I climbed a hill last night – a real hill, not a metaphorical one – up past our local white horse carved into the chalk, with beautiful views over Wiltshire. The sun was setting, and this lent a soft red glow to the distance, where 4 hot air balloons drifted in tiny silhouette. A low mist in the valley was settling over the poplar trees in the valley, and the cows were lowing softly – the only sound other than birdsong to break the silence.
But beautiful as they were, the surroundings were not what was important – what was important was that I was with my friend Sue, whom I see only rarely because I (and she) lead such busy lives that there are always good reasons not to make the effort to meet up. I am particularly guilty in this respect, especially in term time, when school takes over my life entirely, from dawn to dusk, but Sue has never given up on me over the seven years she has known me. She has often insisted on meeting up, on taking me out of my intense existence just to talk about ‘ordinary’ things, just to enjoy being ‘normal’.
So last night we talked as we walked about ordinary stuff, about normal everyday life – about what we were doing, about how we were balancing all the things we were doing all of the time, about the future and about the past. And as we talked, I experienced an immense feeling of gratitude for this friendship, and I was reminded immediately and powerfully of the value of female friendships.
We hear all the time about negative female-female relationships – woman bosses who are more difficult to work for than male bosses, or women being unkind to other women about their appearance and/or their life choices (just follow the strings of comments on the Daily Mail online …). Girls have the reputation of being far meaner, harsher, more judgemental in relationships than boys – ‘cattier’, ‘bitchier’ – and when we talk about Queen Bee syndrome, we know we are not talking about men.
And yet women have the capacity to create enormously supportive relationships and sustain an amazing companionship. Fantastic business mentoring schemes for women have been springing up for several years now, and girls when they are together develop incredibly strong and lasting friendships (I cite the Year 13 leavers at my own school, year-on-year, as a phenomenal example). Our female friends see us through the ups and downs of our lives, and our time on this planet is richer as a result. We need to remember this, just as we need to remember too to invest time and care in our female friends if our friendships are to flourish and deepen.
To my friend Sue, thank you for reminding me of this. And thank you for investing in our friendship.