“He’s calling! He’s calling!”
These words excitedly shouted by my best friend had 18 years-old me running back to her mother’s salon where I had left my phone charging. The “he” whose call caused so much excitement was my boyfriend at the time. I was fresh out of high school, was waiting to join university, had just gotten my national ID, my first phone and was in a new relationship. I was gliding down the rainbow, my pot of gold within reach.
My best friend was right there with me, cheering me on. Of the things that I had going for me at the time, only two applied to her. But that did not stop her – phoneless, boyfriend-less, and with an uncertain future – from being happy for me, jumping up and down in excitement as if my wins were hers. And in a way, they were. Just as I would walk around town with her, lost, asking for directions, first trying to find Cooperative House and later Revlon Plaza, because we heard that they housed colleges that she could apply to. That was one of my first real experiences of having a girlfriend.
I would later join the university where I would pick up three more, and over the years, add to the list. That boyfriend that my best friend was so excited about lasted only a few months. But she, despite taking different paths in life and even now living in different continents, is still one of my closest friends.
I was there when she got married, having a face-off with her husband, threatening to get on a plane to kick his butt if he dared hurt her. I might have had a few too many that evening and could not scrape together enough money to buy that plane ticket, but I meant every word of the underlying message in that threat. Years later, I would get a phone call from her, right when I needed her, and I would break down crying, as she from the other end of the world, tried to comfort me at that difficult time.
Girlfriends or “The Girls” are a crucial ingredient in womanhood. We even have TV series like Girlfriends or Sex and The City and a book series like “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” – which spawned a film series – that pay homage to this.
The girls understand the struggles that you face as a woman. Are you trying to get past that glass ceiling? Well, guess what, so are they. Moody and in pain during that time of the month, they have been there. They will be there offering that emergency tampon, painkillers, hot water bottle or whatever else you may need; and they will not hold it against you if you lash out. They will join chamas, book clubs, and gyms with you or maybe that is how you find them. As I recently found out, they will even be surrogate mothers to your children after you are gone.
The girls have been through it all with you, all the highs and the lows. They will take you out to celebrate your wins and later to down your sorrows over the losses. They know where the bodies are buried, heck, they might have even helped dig the holes and they love you anyway, maybe all the more because of it.
They are the sisters that you choose and are sometimes even better than the sisters that you were born with. If you’re lucky, you can have a sister who later becomes a girlfriend. The girls are there when you meet that special someone. They will see you through the excitement of it all; picking out date outfits, analyzing that person’s behaviour and words to find out if there is any hidden meaning and will help you celebrate all the relationship milestones that follow. Should the relationship crash and burn, then they will be right there with you, helping you pick up the pieces. This goes not just for romantic relationships but whatever else life throws at you. As long as you have the girls with you, you can face it all.
Taking all this in, it is clear to me why women need their girl squad with them, why we would go to great lengths to nurture these relationships. When you get into a romantic relationship, although you hope for the best, there is that accepted knowledge that it may not last. That is why even with marriage, whose vows contain “forever” in them, you will still find people signing prenups as they prepare to pledge their troth till death parts them.
But there are no prenups for your friendships. Because as someone recently told me, without the complexity that romance brings, we expect that things will be easier. With that expectation comes the assumption that we will always be friends.
For this reason, we are caught off guard when friendships end. With that ending, we lose our shared history and language, the inside jokes, our support system and basically, an extension of ourselves. Losing your girls usually hurts more as much as romantic breakups, sometimes even more. Because while you have the girls with you to help you weather relationship breakups, who do you turn to when you lose your girls?