Wednesday, January 1, 2014

She Matters: This post turned into a diary entry. No one make it weird.

The subject of female friendships has always been uncomfortable for me to linger over. You see, I’ve never quite gotten the hang of them.

I mean, when I was young, being with other girls was easy. I don’t remember fretting over imagined or actual slights. It was all sleepovers and tree climbing and pretending to be horses. (I was a skewbald pinto named Man o’ War, and I preferred my dry oats with cinnamon and sugar.)


One of my friends broke my nose ("horsing" on a trampoline is not recommended), and we didn't lose a step over it. Friendship was simple.

As I got older, the idea of making and maintaining female friends became so fraught with uncertainty and potential danger that I decided just one close friend was plenty. I had my best friend, and I was not taking applications for additional ones. I know now that this was a misguided attempt to insulate myself from rejection. Then and now, I craved approval from my gender peers . . . and middle school had taught me a hard lesson on that subject.

I started to open up a bit in high school, and even more in college. And if I made a list of every girlfriend I’ve ever had, it would have a lot of names on it. I have known and been fond of many women in my life. But the relationships either never grew past a certain level of intimacy or we lost touch. I suppose losing touch is a likely outcome when you move away from every friend you’ve ever made and also happen to be terrible at using a cell phone for anything more involved than text messaging.

To make a long therapy session short, this is an area where I’ve always found myself lacking. I want to be less guarded with women, less intimidated, more genuine . . . unapologetically earnest even. I’m almost 30. I may start having babies soon, and I live thousands of miles away from my family. I would not be exaggerating if I said this sometimes keeps me up nights.

It's not healthy to identify with Annie Walker on several levels, y'know?

Enter Susanna Sonnenberg, who insists on making me think about this sensitive subject with her book, which examines her relationships with various women throughout her life and the ways, minor and major, they changed her. I think whenever anyone writes introspectively, there’s a risk of sounding pretentious and self-involved. (Have you read any of your old diaries lately? You sound like an asshole. Trust.) That tone certainly crops up in this case, especially if you have a terrible habit, as I do, of being overly critical of other women’s intentions. 

But set that critical tendency aside. Ride out the occasional note of pretention. Because if you do, you will find pieces of your experiences reflected back to you (mixed in with some situations that are foreign to you of course, because of how we are all unique and such).

For instance, saying goodbye to a summer camp friend:
I was crying, and she was, too, as we embraced by the cars. We were girls, we lived big. Our arms chained around each other’s necks, our sobbing was pure. No lovers had been parted so cruelly, no bond had been severed so swiftly. (p. 42)
Or struggling to maintain a sense of self in relationship with women:
I knew how to make men last, trusted their allegiance and their reliable limitations. Women didn’t last. Unable to help my hope and longing at the start, I opened myself, gave away everything, immersed in a woman as if I wished to disappear. (p. 8)

When you get right down to it, it’s difficult to remember the details of these vignettes, even immediately after reading one. And that’s OK. They belong to Susanna; she’s just letting us wander through them for a while. What the book gives you to keep is an impression, an overlying feeling that you, too, have had such friendships, that they mattered . . . and that you had forgotten just how much.


  1. Ah, young girls and their horses. I had a flying horse named Sky. He was blue. I miss him.

    This was a lovely post, lady. And really relatable, I think, especially to those of us more comfortable with internet friendships than real-life-sitting-on-the-couch-together-and-forced-to-find-SOMETHING-to-talk-about friendships. This was a sweetly and thoughtfully written response, and your tag made me guffaw. So well rounded, you are.

  2. Is the whole book so...creepy? If you think that's the wrong word, sorry, it might be, but that's how those excerpts struck me. Was giving them the frowny, askance sort of eyeball.

  3. I'm sure you were a super majestic horse, broken nose and all.

    I love this post. I never had a huge amount of close female friends. Really, I think now that I have you guys as internet friends I think this is the largest number of female friends I've had since...I don't know when.

  4. Awww. I will read this and I will like it.

  5. Hmmm...
    Many things to think with this particular post. Mainly that, when I think about it, I pretty much stopped at that whole "one best friend" thing as well. And, when I talk about myself, I mainly talk about how well I "fit in with the guys". Thoughts a-brewin'...

