03/02/2015 12:13 GMT | Updated 05/04/2015 06:59 BST

Why Female Friendships Are Better Than Anything Else in the World


Do you know who runs the world? Well, if you are to believe the gospel of Beyonce (and many people do), it's girls. Socially and economically, this thesis is slightly flawed. In some circles though, this could be considered true. In fact it is, and I've experienced it.

Growing up, we had the Spice Girls, and it was basically a rite of passage to have been intensely devoted to them if you grew up in the nineties, although in reality they actually only had about two albums. Zigga-a-zig ahh!

After we upgraded from Shout magazine we all tried to become Cosmo Girls, before gazing in awe at Britney, who was a school girl so naughty she did not care about doing choreographed dance routines in the corridors whilst lessons were going on. She was not a girl, nor was she a woman, and that was confusing - but fine because she was a red rubber jumpsuit-wearing legend.

And now we have Lena Dunham's Girls, where it's okay to sing weird acapella versions of Kanye West to your ex-boyfriend in a room full of people (thank God, needed to get that one vetoed for future reference).

I'm not really interested in the semantics of the word 'girl'. Call me a girl if you like. Or a lady (unlikely). Or a boy (easy mistake to make if you saw my haircut when I was four).

What I'm interested in is girl on girl action. FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS. From the age of eleven to an eighteen, I went to an all-girls school. Somehow, I came out alive. Girls really did run the world there, and they were basically tyrannical.

Now, when I think about my female friends, I beam with pride and feel an almost telepathic sense of empathy and respect rush between us. I feel this even with women I don't know so well, or have lost touch with. It's one of the things that makes me happiest.

But when I think about being in that school which was literally TEEMING with oestrogen, it's enough to give me nightmares and bring me out in sweats. Kind of like an early menopause.

When I was much younger, it's easy to see why girls hated me. I was really bitchy. So bitchy that one of the meanest girls in the class wrote 'BITCH' on a piece of paper and made me hold it up for her to take a photo on her phone. (One of those cool new Samsung flip phones, obv.) But it was confusing for me. All the girls who were the most popular were the nastiest. If I was going to get them to like me, surely I had to say bad things about everyone else? So my desperation to be accepted saw me offer up unkindness like some sort of weird animal sacrifice. And that's surely as complicated as girl's nastiness gets most of the time.

After being humiliated circa. twelve years old for saying mean things about people behind their backs, I internally pledged to change my ways. But I still had a hard time with girls throughout my time at school: there was the girl who made my whole form hate me by pretending I'd called two of my friends 'dykes' (inter-form sports days were bad enough without thirty other girls talking about what a shit human you were), or the girl who used to broadcast hateful messages about me via the medium of My Space bulletins, including a song about what a slag I was (as far as I know, she still hasn't got a record deal). And these are just the memories I haven't blanked out due to trauma.

The oracle that is Taylor Swift once said, 'There's a special place in hell for women that don't help other women'. (Seems a more fitting remark for Margaret Thatcher than Tina Fey and Amy Poehler though - in fact isn't that who she wrote I Knew You Were Trouble about?) But do girls ever really hate other girls? I'm not convinced.

Because, undoubtedly, the girls who were mean at school aren't like that any more. We all act like dicks when we're younger - I dyed my hair blonde (badly) after watching Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush. It didn't turn out well. It's not even a good film. The thing is, we're all helplessly trying to find our way in the world at that time, when our insecurities are at their most fertile and all the images we passively consume are saying BE SEXY! WEAR NICE CLOTHES! GET A BOYFRIEND! STOP BEING EMBARRASSING! HAVE BETTER HAIR! NOW!!!! And we'd look back in the mirror at our braces and stripey highlights and think we would never become proper human beings.

But I think back to that time now and think: how on earth did I survive that psychological onslaught of intense nastiness when I was such a fragile half-person, so young that my mum had to buy me Smirnoff Ice before I went to a party? The wrath of a girl - who is confused, angry, and insecure about her place in a world that holds her back, yet simultaneously expects her to be so much - is a oddly innocent but uniquely painful kind of cruelty.

But female friendship - real, genuine, honest, open and joyful female friendship - is a beacon of light, like no other. When women can laugh together without fear of one another, when they can receive each other's admiration and respect and return it wordlessly, it sends my heart soaring so high.

Back then, as a girl, being different was the worst thing possible. If you didn't have a Jane Norman bag, a pink iPod mini and a phone that took pictures (kind of an innovative piece of kit at the time), you were all but asking for it. Weirdos who preferred piano practice to Blazin' Squad were basically writing 'KICK ME' on a piece of paper and pinning it to their own backs.

Yet, now, if you're not different, what's the point? Why would you want to be the same as someone else? Where's the fun in that? In fact, where is the fun in that, ever? Not being the same as everyone else is the best thing you have to offer. I wish someone had told me that when I was thirteen so I didn't have to spend years pretending to like R. Kelly.

I used to think if I ever had children I would sooner home-school them than send them out into the battlefield known as Girl Land. But why accept defeat? If I ever manage to lure a man into impregnating me and the bundle of crying joy happens to be a girl, I will say to her, 'chances are, you're really weird. Keep up the good work. Stay weird, and be as weird as you like'.

Why? Because:

female friendship