Friendship is a wonderful gift. I have great friends … specifically I have great girlfriends. It seems that my college girlfriends are the closest type of friendships – we became the people we are today because of those friendships. We grew together and became sisters, if I can get away with that much Southern gooey sweetness. We are blunt with each other, brutally honest at times, but never hurtful. We are honest and direct with each other, but they are the first to call me on my crazy. And I do the same. We love each other unconditionally but not blindly.
We often compare other friendships to the ones we share together, the one we all keep on a pedestal. We often tease that we feel bad for women who don’t have real friendships (read here about frenemies) like ours. And we are only half kidding, we are seriously unapologetic about our own awesomeness. Make no mistake my friends and I are not without our flaws. I think the key to our enduring relationship is that we don’t expect perfection, we don’t run at the first sign of discourse. We hold each other up during the hard times and laugh through the good times.
The bizarre part of this wonderfully perfect friendship? It was developed through forced “togetherness” of several young women who I, at the time, felt that we were all different from one another.
As a kid my family moved several times to accommodate my father’s employer which meant I ended up attending elementary, middle and high school in different states. All that moving really got in the way of long-term friendships.
Making friends was particularly difficult for me as I was shy and awkward around new people. Seriously, I threw up on my shoes my first day of middle school. I had a tendency to talk too much or laugh too loud when I was nervous and then chastise myself later for not acting appropriately. Like most wallflowers, I spent most of my time just trying to blend in. I became so good at blending in that I eventually became invisible. Or at least that’s how I felt.
I was eager to move on to college where I had this notion that I would finally get to be myself, finally be free of cliques and the insatiable loneliness that I had come to know. I would finally become visible.
And in 1999 it happened. I was invited to become a part of a legendary club called The BlackList. There is no rush or recruitment for honorary clubs, no bid day or membership tea, invitations are extended only to the 13 best juniors on campus. I was thrilled that my school’s coolest and baddest bee-otches wanted me.
I vaguely remember those first meetings with my new “sisters,” I was still as awkward as I was that first day of middle school except with less vomit, which I counted as a win. They, however, all seemed like rare, exotic and graceful animals. I was smitten with the idea that these girls would be my long-lost forever friends. But, as we know, friendships don’t just happen because you are placed in a group together and encouraged to bond. There were many times when we couldn’t hold our group together because we didn’t know how to hold each other up. There were times when we couldn’t see past our own ambition. I won’t lie – we had our growing pains. We had our cliques. We had our catty moments. They were certainly some cat-fighting and tears.
But slowly and surely there was a shift. It was so subtle at first we hardly noticed it but there was a change in our perspective. Somewhere along the way we became less interested in reaching the end of a goal and more interested in encouraging each other and enjoying the ride. We began to bolster our strengths and smooth out our rough spots. We became each other’s cheerleaders, counselors and best friends.
And as for me, I’m no longer the wallflower trying to fit in and just get by. I laugh loudly and proudly whenever I get the chance and don’t apologize for who I am. These women helped me SEE myself when they began to SEE me. I’m no longer invisible.
This last week, I’ve spent a lot of time “liking” and “commenting” on Facebook photos with abandon. Seriously it’s been a problem, but a good problem that I have enjoyed immensely. This weekend many generations of women will celebrate 100 years of the BlackList Honorary Social Club, the club that brought them all together, just it did me and my friends. This once in a lifetime celebration has spurred a sort of countdown to the homecoming festivities this weekend, and alumni far and wide have been posting pictures from their college days. I have loved pouring over the baby faces and teased hair of women I knew only as grown-ups when I, myself, was a baby-faced college kid. Even as a 19-year-old naive kid, I knew that by joining this club I was becoming part of something bigger than myself, something that would change my life. And boy was I right.
In addition to the 100th birthday of our club, the women who joined this club with me celebrate a milestone of our own. This is our 15-year anniversary. 15 years, that’s longer than I’ve known my husband.
To close out our acknowledgement of Women’s History Month here at Am I Being Catty, I would like to honor the women, the friends, the sisters that have changed me for the better (and sometimes for the worse, but that’s a blog that has yet to be written!).
I noticed something today in those pictures from the club’s past and the friendships chronicled in them. These were not just pictures of college days and shenanigans, although those are fabulous. These were pictures that told stories of relationships that crossed ages and miles. They were pictures of friends dressed as bridesmaids, friends holding newborns, friends comforting in grief, friends visiting after significant illness, friends’ children playing together. They were pictures of women loving each other as true friends. They were pictures that showed the power of girlfriends.
I won’t lie. We still gossip, get our feelings hurt, have miscommunications … and yes, we can be catty with each other. But there’s something to be said for a friendship that survives through the good times and bad times. It may not be that our friendship is particularly more special than others, it may just be that we know how to survive the hard times better and can move on from them faster.
Hug your friends tight. Here’s to another 15 years, ladies. And another 50 after that.