When I was 7, I celebrated my birthday in the normal 90s schoolgirl manner. Bring bag of chocolates to school, distribute chocolates in your class, pick one friend to tag along with you and go from class to class giving chocolates to the rest of your teachers, then get over the novelty of your birthday and get your ass back in class. I picked my “Best Friend” to take with me for the chocolate run. Of course, who else would I pick?
When it was her birthday, she picked someone else. And I think my heart was broken for the first time in my young silly life.
For someone who’s wanted a female BFF way before she was labeled a millennial who needs to use catchy acronyms in daily conversation to hold on to her cool coveted millennial license, I’ve had quite the journey when it comes to hanging on to one. Sweet Valley books and chick flicks made me yearn for that one girlfriend I could talk to about the boy I had a crush on, insecurities about being chubby, problems with family, what bra I REALLY wanted to buy despite my mom buying me boring beige training bra, and everything in between.
After my 7 year old self recovered from the heinous birthday betrayal, I went through a rather tumultuous childhood in which I took myself and my friends way too seriously. My schooltime Best Friend ended up picking coaching classes she never told me about because she didn’t want me to join them and do better than her in the board exams. My Best Friend in junior college decided to have a crush on every boy I liked, and told me to kindly get over it because she could hardly help it now, could she? My Best Friend in my apartment complex started sending me devotional SMS forwards and became distant when I didn’t reply to them.
Only in college did I realise how effortless female friendships can really be. It began when I was awake in my hostel room at 2am trying very hard not to think about a recent failed relationship, and succeeding because I kept getting distracted by someone who kept walking back and forth by my open door, muttering to herself. She invited herself in and told me she was going through a rather horrendous breakup herself, and proceeded to break the ice by telling me what she had named her ex-boyfriend’s junk. Cut to to 11 years later and this girl is still one of my closest friends, and all it took was some shifty-eyed inappropriate discussion to get the ball rolling. Now there are very few things off limits. Our discussions range from deepset family issues, insecurities, raging arguments about books we both love, conversations entirely in Victorian English, and sometimes the oddest titbits about everyday life.
College was when the breadth of female friendships really became clear to me. I learnt how to give without requiring anything in return from the girl who would constantly skip dinner because she was engaged in loud shouty arguments with her boyfriend over the phone. I would quietly get her a plate of food and leave it in her room whenever I’d hear the noise through the neighbouring wall. And nobody would ever mention it. I learnt about being impulsive from a girl I complained to about my friends being indecisive about where to travel. 30 minutes later, the two of us took off on an impromptu weekend trip together, just like that. I learnt unwavering trust from the girl who slammed her finger in a door hard and was so terrified to look at it that came running to me to please fix it, which I did, by talking her down, applying ice and tying up the offending appendage, all while she averted her eyes. And I learnt of amusing things like making decisions for someone else because sometimes you just know better, from the girl who made up her mind that I had been single and celibate for long enough and aggressively set me up with her friend who she thought would be good for me (he was).
I bonded with women in strange and miraculous ways in college, and I’ve been just as lucky after I left. I have all of those women in my life still, and a few more wonderful ones who decided that I was going to be their friend, without giving me any choice in the matter. For instance when I joined my first real job, a tiny quiet girl sat next to me at work. She would try to talk to me, and start laughing every time I left a conversation midway because I’d get distracted by all my pending work. She’d remember the thread and the next time I looked up from frantically typing, she’d gently steer me back there. We now run marathons together, sing karaoke songs loudly (and terribly) together, go for the same dance class where I try very hard not to trip over my feet, and travel together, and it’s all because she decided that what was technically a character flaw, amused her greatly.
I have women in my life who order dessert and send it to my house because I’m worried about my cat falling sick, and women who pester me to watch LGBTQ documentaries with them, women who go out of their way to help me look for a job just because I’m friends with their boyfriend, and women who sit with me in a comfortable silence, reading and napping and just co-existing, being happy and fulfilled and oh-so-comfortable. I wouldn’t be able to tell my 7 year old self that I have found that one magical BFF who will be my sidekick, companion, and champion forever. But that I have a whole support system of strong, confident, lovely girls who are all that and more should make her rather happy.
Chocolates for everybody!
Divya Ramesh (Writer)