Musing on the Singularity of Friendship, Particularly Female Friendship
Earlier today, I had the good fortune to tune in to Lena Dunham's fantastic podcast, Women of the Hour. I started right at the very beginning of the series, a very good place to start, and found myself listening to the charming Ms. Dunham discuss the power and singularity of friendship. She focused particularly on female friendship.
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This message of hers came at a perfect time. I was all set to write about the importance of saying yes for this week's personal essay, but as her story unravelled, the idea of female friendship just sang.
For one thing, this week's BYOM feature, Madeline Merrill, is a dear friend; seeing her with simultaneous distance and intimacy through the interview made me appreciate her gorgeous self just that much more. For another, Sarah came all the way to Charlotte last weekend! We had a fantastic few days of dreaming, planning, watching movies, exploring and catching up. It was the first time we've spent multiple days together in more than a year, and it was so fulfilling and affirming. We took this leap of faith together, and BYOM has brought us so much joy.
I'm full of love and admiration for these two women, and truly all of my girlfriends, and have been reflecting with gratitude on those relationships. This friend-family gives me strength and inspiration, fills me with love and frees me to share it. It's a positive feedback loop of kindness and authenticity.
The Singularity of Friendship
That said, I have wondered for some time why these specific female friendships are so unique, how to explain that feeling to someone who hadn't experienced it, and how to even conceptualize it accurately myself.
I found a striking kind of answer in this podcast: it's hard to explain, hard to define, because those kinds of deep friendships are singular by nature. The particular quality of real friendship is that you recognize the individuality of another human, and they of you.
By the same token, the deepest friendships are rarely group friendships. In a group of five women, you may love each equally but you also likely will love each differently - and that's okay! Every friendship is one-of-a-kind, even when the bonds are strengthened by being shared in a community.
Why Is Friendship So Particular With Women?
I'm not sure about this, but it seems that there is a certain competitiveness that can undermine female relationships. You know the details, and probably know how it feels - and even if you haven't, you've seen Mean Girls - so I won't get too in the weeds. (I'm not sure if it exists for men , or how it manifests in friendships; suffice it to say that I don't think there's a synonym for catty that applies to platonic male relationships. Please, if you have an opinion, share in the comments!)
The point is that female friendship may be seen to be, in part, a triumph over those kinds of competitive, disingenuous feelings. Once you get past those feelings, there's an emotional awareness, a consideration, a love and an acceptance that is so so beautiful.
riginally published over on BYOM.