The past year has been rough on our friendships and social life. Well, the past year has been rough, full stop. For many of us, we have found out a lot more about who we are, how much social contact we need, we crave, and who we need most in our lives. And maybe it has made us think about our friendships and relationships as well. Some may have been put to the test because you were used to seeing each other, for other long-distance ones it was business as usual, and with the extra pressures of the past year you may have seen a new side of some to some of your friends – be it good or bad.
And right then, Stylist published a book on friendship.
More specifically, letting 15 women talk about the lessons that they have taken from their friendships.
Unlike the generic memes you scroll through on social media talking about tagging the friend you can always have a laugh with, or someone who owes you a cocktail once lockdown ends, these are honest, specific and real examples of women who have or have had unique friendships.
And just as people are different, friendships are very different: Some develop quickly, some take years, some require someone to do the first step. Each person will value different experiences from this book, but the essence of it is that it shows the diversity of friendships, friend groups, and most importantly of personalities.
Some of the women who stood out to me, who told stories I felt aren’t told, or represented enough, were Katherine Ormerod and Candice Brathwaite.
Ormerod, a journalist turned influencer, hit the nail on the head when she said Hollywood and Instagram make us believe we are all meant to be in a gang of girlfriends at all times (a global pandemic excluded) and spend most of our weekend nights being social and hanging out with our besties. Truth is, many of us don’t and that’s ok. And normal.
“Truth be told, on most Friday nights I’m home, drinking the other half of the bottle I opened on Tuesday, with Netﬂix thrumming mindlessly in the background. I might have Facetimed my friend Beth in New York, or spent most of the day with my pal Cami. But by the evening, I could quite possibly be knitting. Does that sound sad? At times I’ve thought so too. […] And yet I’d bet my set-up is far more common than Hollywood and apparently every account on Instagram would have us believe.”
One of the most honest sentences in the book, but in most things you will read, is when Ormerod says: “Instead of desperately needing to be part of the group, turns out I’ve actually always wanted to be left out, I just hadn’t noticed.”
While this may not be true for everyone, it is probably true for more people than would like to admit, be it in general in life or for certain groups or instances. And what matters is this: Our friendships match our personality, and our friends accept us the way we are – Friday night knitting and all.
Candice Brathwaite brought up another point which is how our friendships are changing with social media. Some friends reduce friendships to the odd “like” or “heart”, others are still face-to-face, and yet others are born (and live and strive) on social media alone.
Hands up how many of us have met someone on social media?
Yes, that’s most of us. We spend so much time there and share so many of our interests there, of course we are bound to bump into someone!
That someone won’t necessarily turn into our best friend, but at times, it may be the person we turn to most, specifically because that friendship isn’t face to face. So, when Brathwaite talks about never having met her friend, it isn’t odd, but it certainly isn’t often talked about.
“In the three or so years I had known her, she’d displayed an uncanny knack for messaging me just as I felt I had no gas left in the tank, or sending across a pick-me-up when life seemed to be spinning out of control.”
What makes this one of the best lessons, is that this shows how much a friendship can mean, and how much it can help a person, even without direct contact. It shows how much our little messages to check in on someone can really do for that person and that our friendships can, in fact, blossom even in these times of social distancing.
A note from our editor
Covering a myriad of friendship dynamics, I was expecting this book to clarify my own position in my friendship groups. Eager to try and understand better how I fit in and what they may think of me and my personality traits (because, of course, you can’t ask directly!). This book did help affirm this for me. But it also helped me to better understand my friends and what may be going on for them, behind closed doors. With Catherine Gray’s truth-telling on what it’s like to be the friend with a drinking problem, or Shappi Khorsandi’s honest admission of being the flaky friend, these stories, among many of the others, showed examples of the struggles my friends are and have likely experienced but perhaps never looked at or spoke with me directly. It certainly provides perspective and food for thought. Of course, a lot of experience and wisdom comes with age, but certainly these accounts can help you to be a better, more understanding, empathetic and nurtured person.
Life Lessons on Friendship by Stylist, published February 2021, by Penguin Life IBSN: 9780241384978. Please note, that this is an affiliate link and we may make a small commission on purchases through them.