Friendship is a word dogged with negative misconceptions. As you grow older it seems to infer an inability to ‘get some.’ To be attractive, wanted, desired. Friendship implies the constant foundation that is always there, but rarely recognised. When one is ‘the friend’, it seems to imply one is not ‘the one.’ The one that everything happens to, who all the attention is focused on. That would be the ‘girlfriend,’ or the ‘difficult/attractive/sensational/talented etc etc one.’ The friend is just there.
I’ve found as I broached the gap between school and University, that we viewed that launch into adulthood as the liberating slingshot that would throw us, like a loaded missile, into the target board of ‘relationships.’ So many people who hadn’t experienced prepubescent relationships were hanging all their hopes on the Uni years. It would be a time when people of ‘all walks of life/tastes/experiences/backgrounds and interests’ would converge like rush hour traffic on a bank holiday. You would have a choice of whom to pick, who to be friends with, and well-meaning aunts always reminded us – there will definitely be someone who is interested in you. How could there not be? Unless the odds and the gods were so grievously stacked against you, there would be ‘someone’, someone, (anyone they muttered in desperation) who would take a liking to you.
So we wait expectantly. Eyes straining because we believe we look better without our glasses, we wait for the ‘one.’ We asses each person we befriend, is it them, or if not, could they lead us to the ‘one?’
It becomes a stressful situation. Doubts, insecurities, paranoia, they all begin to fester like an unwashed wound. At the same time, you hear the warnings of the other aunties – the anti-aunts, who tell you to wait until after your first year before you begin engendering any designs with the word ‘relationship’ in them. You hear them telling you about setting yourself up as a woman of honour, integrity, values, who will be respected not like ‘those girls out in the club’ (who happen to either be you, or your friends – but don’t let the anti-aunties know).
Yet, amidst all this confusion, desperation, paranoia and general over-thinking, I’ve come to the realisation that there is something beautifully liberating about embracing friendship. Embracing the friendship of fellow girls (or if you’re a boy fellow boys), without the taint of competition or what (or rather who) they can bring to the table, but just rejoicing in forming bonds of friendship. And in terms of that scary idea of ‘inter-gender’ friendships – yes, when boys and girls become friends without *sexual* benefits – you can get to something precious. The removal of tensions, of fears of presentation, of worth, of judgement. You can sit and have tea, or a conversation and not be conscious that there is a potential bogey hanging in your nose. The truth is there never was, but the monster that is pressure convinces you there are, and they are huge.
People might insinuate that there is no worth in forming friendships with the opposite sex. Or that those that are formed are fuelled by sexual tension, temptation and the potential of ‘if.’ They infer that girls are always surreptitiously judging girls and forming a – who’s most likely to be ‘the one’ – list, and boys vice versa. But when you free your mind from all those lies, those worries, those fears; when you think you may have a green bogey hanging in the near visual vicinity of your nose, you realise that you can just ask for a tissue, and be free from judgement.
Most importantly, by embracing friendship you pave the way for preparing your heart for relationships. Friendships are the beginning, and being fearless in them stops you being fearful of their future potential.