Female friendships are difficult to understand. The bonds that women forge — the really close friendships — are almost invincible. Although I hesitate at stereotyping female friendships, I nevertheless believe some of the stereotypes to be true.
Maybe it’s because I have recently realized that my daughter is treating her friendships differently than my son is, and that to her, finding new friends and forming strong bonds with them is an important process. Or maybe it’s because my own process of finding and maintaining friendships has evolved lately, that I find myself contemplating the connection with the women in my life often.
Growing up, all my friends were girls. We were not allowed to interact with boys other than immediate relatives, let alone make friends with them. We played together, shared secrets in the way little girls do and grew together.
People change as they grow up, circumstances and life choices get in the way, and friendships fall apart as you grow apart. There are few people who remain close with a childhood friend, and even fewer who go through life-changing journeys together.
I am one of the fewer of the few. All my childhood friendships faded away when I left the community I grew up in. The force of gravity is stronger than a waning memory.
But there is one women who stayed in my life. The two of us grew up next door in Kiryas Joel, learned to crawl and explore, to dream of bigger and better things in life than what we were confined to. We would sit at my parents’ stoop and fantasize about our biological parents — real goyim — who would come to reclaim us from our adoptive parents. We would be living a goyishe life, be one of two children, be showered with love and affection all the time. Life on the outside seemed delicious from where we were sitting: two little girls in a sea of other children, living on hand-me-downs.
We held hands for years, allowing the natural cycle of friendships to take its tidal course, but never letting gravity consume us. We covertly shared forbidden reading material, saw our first movie together on a 2x2 inch DVD screen, and shared our scraped-up knowledge of the ultimate taboo subject: sex. We walked each other down the aisle, coached one another through the early stages of marriage and motherhood. We grew apart every so often, but we always reconnected, further strengthening the unshakable bond.
Eventually, we both left the community. We were on seemingly divergent paths — I was married, she was single; she was not religious, I was. But we both ended up walking the halls of the same college, sitting right next to one another in class, sending our children to the same school, settling in close physical proximity. We celebrate holidays and birthdays together, laugh through life’s joys and cry through life’s miseries. It is the ultimate story of love, of triumph over adversity, of mutual influence, of a bond so strong, nothing could come between it.
She has influenced every aspect of my life. She nurtured me through the early academic stages, helping me write essays and often edited them for me. She was a veteran blogger and my self-esteem was in the dumps. I needed her support and encouragement and she came through — every single time. She taught me how to navigate the big and intimidating world out there. She was born a few short months before me, but I often joke that she carried me in her womb. I attribute much of my achievement in life to her and her unwavering support.
We also fight. We go at each other like we’re in the rink, fighting for a win. There are times I wish I could let go, drop down on the canvas floor and be counted out. But I can’t. History cannot easily be erased, memories are not conveniently sealed in a box, when there is still a spark burning. I believe in digging your teeth in, in fighting for the people you care about and finding the link that will keep the relationship going.
Maybe it’s because I recently struck up an unusual friendship with a fellow writer that I am now reflecting on my friendships, old and new. This woman is the first friend who wasn’t formally introduced to me. I messaged her online, she messaged me back, and we discovered a mutual admiration and love for strong, long-term relationships. In other words, we just clicked.
Many women walked in and out of my life over the years. I don’t make friends easily, and when I do, I want them to be around forever. There are a handful of female friends (you know who you are) who I care deeply about — friends I only met over the past few years but who have profoundly impacted my life. They have taught me so much about life, about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, about letting go of your past and looking ahead to the future. I feel forever indebted to them — my heroines, my sisters by choice.