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.