Sis­ter Act

New Straits Times - - Pulse - Elena@nst.com.my

T’S com­pli­cated”. We’ve all seen the am­bigu­ous re­la­tion­ship sta­tus on Facebook which can say a lot about your state of mind, yet doesn’t give any­thing away.

“It’s com­pli­cated” could mean you’re in a sor­did fling, hav­ing a one-sided crush or sim­ply be­ing a stalker. It could mean just about any­thing. You could be in a com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with an inan­i­mate ob­ject and the rest of the world would be none the wiser for it.

Mean­while, I’m in a com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship — in sev­eral, re­ally. I’m in com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships with my women friends. It’s a quiet dilemma, an is­sue that’s wres­tled with pri­vately be­cause while love makes head­lines these days, friend­ships rarely do. And friend­ships can be twice as tricky to nav­i­gate as ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships, yet only get half as much air time.

It’s un­de­ni­able that friend­ships are im­por­tant to our well-be­ing — even more so than a ro­man­tic en­tan­gle­ment. A 10-year Aus­tralian study re­leased ear­lier this year found that older peo­ple with a large cir­cle of friends were 22 per cent less likely to die dur­ing the study pe­riod than those with fewer friends. So yes, friend­ships do keep us alive — lit­er­ally.

The idea of hav­ing our own tribe of women (tran­scend­ing so­cial me­dia) who sup­port and see us through the win­ters of our dis­con­tent is be­com­ing more of an anom­aly than a trend.

NEW AGE CON­NEC­TIONS

I re­ally don’t’ have a large cir­cle of friends so I’m un­sure if my thou­sand-strong “friends” on Facebook count in pro­long­ing my life. The over-dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of prac­ti­cally ev­ery as­pect of our lives which trans­forms us into vi­ral per­son­al­i­ties — om­nipresent yet rarely present — has led to the dearth in real-time con­nec­tions.

The idea of hav­ing our own tribe of women (tran­scend­ing so­cial me­dia) who sup­port and see us through the win­ters of our dis­con­tent is be­com­ing more of an anom­aly than a trend. Pop cul­ture de­pic­tions of fe­male friend­ships as seen in movies like Di­vine Se­crets Of The Ya-Ya Sis­ter­hood, and chick-se­ries Sex And The City, sug­gest that women are in­her­ently nur­tur­ing and built for life-long friend­ships.

But let’s face it, not all of us are ex­perts in main­tain­ing off-screen friend­ships. The dig­i­tal age has blurred age-old sen­si­tiv­i­ties that once kept friend­ships strong. We no longer un­der­stand the com­plic­ity of friend­ships and how they ebb and flow ac­cord­ing to the tides of time and cir­cum­stances.

While we’ve got­ten greedy hoard­ing all of our on­line con­nec­tions, the truth is that a good por­tion of them couldn’t care less about our well­be­ing off-screen. The truth is, we’re fail­ing to keep alive the very thing that keeps us alive — mean­ing­ful friend­ships.

OLD FASH­IONED FRIEND­SHIPS

Be­ing so­cial crea­tures, we do value and long for mean­ing­ful friend­ships. My girl­friends have seen me through school days, pu­berty, bad jobs, evil boyfriends (I once dated “Satan” — a nick­name be­stowed by said girl­friends on a lousy sod I was in love with), heart­breaks, suc­cesses and other mile­stones in life that I couldn’t imag­ine not shar­ing with them.

How­ever, those were friend­ships forged long be­fore the In­ter­net landed, and de­vel­oped the old-fash­ioned way — per­sonal meet ups and long con­ver­sa­tions, turn­ing our con­nec­tions into life­long re­la­tion­ships. Of course, ad­her­ing to the time-hon­oured code which gov­erns re­la­tion­ships — the un­spo­ken “Girl Code” — helped us nav­i­gate through po­ten­tial land­mines found in any re­la­tion­ship.

Univer­sity of Win­nipeg so­ci­ol­o­gist Bev­er­ley Fehr and author of Friend­ship Pro­cesses says that peo­ple in suc­cess­ful friend­ships pos­sess a well-de­vel­oped, in­tu­itive un­der­stand­ing of the give and take of in­ti­macy. When some­one em­bod­ies the code in­stinc­tu­ally, their friend­ships are abun­dant in­deed.

DECODING THE CODE

How do women de­velop this in­tu­ition of what’s ac­cept­able or isn’t in a friend­ship, you may ask?

Two words: Girl Code.

Girl code com­prises the un­writ­ten and of­ten un­spo­ken set of rules/ethics that ex­ist be­tween a woman and her friends. Sim­ply stated, the girl code forms a simple com­pass that out­lines the DO’s and DON’T’s of a good friend­ship. Whether the rules are im­plicit or ex­plicit, they’re gen­er­ally what can make or break a friend­ship.

Ob­serv­ing these rules re­veals some­thing about you — you’re trust­wor­thy enough to han­dle the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come hand in hand with a friend­ship. The rules of the code may vary, but its essence re­mains the same. Love, loy­alty, trust — those are in­her­ent qual­i­ties we need for any re­la­tion­ship, not just friend­ships. They’re simple, prac­ti­cal, not rocket sci­ence. It’s prob­a­bly dawn­ing on you that these ex­am­ples aren’t so much codes as they’re a prac­ti­cal roadmap for any re­la­tion­ship to thrive and for any woman (or man) to be­come a bet­ter friend.

It will teach us to be­come bet­ter ver­sions of our­selves, and ul­ti­mately lead us to learn and be­lieve in the power of con­nec­tion — one that’s not gov­erned by a flip of the switch. Be­cause at the end of the day, that’s what life is all about.

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