Female friendships are pivotal to a woman's existence. Women fulfil a role in our lives that men just can't in my opinion and for that reason I suppose I would classify myself quite firmly as a woman's woman.
Although happily married I am not a woman who regards my husband as my best friend and am always somewhat surprised and intrigued by those women that do. I didn't become the person I am in tandem with my husband and just as I don't satisfy all his emotional, intellectual or entertainment needs, he doesn't satisfy mine.
We love and respect each other and (aside from our family) share a passion for the theatre, art, eating out, comedy, reading, long walks and bizarrely Eastenders, but we don't have all the same interests. Apart from the obvious man passion for sport, he is a huge Sci-Fi fan, I am not. Computer games can engage him for hours but irritate the hell out of me. I love clothes and the latest fashions, he couldn't give a damn. I enjoy a good romp around an antiques or interior fair, whereas furniture for him is just functional.
Essentially, I think I am a fuller person and therefore wife to him for having my girlfriends in my life to satisfy those other bits of me that he can't reach and to share my interests with me that he doesn't. Let's face it there are some subjects that men just don't want to know about let alone talk about, whereas with women that you trust there is no such thing as a "no holds barred" conversation. Also women love attention to detail. If a decision needs to be made there is generally always a woman ready to discuss the pros and cons of any given scenario at length but I am yet to meet a man that is and most important of all, shopping with a woman is on a whole different level to going with your husband.
Then there is the girls night out or weekend away. Where would the female world be without these? Nothing compares to a group of women getting together for a good catch up and a bloody good laugh; you know that kind of hysterical belly aching laughter that happens when you are having fun with like-minded women? Girls will be girls!
For me friendship is all about the shared experiences, the mutual understanding that doesn't require words and the intimacies you would only share with a loyal and trusted friend and don't have to think about before you do. If you have to pause before you share a confidence with a girlfriend or say "please keep this to yourself" then it is probable that that girlfriend is a good friend but not a true friend.
My girlfriends fall broadly into three categories - University, Work and Children. This is probably true of most people, as you tend to pick up friends at each of the key stages in your life. I have made some truly incredible friends through work and some even better ones through the mothers I have met through my teenager's schooling. However, whilst some of my university friends have obviously known me the longest and shared my most formative years such as losing my virginity and my first major boyfriend drama, there are some in this group that I would not necessarily deem as amongst my closest friends anymore.
There are some experiences since leaving university and defnitely since having children that have shaped who I have become today that just don't involve some of those old friends. They will always hold a special place in my heart and my memories but we have quite simply moved on from each other.
Over the years it is natural that you re-organise your friends, it may be that you live too far away from each other and seeing each other is complicated, that you don't like each other's partner, that your children are different ages or quite simply that you have lost touch. This is all perfectly normal. Friendships, like a marriage, require love and attention and sometimes life takes over and it just isn't possible. Generally speaking though the ones that fall by the wayside are those that stand apart from the friends that you don't see for ages but can just pick up with instantly from where you left off as if it was only yesterday and the friends who have got your back in a time of crisis and are really looking out for you and particularly those that support you through the good and the bad.
For this reason whilst planning a celebration for my 50th I found myself inadvertently doing a bit of a friendship cull in deciding on the kind of party to have and the friends I want there. Sadly, I know that there are a couple in particular from my 30's and 40's when I encountered some of my toughest challenges that I simply won't carry through to my 50's.
When I raised a glass to being 50 and celebrated with a tear and a laugh, I wanted to surround myself with those true friends that have stuck by me through thick and thin. By that I mean the ones who were there when I got divorced; the ones who supported me when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and the ones that helped me without being asked when my husband suffered his mini stroke last year.
Some of these are relatively new friends but they are valued. True girlfriends are hard to come by so when you do find them, they need to be cherished, nurtured and thanked for listening.....