost friendships and supportive social circles.
Nonetheless, there is always a moment to think and undo the damage. It won’t be as breezy as a fairytale, it will take time. But it will bring a lifetime worth of gains. As author Roxanne Gay point out perfectly in her book Bad Feminist, “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive,” further adding, “This myth is like heels and purses – pretty but designed to SLOW women down.
Women need to ensure that they invest time and energy in their friendships over years and make sure that friends never feel taken for granted. We also need to condition young girls to stop seeing each other as rivals, and instead build a support system for each other that will not only protect but nurture them as well.
Views expressed are the author’s own.