This post is going to be long one guys, so get comfortable.
Last night, I was trawling through the interwebs. You know how it is. You click one video or article, and then after that another video or five more related articles are offered and you see something that ooh! looks pretty interesting and you click it and so begins the tumble down the rabbit hole. So yeah, I was about halfway through my descent into Wonderland when I came across an article titled 50 Questions You Should Ask A Girl If You Really Want To Get To Know Her.
First of all, I want to know who has the time or patience to sit down with a girl that they’ve just met and run through fifty questions. Is there a marking rubric that we can have a quick scan over so we know what you’re looking for in our responses? Are they yes/no answers or multiple choice? I honestly think that if someone sat me down and said, “I have fifty questions I need to ask you before whatever-this-is progresses”, I’d be feeling more like I was interviewing for a job than making a new friend.
Besides, if you really want to know something about a woman and who she is, you ask her best friend. She’ll know pretty much everything about her sister from another mister, and if she’s worth her salt as a best friend, she’ll be realistic about the kind of person her bestie is but still present her in a down-to-earth, yet flattering light.
Despite myself, curiosity got the better of me, and I opened the article. I wasn’t sure what kind of questions I had been expecting, though I’ll admit, I did have flashbacks to those “Pepsi or Coke”, “Bacon Bits or Croutons” and “Chocolate or Vanilla” questionnaires that used to get emailed around like electronic wildfire in my early high school days. Remember those, guys? Did anyone even know what croutons actually were when we were thirteen? To this day, I still don’t think I’ve ever eaten them.
The first questions were pretty tame stuff. They were, in fact, so tame that an hour and a half at most passed after I read them, and I couldn’t even remember what any of them said; Which raises another question about this method – how are you supposed to log and remember fifty questions worth of data in one sitting at the beginning of a friendship? Do you have a super computer for a brain or am I just experiencing early-onset dementia with my current level of forgetfulness? Seriously – this fifty questions concept is aging me, guys. I have to move on before I need a walker to get me any further.
One question, however, stood out for me.
What do you like the most about your best friend?
As I scrolled blindly through the rest of the article before dismissing it completely, my brain was already supplying answers and shoving them to the top of my consciousness. I’ve been lucky enough in my life time to have been blessed with some pretty amazing friends, and I’m not sure if I let them know enough just how much I appreciate them.
I was a bit of a sook as a kid. There’s no point in sugar coating it. I was a little girl with huge emotions, and I felt those emotions right at my core with every fibre of my being. I was liable to cry over what seemed like nothing to another person, and when I found something funny, I laughed loudly and forcefully. Excitement kicked the volume of my voice to well past maximum capacity and made my body crackle and bounce with electricity. Fear was paralysing and chillingly hot as it spread burning icicles down the back of my neck and as a little voice in my mind screamed at my heart and lungs and muscles to run, run, run! I had the kind of personality that was exuberant and loud. It often resulted in someone telling me to “be quiet” or “settle down”. I was told, “Don’t be so dramatic.” and that I was “bossy”, and I quickly learned to diminish parts of myself so that I might fit into the expectations of others. Even now, as an adult, I am constantly second guessing myself in social situations. Am I being too loud? Too crass? Too opinionated? It was a few months into my relationship with Dave before I actually honestly displayed excitement – we drove past a paddock full of kids (the baby goats, not human children. We don’t farm children in rural Australia, I swear.) and I squealed. My voice went up about two octaves and I half shouted “OH MY GOD LOOK AT THOSE BABY GOATS THEY’RE SO CUTE!!” without drawing breath.
And then there was a pause, in which I realised that I’d probably just looked like a total nut, and began to dread Dave’s reaction. But when I turned to look at him, he was grinning from ear to ear.
“You’re cute when you’re excited.” He’d said.
I don’t actually recall meeting most of my friends. They just seemed to be a permanent fixture in my life from one point or another onwards. However, for some random reason, my brain has retained the memory of meeting my friend Aimee. It was the beginning of year nine, and our year advisor pulled me aside and pointed out the new girl, who stood alone. Her expression was neutral, but I recognised the quiet anxiety in her soft brown eyes. She also had a “Don’t fuck with me.” air about her that wasn’t immediately noticeable, but rather radiated quietly from her in whispers. My year advisor told me her name, and suggested I go and make friends with her.
As I strode across the library, I flashed her a smile so big it almost bordered on manic, and said, “Hi, I’m Jess! You’re Aimee! Let’s be friends! Come sit with us!”
To this day, I maintain that she was too scared to say no. She tells me otherwise, but she’s a sweetheart like that.
Growing into yourself is hard enough. Doing it and feeling alone is a nightmare. So when I reflect on what I love about my friends, the fact that they have always had my back is one of the first reasons on my list. Each of these women have bought unique little gems into my life, some quite similar, and others glaringly different. They contribute individual, unique threads into the tapestry that we have woven around one another, making it stronger and more beautiful than it had been before.
These girls were the first in my life to not mind that I was loud and opinionated. Instead of reminding me to lower my volume, they matched it with their own. Cat and I stopped at a pedestrian crossing in her car with all the windows up once, and I made her laugh. Her laughter was so sudden and loud that the person on the crossing actually jumped and turned to look at us with surprise.
There was no diminishing myself to fit with these people. They encouraged me to be loud and bold, and they offered their own voices when mine failed me. When I curse (which is frequently and with great enthusiasm), they don’t admonish me and remind me that it’s unlady-like, they laugh at whatever profanity has just popped from my mouth and help me come up with more creative swears to use in the future. They revel in my hyperbole as I tell stories and offer their own embellishments to compliment mine.
I have had the privilege of navigating our awkward teen years with these girls – We learned young to cut the bullshit and say precisely what we meant. We’ve had countless deep and meaningful conversations at ridiculous hours of the morning. We’ve seen the sun come up after long nights. These girls became my extended family – my mum glows with quiet pride when my friends refer to her as “Mum” too. We danced and hollered our way into bars and pubs when we turned eighteen (though I think a few of us were already fairly well established regulars before our legal birthdays), glorious in our youth with bellies full of spirits. We’ve supported each other through “hoe phases”, while reminding each other that safe sex is both important, and everyone’s responsibility. On more than one occasion, we have claimed each other as our lesbian lovers to deter guys who had obviously never learned the meaning of the word “no”. I have laughed myself into a coughing fit at the sight of my friend aggressively crumping her way between me and some guy that I didn’t know, making and maintaining eye contact with him while she crumped, until he became so uncomfortable that he just gave up and finally got out of my personal space.
We embrace each others weird, and celebrate it. We know that phrases such as “Shut up!” will only induce louder, longer versions of what we were doing when the order was given. Barbara Anne has never sounded as good as it did the day we screamed it across the school oval in defiance of some kid who dared tell us to curb our creative enthusiasm for music and movement. The Beach Boys undoubtedly would have fallen at our feet in awe of how well we covered their song.
Cat is the reason that I no longer jump when someone approaches me from behind and reaches around me to cup my boobs with their hands – this is a standard form of hello for her. We all have boobs, and we’ve all seen one another’s – though mostly I’ve seen my friends boobs because they breastfed their babies around me.
I have had my heart burst with pride as I’ve stood beside these women on their wedding days. I am overjoyed that the ones who are married have found life partners that not only love them and accept them as they are, but they accept me too – because buddy, we’re a package deal whether you like it or not. I’ve navigated fear of uncertainty and the future with them as they have discovered they were pregnant. I have celebrated the joy that a pregnancy brings, and loved the tiny lives that they have bought into the world with my whole heart. I’ve buzzed with admiration at these women and their bodies for bringing life into the world, and watched with a quiet awe as they take their changing lives in their stride. I have glowed with joy and honour as they automatically began calling me “Aunty” when their children were born.
When their hearts were broken, or they reached angry impasses with their significant others, I have mediated, I have comforted and consoled and cried with them. I have offered to throat punch people on more than one occasion. And I have gently pointed out to my friends that even though their feelings are completely justified and I know exactly where they’re coming from – they’re kind of being a dick. I’ve felt their pain with them, recognised the darkness that surrounds them at times and I’ve given them the space and gentle encouragement they needed to heal enough before they were ready to step back into the light. And in the event that all else has failed, I’ve supplied wine, chocolate and ice cream cake.
And I’ve been able to do all of this because they’ve done it for me.
I have found home in the arms of my best friends. I have wept until my body was dried and cracked and I would have shattered at the lightest touch. I’ve let myself fall apart in their presence, because I know that they know the exact order in which the pieces of me needed to be replaced to make me whole again. I have drawn on their strength when I didn’t have any of my own. I have appreciated their honesty, even if I wasn’t ready to hear it yet. I know, no matter how annoyed I get, that they always, always have my best interests at heart. I’ve shared my joys and triumphs, and we’ve laughed ourselves sick more than once. I know that I will be protected, fiercely and perpetually, by these women. I know that they will sing my praises while acknowledging my flaws. I know they’ll embrace my quirks, my darkness, my weaknesses, and help me to learn to love myself the way they do.
I’m the luckiest person on the planet to have been able to witness these girls grow into the women that they are. Women who kick arse at parenting (even on the days where they feel like they don’t), who are their children’s champions, who are loving wives and partners, who don’t give up on the idea of love, even though they’ve been shattered by it before. Women who give the love they deserve back, whole and unassuming, but so fierce that it will consume you if you let it. These are women who are resilient, courageous creatures – who have looked into the face of adversity more than once, with tears in their eyes and their hearts pounding wildly in their chests and said, “Bring it. I can take it. I’ll make it through.” And even when they have thought they couldn’t make it, they still refused to give up.
These women have been burned and reduced to rubble by many things over the short course of our lives, but they have risen again without fail like the phoenix from the ashes, tougher and more beautiful than before. I am in awe of their sharp, ready wits, their quick, easy laughter, their quiet, calm wisdom and their never-ending capacity to love. I love that even though we’re all in our mid-twenties now, when we get together it’s like we’re teenagers in high school again, laughing at ridiculous things (like the fact that we’re all “responsible adults” now) until our sides hurt and we can’t breathe. Our parties have become nights in, with children darting between us and about us as we play Cards Against Humanity, or lunches and coffees at cafes or parks with kids play areas. On the rare occasions that we manage to get a child-free meeting, chances are we’ll end up playing Locational Alphabetical I-Spy, at a park playing on the equipment at stupid hours, at an arcade or a movie, or playing our own version of Carpool Karaoke (move over Das Sound Machine, because we’re about to form the best a cappella group that the world has ever seen – Gunny Gangas Represent!)
It’s so hard to see ourselves through another’s eyes. I know if I described my friend, she wouldn’t describe herself the same way, even though we’re both talking about the same person. And I know I would sell myself abysmally short in comparison to my friend’s descriptions of me. So I pray – to a higher power, the universe, any deity that will listen, really. I pray that one day they see themselves as I see them.
Because they are diamonds, formed under heat and pressure and thrust up into the world to dazzle everyone who sets eyes on them.
And diamonds really are a girl’s best friend.