Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice
A Blog Series on Female Friendships
Posted Sep 26, 2016
Long before they love boys, girls love each other, and with great passion.
– Rachel Simmons
After my first memoir about my struggle with relationships with boys Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity was published, I heard from people I had known in the past. I had spent much time imagining reconnecting with the boys I wrote about in the book. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, were the girls. I was surprised at the terror I felt facing them again. Here, I’d thought my biggest story was my relationship to boys. But for all the ways in which I’d felt my relationship to boys had hurt me, my relationship to girls had perhaps hurt even worse.
Slowly, I had to face this fact: It was the girls, not the boys, who had defined me. When they told me who I was, I believed them. Isn’t this true for us all? The psychologists Teri Apter and Ruthellen Josselson write in their book Best Friends, “In friendship she discovers what she believes to be the final verdict of her true worth.” They had determined my very being, and I had not even begun to plumb the depths of what lay inside me regarding female friendships.
We are told that our female friendships will sustain and nurture us. They will support us through difficult times. Movies and television show how girls and women rely on one another throughout their high school careers and adulthoods. Indeed, we know now that friendships can protect against suicide in teen girls. They keep women alive longer during illness and old age. In a recent study, researchers found that for women social isolation from friends is as harmful to one’s health as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Yet, sustaining friendships, we women keep finding, is hard. The truth includes exclusions, break ups, and undermining. And, it’s not just in middle school; adult women continue to have these toxic friendships. Inside of this, though, we do need one another. Without a friend, we feel from early on, life is worthless. When we lose them, we grieve them the way one grieves a lost lover. And often we shape ourselves to serve them, even when we shouldn’t. Worse, we don’t “get over” the dilemmas of friendship. While girl aggression and adolescent friendship issues have gained attention through books like Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes and movies such as Mean Girls, little out there looks at how these persecutions stay with us throughout our lives, informing future friendships and our sense of selves.
In the following weeks, I will post here about my own journey with female friendships – the confessions, losses, pain, and horror, as well as the joys. Many posts will be excerpts from Girl Trouble: An Illustrated Memoir, which will come out October 1st. Please use the comments section to share your own difficulties with female friendships and/or let me know what you’d most like to see addressed.