“To love, honour and cherish,” are words that have been uttered with much conviction in front of family and friends by most of us in our lifetime. They convey to our spouses what we naively believe to be true until death do us part. Sadly, more than 50 percent of us, however, never fulfill those promises. In fact, it has been my experience that these words more appropriately apply to those individuals who often turn out to be the most important people in our adult lives – our girlfriends. The fact that our relationships with girlfriends are so intense, honest and enduring, without blowing a year’s salary on a fancy wedding speaks volumes about the power and strength of friendships.
My own strong relationships with girlfriends began in high school and was the direct result of being totally unappealing to the opposite sex. Despite numerous crushes on classmates and hotties-about-town who cruised into the drive-in burger joint where I worked on weekends, no one was particularly interested in dating a skinny, pimply, toothy me. Undaunted, though, I bravely attended all the high school dances and did the twist, the mashed potato and jive with my girlfriends. We sat out the slow dances. I did once summon up the nerve to ask a cute blond guy called Chuck to a Sadie Hawkins dance at our high school. Having no experience with talking to boys, I asked a similarly afflicted girlfriend what we should talk about. She wisely advised, “talk about his interests”. (Some things never change, do they?) I knew he belonged to the wrestling club so I cleverly started a conversation with, “So I hear you belong to the wrestling club?” to which he replied, “Yes.”. End of conversation. Beginning of a very long painful evening. His mother probably made him honour the date with me because it was the kind thing to do.
Fifty years later, it’s still girlfriends I can always count on to advise, support, humour and honour me when I need it. The day I separated from my first husband, I landed on my girlfriend’s doorstep in tears at 9:30 in the morning. She immediately put the kettle on, dropped whatever she had planned for that day and listened, sympathized and supported my soul for the entire day while I blubbered. Comedienne #Sandra Shamas in one of her shows described her own marital separation something like this, “When a woman is in pain, she emits a strong, silent signal that is audible only to other women. And then they come. Friends descend with love, caring and boxes of cookies and squares and pots of tea.” It’s a very powerful energy.
Friends share secrets, diet tips, fashion advice, books and even other friends. We share and support each other through the process of aging, bolstered by the thought that we’re not alone. The other day as I removed a small packet of hearing aid batteries from my purse, we had a good laugh recalling that it doesn’t seem that long ago we were retrieving tampons from similar packets in our purses. Sharing hangover remedies has been replaced by fibre recommendations. Listening to confessions about love life disasters has happily been overtaken by loving life. Getting rid of unwanted hair has been superseded by efforts to conquer hair loss. We’re all in this together.
My network of girlfriends is large. Some I’ve known since kindergarten, more than 60 years ago. Others are more recent but most of my circle of friends have been around for at least 40 years. They’re smart, funny, kind and generous. We’ve seen each other through the good, the bad and the ugly. Husbands have come and gone. Children have grown up and left home which freed us up for more time together. We’ve watched one another lose our waistlines and gain some wrinkles. Some have lost husbands, children, parents and other friends. But we still have each other. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, ’til death do us part, and for that we’re very grateful.P.S. January 28, 2014: My girlfriend Gail just sent me this: