I consider my natural disposition about as friendly as a doberman’s. I have this unique superpower which lets me, by the sheer act of showing up to a social gathering, cause comfort and conversation to shrivel up and die. Then I proceed to fill this new cavernous void with deep and resonating awkwardness, which I will exponentially worsen by clearing my throat about twenty thousand times. I have literally, without even using my hands, awkwarded people’s relatives into sudden hospitalization and unforeseen donut emergencies on the other side of town, for which they needed to cut our meetings short. I tell you this not because I take some twisted pride in it – even though I kind of do – but to illustrate how I’m really not very skilled at interacting with other humans. So you will understand why then, every couple of days, when I’m going about my business writing a story, tormenting the dog or trying to lick the floor of a Nutella jar, I’ll suddenly stop and think, “I have friends. I have friends? I HAVE FRIENDS.” It has the very same effect as when I eat that first French fry after a long hiatus – tremulous happiness mixed with terrible foreboding. But I digress. The real epiphany here is that when I think this happy thought, I only think of it in terms of my handful of girl friends.
This goes back to my all-girl, convent education perhaps, or maybe it’s just that from a ridiculously early age I was very aware that boys were boys and girls were girls for reasons that are only for my future therapist’s ears. I have often thought of this as one of the many great tragedies of my life (WHY did they cancel Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip?!), but what it meant was I never ended up developing any unselfconscious friendships with boys, while simultaneously forging a number of relationships with women that, if they were romantic, would easily qualify as epic love stories. Actually, you know what, they are epic love stories.
Forget about the big boorish clichés like going to the bathroom in groups, discussing in-growths in unhappy places and how all men are alternately awesome and awful. I’m talking about the ones that don’t make it to sitcoms – the rise in a girlfriend’s voice when she’s viscerally feeling outrage on your behalf. The way she can tell your happy silence from your awkward silence from the silence that is barely holding back your guttural sobs. The way we have defended one another’s honour and indeed, dishonour, alike. The way it’s ‘Us against the World/ Whoever’s Pissing You Off At The Moment’ season all year between me and my girlfriends. The code of ethics we have constructed piecemeal over time, whose nuances we intuitively understand, but can’t explain, especially not to the uncommonly daft boys we like. The way our relationships essay every other kind of relationship at different points in time – I’ve caught myself telling a friend that she is not to do a certain something-something in the very voice my mother used to use to make me drink milk of magnesia. I’ve also exchanged I Love Yous with these women, with the kind of intensity and truth I hitherto thought belonged only between a couple. We have been confident enough in our friendships so that we’ve spat virulent, unedited BS at one another and then begged forgiveness without the slightest cost to our egos. Like I said - I was aware of my ostensible girlness - not girlieness - very early on, but only truly became aware of its gravitas in the enduring company of these women.
At 26, I have managed to accrue a nice lot of meaningful male friendships as well, and I can confess that often I like to escape the girlfriends for their relative simplicity and linearity. I cannot even begin to tell you what an unqualified jock/jerk I’m capable of being around these guys. Until of course one of them offends some ladylike sensibility neither they, nor I, knew I had. Then it’s race-dialing the bestie with “GUESS WHAT HE JUST SAID TO ME…,” fervently hoping she’ll be able to tell me why I’m this mad. And you’d better believe she will.