    On a side note, that's the most majestic looking horse picture I've ever seen. Well done.

  6. A FLYING horse. You dream big, my friend. I like that about you.

    I cherish our Internet friendships. And sometimes we DO meet in person and sit on couches and find things to talk about, so I think we're probably doing OK.

  7. I don't know if I would describe it as creepy. Maybe a little pensive? I mean, she's basically just examining herself and her motivations...and sometimes the things she discovers about herself aren't very flattering. But they're REAL, and I think the honesty factor is a crucial part of the book.

  8. Horses have pretty big noses, so I was just method acting is all.

    This is definitely the most female friends I've had in my whole life, and that's why our Society of Lady Bloggers is so damn special.

  9. But it's OK if you don't happen to end up liking it. I won't be offended or question the foundation of our friendship...MUCH.

  10. It's EXHAUSTING making friends and even harder keeping them. And I STILL end up being mostly surrounded by men, because my husband's friends are MY friends and they all refuse to get girlfriends who I can then become friends with by default. Ladies are tricky, I tell you. But they're also pretty great.

    That is an actual picture of me as a horse. So thank you.

  11. Naturally, I only assumed you took that picture of your horse-self (not
    your whore's self, which is a totally different thing that you're more
    than willing to do as you please with GET DOWN WITH YOUR BAD SELF HOME
    GIRL) because what's the alternative? Google image searching a majestic
    horse? As if ;)

    I know what you mean. NONE of my husband's
    friends, male friends, or coworkers have lady counterparts, so 99% of
    the time it's me, a group of boys, and narry another lady in sight.
    Which can make it hard to invite other ladies on my own, knowing that
    they'll be the only single lady in this group of very single guys. Who

  12. Society of Lady Bloggers. I like it. We sound so fancy.

  13. I kinda feel like you were stealing my deepest and scariest and most secret thoughts when you wrote this post. I was ALSO a majestic horse, but I was a fiery red with white mane and tail called Snowfire. Also I never got my nose or anything else broken while playing horses with my best friend, Tracie. We even got in trouble in school creating equestrian jumping courses, complete with triple jumps and water jumps.

    I was surrounded by a large group of close female friends from high school through grad school and beyond. BUt then I moved to MA from MS, and let's just say what a difference a letter (of the alphabet) makes. I've made ONE good girlfriend in the 13 years that I've lived here and I totally suck at staying in touch with the good friends I left behind.

    It's HARD to make friends--meaningful friends, anyway--as an adult. I want to take a course in it.

    Thank goodness I have so many of y'all!

  14. There's a reason we all found each other in the vast abyss that is the INTERNET. And only one of those reasons is books.

    I'm impressed by your horse-colors and horse-name. Everyone else seems to have gone fantastical with their horse personas, while I stayed a little more grounded. I wonder what that says about us...

  15. We ARE fancy. We eat tiny food and discuss literature. How much fancier can you GET???

  16. I suspect that most of us Fancy Lady Bloggers who are friends and members of a Certain Admiration Society were largely "girls who don't like other girls." And now that I'm a little older and I've gone from being burned by girls to being burned by *guys*, that has changed because friendships among women are complicated and hard and fraught but also staunch and curiously strong like spider's silk.

    Who picked me up when I couldn't do it myself? My girlfriends. Did my vaunted guy friends - bless their macho hearts - ever manage more than a strangled "do I need to kill someone?" No ma'am. So who told me at just the right moment that it was (past) time to get my shit together and stop crying every day and see a therapist? My girlfriends. I am not hyperbolizing when I say that the friendship of women - some of them women I've only known *on the Internet* - has saved my life in the not-distant past. I think that when I realized the depth and power of female friendships was when I started thinking of myself as a woman and not a girl, and that was Quite Recently Indeed, so you're doing just fine, lady. Juuuuuust fine.

    I was a pegasus with a silver unicorn's horn, which I have been told is a uni-peg but I have always ALWAYS hated that word so no thank you. My name - I'm not even kidding you - was Snowflake.

    My poor brothers.

  17. I read this last night in a particularly vulnerable moment, and it hit me right in the heart muscle.

    I do love you, Snowflake.

  18. I love you and your magnificent pinto heart right back.