In Hindsight: What I Want My Girls to Know About Friendship

This weekend, fellow graduates from Trinity College’s class of 2005 will converge upon Hartford, Connecticut for our tenth college reunion. I will not be there, partly because I have an eight-week-old, but also because I have not managed to sustain most of my college friendships. I have alluded to this in previous posts and expressed my disappointment that many of my memories of those four years, which at the time were some of the best years of my life, now make me inexpressibly sad because I can’t laugh about them with the other people who were there.

Make sure to be the kind of person
your friends can look up to 🙂

I can now take responsibility for the role I played in the erosion of these relationships, and I suppose the one silver lining is that I now truly cherish the women in my life with whom I have built strong, mutually supportive bonds. What is most important to me at this point is using what I have learned to teach my three daughters how to navigate the often terrifying territory of female friendship.

Here is what I’ve come up with:

Friends should lift each other up. If a friend makes you feel ugly or less, reevaluate the importance you place on her opinion. If she has hurt you, express that immediately and with a willingness to hear her side. If you fail to communicate your anger or disappointment, you have no right to hold a grudge.

If you hurt her, apologize, but most importantly, mean it. Don’t get defensive. Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, validate her feelings and try to make it right. I vividly remember a fight I had with a friend in college. I had kissed a boy she liked, and we were sitting down to hash it out. “But I like him too,” I argued, “Doesn’t that matter?” She looked at me with disgust and said, “With you, it’s always, ‘I’m sorry but.'” Ten-plus years after the fact, I get it. I wish I hadn’t been the kind of person who said, “I’m sorry but.” I don’t want you to be that kind of person either.

Pick up the phone. Texting is okay for a lot of purposes, but you should want to hear your friend’s voice. You can’t laugh or cry with a person over text. When you get older, you need to be able to hear her baby cooing in the background or her toddler inching toward a tantrum to really understand where she’s coming from.

Look at old pictures and think,
“I love these girls even more now.”

Don’t you dare talk about her behind her back, because if ever there was a rule to follow, it’s to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Value every friendship equally. My sisters used to tease me when I was little because they said I had first, second, and third tier friends. My mom had designated a page of our family’s phone book “Jenny’s Friends”, and underneath that heading was a long list of names and numbers. Every time I wanted to invite a friend to come over to play, I started at the top of the list and worked my way down until I found someone who was free. I’m nicer than I was when I was a child, because I know now that nobody wants to feel like a second choice. All of your friends bring something to the table. Appreciate them all, because as an adult, I can tell you they are all awesome and irreplaceable: your mom friends, your drink-a-glass-of-wine-together friends, your childhood friends, your weekend-getaway friends, your funny friends, your same-political-opinions friends, your passionate friends, your older and wiser friends, your work friends, all of them.

Understand that friendships go through stages. This is natural and will allow you to grow as individuals. You’ll drift apart and, when you realize that you miss her, you’ll come back together. My friend Lindsey and I have followed this pattern time and time again since we first met at age three. We spent time with different cliques, pursued different interests, but always found our way back to each other and continue to do so because our friendship makes us better.

And if, when you reach out, your friend doesn’t respond in kind? I’ve learned the hard way that there are some people that you will have to let go of, regardless of how painful it may be. Not every relationship will last, but they will all teach you something that will hopefully make you a better friend in the future.

When your friends feet are swollen from pregnancy,
go get a pedi with them

Friendship is not always easy but should always be worth it. If you reach adulthood and have a handful of friends that are honest with you but kind, who lift you up and keep you grounded, who challenge you, who forgive you, who share their struggles with you and genuinely want to hear about yours, well, you will be counted lucky.

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