The healing power of girlfriends
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What do you talk about for so long? That’s the husband’s standard question when I return from a day spent with my bestie. It’s time for you to leave already? That’s the bestie’s standard response after 6 straight hours of eye contact, camped in the balcony or on the bed, chatting about who knows what. These two questions encircle the power of my female friendships.
So what do women talk about? I tried to make mental notes of our conversations on a recent art-and-alcohol fuelled trip with five women, three of them strangers. Here’s what I remember: Anthony, the noisy, horny rooster who got on a mother-in-law’s nerves until she could take it no more and he ended up in the curry; the massage lady who calls you when she’s free, and not the other way around; biometric locks for your home; husbands who party when wives are away and smart strategies to counter that; how to shrug off the guilt of being a working mother; friendships, food, fashion, our bodies, our work, and the art of growing the perfect kitchen garden; Tamil Nadu politics and why publishers love Chetan Bhagat; and art and alcohol, of course. Holidaying with girlfriends is the easiest way I know to heal and reset.
Ever watched a women-only group at a bar or a restaurant, the fluidity of their movements and the depth of their stories not restricted by the presence of any masculine counterparts? Or, even better, the power of their femininity reinforced by each other? Yes I know boys rock too—and many of your soulmates may be male—but this column is about the importance of girls.
Women have one big advantage over men: the ability to communicate intimately with each other. We can talk about everything—love, abuse, bodily fluids, betrayal—no subject is too personal, no story raises any eyebrows. We’ve heard so many similar tales, we almost have an inner database. We can cross-reference that vast archive and share how others dealt with any particular issue without telling you what you should do. We are masters of scheduling and often discuss the minutiae of our complicated days. It’s probably the last space where nobody feels the need to self-censor before they speak. Of course it’s not all intimate. We have opinions on everything from La La Land to the Prime Minister’s latest acronym.
My friend Sapna likes the fact that women don’t hand out solutions to problems like men do, that they are not judgemental, that they instinctively know you just need someone to listen and empathize. “They hate who you hate, they understand bad hair days and why you yo-yo diet. You can cry your heart out in front of them…some of them can even keep secrets,” she says.
Girlfriends have a geography of belonging. There’s the long-distance bestie who misses you like crazy, the one who revs your self-confidence, your soul sister, and the one who you really only catch up with a couple of times a year in very intense interludes. She’s the counter to the everyday bestie, someone who’s always on hand and who knows every little thing about your life, including when you last had sex and what you ate for lunch. She’s the first person you call if anything happens. It’s impossible to imagine life without her. Somewhere in the middle of this axis is the bestie who lives in a city you travel to frequently. I highly recommend a girl in every port. I have two in Delhi and I love the way they fight over me.
There’s the girlfriend with whom you watch films and the girlfriend with whom you like to travel. I’m using the word bestie a little flexibly, I know, but my life brims with women I feel strongly about. Besides, the best part about leaving school is saying bye-bye to girl politics. You no longer have to split your loyalties between one or two girlfriends.
Girlfriends also inhabit the history axis of your life differently. There’s the old bestie who knew you before your first love, your first sleepover, the first time you waxed your legs. And the new bestie, someone you met when you were all grown-up, the one who arrived at a time you didn’t feel the need to share your life with any fresh entrants, and with whom you felt an immediate sense of belonging.
If you’re anything like me, your history will include some lost girlfriends, those who mattered and then disappeared, usually through some fault of yours. And if you’re lucky, ever so rarely, you’ll have a lost and found bestie, someone who disappeared at 18, came back decades later, and seamlessly continued from where she had signed off.
And then there’s the must-have workplace bestie. Sometimes she can be your partner/co-founder who doubles up as your babysitter. At other times she’s just someone you admire professionally—you have each other’s back, you can’t stop recommending each other enough, and you secretly wish you were like each other. She’s your everyday role model.
All those who say women can’t live and work together are just envious of the healing power of our girlfriends. In 2017, even former frenemies Betty and Veronica understand the power of a girlfriend.
Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable @priyaramani Livemint.firstname.lastname@example.org