Sex and the City, the ground-breaking HBO series that portrayed the profound symbiotic connections and enviable alliance between four exuberant women, was in the news of late. It appears there’s an uproar because one of the original cast members, Kim Cattrall, (aka Samantha Jones) is not interested in making another spawned sequel film. If only it was left at this.
Instead the media is having a maelstrom of speculation. The visceral female friendships that we once thought represented the epitome of unconditional support and love on and off the small screen …may in fact have never been the case! WHATTTT!?
The TMZs of the world are now reporting that not all was so blissful among these felicitous women; that fissures were apparent, and some of these friendships were in fact turning “toxic.” I want to say that I feel crushed and devastated, but honestly I am exhaling a huge sense of relief. Female friendships can be gut-wrenchingly hurtful and complicated while simultaneously being the most transformative relationship you will ever have the pleasure of cultivating and experiencing. I find myself now a woman in my fifties, embarrassingly and admittedly facing the realization that I am in short supply of this exclusive sisterhood of besties.
I was such a fan of Sex in the City. I would watch it with my favorite bag of buttery popcorn, unwashed hair, and a stench of absolute self-pity. I desperately wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw who was insulated by these fabulous friends that at a moment’s call would be there for you – no problem too small to listen to, and no problem too big to handle. Or perhaps you, like me, follow the Bravo Real Housewives franchise (my newer TV reality series and guilty pleasure). Who wouldn’t want to brag that they are going to Cabo for the weekend with six of their remarkable gal pals? Movies like Girls Trip, Girls Night Out, Bad Moms, – and now playing in time for the holidays, A Bad Moms Christmas, among an avalanche of others – all have the effect of making me feel somewhat inferior. They all highlight a common theme – the importance of having unparalleled close women friendships.
It’s not like I deliberately set out to have the fewest friends possible, or that I am utterly unfriendable. When I met my husband in my early thirties, I had an adequate group of female friends. But in my forties, priorities changed like they do for everyone – you get caught up in the cycle of work, routines, building a home, and looking after elderly parents with health issues – who sadly became a solo “parent” all too quickly. Those years that I chose to spend more time and focus on my mom might have inadvertently contributed to my sheer lassitude and why I neglected some of my friendships. Appreciatively, there was never any dramas, no acts of betrayal, no feuds or histrionics; just a gradual and quiet dissolve of friendships.
The problem is that once you get older and friends become more scarce, making new ones can be challenging. To trigger a friendship there has to be some kind of commonality, a spark. You have to keep trying to put yourself out there – volunteer, join community groups, attend places of worship or take a class. When my mettle mom told doctors she was feeling depressed at 85, doctors advised her to be more social and daring – so she would ask them if they were free for dinner.
Mom pushed herself and participated at her ladies senior club; but as soon as a lecture or activity ended, she would lament that these ladies would scurry home so fast she had no time to introduce herself. My mom certainly had friends but stuff happens – some passed away, others moved to be near their children, etc. It’s not easy for seniors to make new friends, but it’s not easy for anyone when we live in a world where eye contact is rare and connectedness is often made through a swipe and a click. Fast friends are possible and for that technology and social media have been instrumental, but I believe a friendship takes time to organically coalesce.
I compare making new friendships and finding them at my age akin to foraging for clusters of forest truffles – you have to first know where to find them, and a little bit of luck sure doesn’t hurt either. I might not be able to boast of having a large female posse, or possess a significant number of friends by today’s Facebook’s standards, but I am so grateful for the ones that I do have and for the new friendships that continue to grow and take root.
It’s simplistic to say but our moms had it right; it’s imperative to establish numerous friendships from the get go, to nourish those friendships continuously, and be cognizant of the value of having friends in different stages of your life. It’s a sentiment echoed in Lukas Graham’s catchy hit song 7 Years. “Once I was seven years old, my mama told me, go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely”- a verse sung in cautionary truth for both men and women.