As far back as I can remember, I have always had close girlfriends wherever I lived. When I was a young girl in India, I had a best friend named Peru. We did everything together – played with the pots and pans (toy and real), went to the rooftop to fly kites, threw color on each other at Holi, went to the yearly Exhibition (a carnival/flea market/street food festival in India), and exchanged small gifts on Eid. She is my first female friend that I can remember. We cried when I left India. But eventually we lost touch.
When I came to America, my sister automatically became my best friend and then when I started school, I found other girlfriends. In college I found a new group of friends in women who looked like me and had similar upbringings to mine (children of immigrants, either born in the U.S. or came to the U.S. at an early age and raised in a strictly Muslim household). Through elementary and high school, I had not met more than one or two women with these similarities. In college, there were hundreds of them. I met most of them through clubs that identified as such (Muslim Students Association or the Indian Club). The student clubs were mixed-gender, but the women spent a lot of time doing women-only activities. In some ways, this felt more natural than mixing with men. One year, several of us commuters stayed in a women’s only dormitory during finals week and spent hours upon hours, talking, sharing, laughing and dancing together.
In adulthood, I continued to find core groups of female friends. In Chicago, where I spent most of my life, I can point to at least seven women who are part of my inner circle. When I moved to San Francisco, I found the same there, though the number is smaller. Then in the middle of a pandemic, I moved to the RTP area, and I found moving during a pandemic does not allow for easy connections. I can feel the impact of not having these close female friendships on my quality of life. Something feels amiss.
This got me thinking about why female friendships are so important. A quote by Beyonce captures it precisely: “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you. I grow so much from those conversations.”
There is something beyond special about the female bond and friendship that women have with each other. In fact, an entire television show, and a very popular one, Sex and the City, focused on four women and their friendship. As Carrie Bradshaw, the protagonist of the show says, “Maybe our girlfriends are our soulmates, and guys are just people to have fun with.”
Men and women certainly complement each other maybe even balance each other out, but women thrive on strong relationships with our girlfriends. When I visit Chicago, my girlfriends there are a significant part of my visit schedule. The connections I have with these girlfriends revive me and help me reset in unexpected ways. I often feel lighter and clearer after conversations with my closest girlfriends. These friendships give me an outlet to share my thoughts, feelings, problems and joys with women who have formed my inner circle. We are each other’s emotional support systems. We are there for giving advice, crying on shoulders, keeping secrets, listening, and boosting self-esteem. We are each other’s biggest cheer leaders no matter what we are struggling with in our lives.
Girlfriends have a distinct way of reading our emotions, a way that most husbands and boyfriends do not. We have an intuition about each other. We understand each other, validate each other, share some of our deepest, darkest secrets with each other, and share intimate family details with each other. We are brutally honest with each other and also share lasting memories. Some of my girlfriends have been in my life upwards of 30 years and other girlfriends lasted a short period but still left a big impression. Even though she’s no longer in my life, I’ll never forget the girlfriend who supported me through shingles in San Francisco, when I was away from my family and closest friends in Chicago.
When women get together, we talk about everything from our skincare routine to the outfit we’re wearing at an upcoming event to the intimate details about our marriages or families. We talk about work, our kids, and tell each other when there’s food stuck in our teeth or toilet paper stuck to our shoes. We tell each other things we would never tell our husbands and boyfriends, and we know they’ll remain a secret.
I am ever so grateful for my girlfriends who have been there to share my joy (no matter how small) and been there to lend a shoulder or more when I’ve needed it. I have big hopes that I’ll find my girlfriend group here as well but it’s comforting to know that I will always have a group that is just a plane ride away.
Again, as Carrie Bradshaw said, “They say nothing lasts forever, dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.”