Exploring female friendships

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By: Kyndall Cunningham, Columnist 

It’s easy to forget the joy someone brings you when your most recent memory of them is an ignored text message, a missed FaceTime call or an opinion you never asked for. Those tiny fractions of time can easily overshadow the fact that your best friend is the only person keeping you from flushing your life down the toilet. Then there are times when your instincts are right, and you’re forced to confront the “bad friend” or worse, the “self-destructing friend.”

When you enter your 20s, your friendships might take you for a whirlwind. When you’ve been friends for years, those growing pains between adolescence and adulthood can really take a toll on your relationships. The magic that you once felt in your female friend groups might start to dwindle away, but it doesn’t mean that it’s vanished.

Theoretically, women are supposed to be the best friends. We’re more comfortable with our emotions, affectionate and open-minded — theoretically. That’s why there are so many movies and television shows about girlfriends and female bonds. “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” is still my all-time favorite girlfriends movie. The consistent and open communication, the painful honesty, the fierce protectiveness — even the fight scene was beautiful.

My obsession with movies and shows about gal pals continued when I discovered “Sex and the City” reruns, “Girls,” “The Baby-Sitters Club and every chick flick that came out before 2008. Strong female bonds never looked exaggerated to me on screen, even if they didn’t mimic my reality. I always figured that if you knew someone long enough and you knew everything about each other, you would have a friendship worthy of cinematic treatment.

That might be true up until you turn 18 or 19 or whenever the real world begins to finally hit you. It’s easy to manage friendships when you’re in middle school or high school and you have no bills to pay, your parents drive you everywhere and you think your life will work out the way you want it to. It’s another story when you’re constantly broke or when you’ve been dating the same guy for too long, or when your life is so busy that you no longer want to pick up the phone.

This might be incorrect, but I can only imagine that my friendships would be a lot smoother if we all came from super rich families and attended college without any financial struggles. But money doesn’t stop people from making bad personal decisions, or going through emotional hardships. It’s especially hard to confront a friend whose life is being controlled by depression, low self esteem or any poor mental health situation that’s draining the life out of them. It’s hard to be a good friend when you’re going through personal hardships yourself.

A guest speaker in one of my classes last week said that an empty person has nothing to give. It sounds simple now, but I guess it hit me hard when I first heard it. Your relationships can’t flourish if you don’t take care of yourself, or know what you want in life. As someone who was raised to be super goal-oriented, I never empathized with people who had no plans. It’s still hard for me to understand not knowing what you like to do, but it takes patience and compassion to watch your friends grow and figure out adulthood.

I don’t know what it’s like to grow into a man, but becoming a woman is pretty hard. Managing work, dating, friendships, mental health, your physical appearance, reaching your goals by a certain age — not to mention, all the expectations from social media and the world at large of how you’re supposed to look and behave can really mess with you. We carry a lot, and we’re the only people that can truly understand each other. That’s why I value and hold on to the female bonds in my life, whether it be my friends, my sisters or even my little niece.

Your best friend might not be the Carrie to your Miranda when you need her to be, but give it a little time. Of course, you should be wary of an actual bad friend, someone who constantly makes you feel small, ignored or worthless. Do not damage your mental health holding on to someone who is not good for you, no matter how much you love them.

But a lot of the time, we women get in the habit of complaining about a certain friend for so long or pointing out their wrongs or the petty things that can get us upset that we aren’t thankful for the friendship itself and what that person has done and continues to do for us that makes us want to still be friends with them. Your friendships might be more magical than you realize, or you could need a break.

Either way, female friendships are complicated. I haven’t lived long enough to know how long that period of tension and awkwardness lasts or if it remains forever. But patience, compassion and most importantly reflection will go a long way towards achieving that Carrie-Miranda dream dynamic.

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