Remember those deep friendships with other girls. The ones you had growing up? A friendship that began by an intense dislike of another girl at school perhaps. Or envy of their hair, their long legs, their ease with other people. Startled by their rudeness, the sneering way they chewed gum.
You grew close and hung out on weekends. Stalked older boys or pretended to be cooler than you were in front of younger girls. Perhaps you got into trouble together. Smoking menthol cigarettes and drinking warm cider. Hiding from her older brother.
Scout hut discos. Dancing as if you had volts of electricity running through you. Finding your role models. Blondie, Madonna, Siouxie Sioux.
Once you left school you would plan to attend the same colleges, universities. The two of you would end up sharing a place with a girl called Ruth to make the rent. You’d try not to poison each other with your cooking experiments. You’d have crappy boyfriends who were always at the pub. But you had each other, a rousing cry, while you drank down a tooth mug full of Stones ginger wine. You wouldn’t date anyone who didn’t love your friend, your chum, your partner in crime.
I was reading an article in the newspaper about friends this morning. How important they are. Growing up together, never losing touch. Your friend. The coolest person you ever met. And I have that. I’m very lucky. I moved to a different county, a different city, finally moving to the other side of the planet. But she’s still there. In my heart, in my head, top of my facebook friends.
But as I read about the authors experience growing up with a great gal pal I was aware that things were different for me. I’m not asking for sympathy. I certainly don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Heaven forbid.
When I was 14, not long after I met my girlfriend, my family moved away. I was pulled away from my dearest friend. And life was never quite the same. While I had girlfriends at my new school, not many I must admit, I was always third wheel in some other friendship. I was ‘Ruth’. (Apologies to any Ruth’s reading but I had to pick a name). I still got presents back from family holidays and phone calls. But I wasn’t the first on the list. I was the ‘Sarah was busy, I was wondering if you might like to’… hang around the streets talking nonsense, try and get in the local pub where some spunky bloke hung out.
I’m still in touch with my friends, even the ones where I was third wheel. I mean, I live on the other side of the planet but facebook is good. It’s really good. After school I stayed on while Thelma and Louise left. Thelma lived overseas for a while. And Louise (oh how glamorous!) started seeing a much older man.
I needed my friend. My other-county friend. We still liked the same music, wore similar clothes. I didn’t look for another female substitute. I found a male one. A series of them. Beautiful, black leather jacketed, motorbike-riding young men. I had fun doing things I probably shouldn’t have done but there was no pouring over the tiny details over and over again. No swapping clothes (although I did wear my first love’s jeans to school, covered in motorbike oil). No giggled confessions.
There followed a number of relationships, lots of being thrown around on the back of a bike. Rock festivals, Easter camping trips in the snow. A wedding. A divorce. 20 years of being one of the boys.
It wasn’t until I had children that I started being one of the girls again. I was married for the second time, very happily. But I’d missed my rites of girly passage. I’d never played Rizzo to anyone’s Frenchy. I wasn’t even Sandra Dee. No regrets. It’s my story and I’m quite happy with it.
I have two sons who are my stars and moon. But if I’d had a daughter I would tell her to cherish her girlfriends, keep them close. Never let them go. While you’re trying to work out whether he’s a good guy or whether you should run, your girlfriend will be able to tell you straight. Immediately. Just by looking at him. It would have saved a lot of time.