Friendship shouldn’t be complicated.
I grew up hearing that life is a complicated thing, that you needed to struggle to get anywhere, and that the more you fought and the harder it got, the sweeter the victory. You can see that my upbringing was very much Catholic.
Although I agree that some hard work and dedication are necessary to achieve anything worthwhile, it has taken me years to retrain my brain not to assume struggle is is the only way to sail through life. Especially not when it comes to friendship. Imagine having to struggle with a person and fighting with them until you reach that sweet spot of supportive friendship. It sounds awful. And it doesn’t work.
This was a bit of a quiet conviction I had and I would have left it at that, had it not been poked with a hot iron bar coming from the Lenny Letter. I admire the work of #LenaDunham and #JenniKonner, but this time I hoped with all my heart that they didn’t mean what they said, or that I understood wrong.
Early in February I received the Valentine’s friendship issue, and in the introduction, the authors write:
Jenni and Lena’s other job is making the show Girls, and while some people may think that show is about stressful sex or randomly revealed nipples or millennial entitlement, its core subject is actually female friendship.
Later, they also mention that female friendships are complex, but by using Girls as their example of complex friendships they had just lost credibility in my eyes.
One of the reasons I stopped watching Girls despite my admiration for the creators’ work, was that at some point I wasn’t able to see a single healthy friendship between the main characters. I have had my share of toxic relationships in the past, and I’ve worked too hard to let go of them in real life to be consuming them as entertainment. Especially when it comes to friends. Especially when it comes to women.
One thing I would like to stress is my awareness that, as in any other relationship between human beings, there are highs and lows. My best friend L and I used to disagree very much at the beginning of our friendship. We were interested in the same things but had different views on them, so we spent a lot of time daring to open up and discuss these differences. There were no scenes, no public drama, and we never let it turn into an actual fight. During the 10 years we’ve been friends, she has never ceased to be supportive, attentive, and told me off when I’ve acted out. It’s almost like she cannot act in a way that is not compassionate.
I’ve also had friendships of the kind Dunham and Konner call complex. The friendship that I had with X is a scary example. She was very sweet sometimes, and at one point I spent more time with her than with any other person in my life at the moment. But it went downhill very quickly. We spent most of our time playing this game where I needed to be the victim to get her support, and she needed to keep breaking me so she could fix me. My refusing to see the signs (which were there from the very beginning) together with a temporary storm of my own, made it all the more difficult to get out of. I was so overwhelmed by the relationship that the only solution I could find was to cut the ties cold turkey and become unreachable. Even as the years go by and I am supposed to get wiser in hindsight, I believe that was the only thing to do in that situation.
By Girls’ standards, that would have been one phase of our relationship, and we would have been expected to call after a while, say we were sorry, and repeat the cycle. No thanks.
I refuse to believe it is acceptable to feed destructive relationships that undermine your sense of self-value, which you spend more time trying to fix than doing anything else, all in the name of female friendship.
Let’s not fall for the trap that women are essentially complicated beings that are simply unable to have drama-free relationships. Rather, let’s welcome friendship as a complex relationship, and stop the vicious cycle of wanting to make them complicated.