Phoebe Waller-Bridge has got many, many things right. One, that it will indeed pass. Two, hair really is everything. Three, and absolutely, undoubtedly, most importantly, that friendships are “the greatest romances of our lives”. Specifically, that is, the female ones.
If you’ve spent any time on TikTok at all, had the pleasure of talking to an art history girl, or indeed anyone who has Co-Star downloaded, the chances are you’re aware of the love languages. If you aren’t, allow me to get you up to speed — physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gift giving are the five general ways we give and receive love.
But what I want to know is where’s the sixth one — the universal love language of female friendship. Because, as lovely as it is when your partner brings you flowers, girl friends love each other differently. Innately. Selflessly. They offer to take the load off your plate even when it might tip theirs to the point of being unbearably full. They’ll help you carry your emotional baggage. They know when words will never be enough — and when you need to hear them anyway. They will drunkenly scream ‘Cruel Summer’ with you at the top of your lungs, let you sob endlessly on their shoulder, and hold your hand as you tipsily trip over the cobbles on College Street together in a last minute dash for more wine before the 10pm cut off. Most importantly, they will never, ever let you make a fool of yourself — nor will they make a fool out of you.
After all, if you’re lucky, your girlfriends are, most likely, the first loves of your life. You’ll spend your time at primary school playing pretend and going for sleepovers. That is, until someone decides that learning how to french-braid and paint nails is a more worthwhile endeavour. It’s at this point that Claire’s Accessories, New Look, and Primark become the new places to ‘hang out’ (calling it anything else is deeply uncool), whilst discussing the latest generic heart-throb, how dishy the PE graduate teacher is, and making every effort to grow up more quickly and enter the mythically wonderful world of being a teenager. At some point in the near future, a lethal combination of hormones, a school environment that nine times out of ten is a catalyst to bitchiness, and a collective sudden, excruciatingly self-concious awareness of the existence of boys means that, for a little while, female friendships lose their appeal. Emily, Grace, and Rosie will, you tell yourself, be there forever (you’ll probably lose touch after your first year at uni), so Ben/Harry/Tom who is absolutely, definitely, one hundred per cent, without question the love of your life (spoiler alert: it’s literally only because he’s in the rugby team) should be the one you pour all your love and attention towards.
It’s a relief, I think, when you reach this stage. The one where you realise that romantic partners might well (and some inevitably will) leave, but your female friends — the really, really good ones, will not. Teenage girls are, after all, fiercely, deeply, horribly, competitive with each other. But they are also fiercely, deeply, horribly, protective of each other. They hate each other — but, crucially, no more than they hate themselves. We are pitted (and pit ourselves) against each other from an awfully young age. Somewhere along the way, thankfully, it softens. We learn to re-appreciate our girlfriends. It takes time, but somehow, it brings us irrevocably closer.
Boys are great. Sometimes. But you quickly realise there are a set of fundamental differences. Girls innately understand each other. We understand when to listen and when to offer a solution. We understand when to smile and say the top looks great, and when to offer up free reign of your wardrobe for an alternative. We swap secrets, we let each other know when a dress that would suit the other is in the ASOS sale, we obsessively check in with each other. At our lowest moments, we crave the tenderness of our female friendships. There might be five love languages, and it might be nice when your boyfriend brings you flowers, but the utter selflessness in which girls deal with and care for other girls is truly unbeatable.
Dolly Alderton, author of Everything I Know About Love, and my eternal icon and guru for absolutely everything once said, “nearly everything I’ve learnt about love, I’ve learnt from my long-term female friendships”. And she’s right, genuinely. Because really, nothing beats the feeling of rolling over after a night out to find you have company… in the form of your best friend. Or the feeling of a hungover morning debrief, in baggy jumpers with barely stomached cups of coffee, some pretty crusty mascara sported by both of you.
Harvard Business Review found that women with a close circle of other women were more likely to get top, better paid jobs. Another study showed that women with a greater number of “social ties” were more likely to beat breast cancer. But, beyond that, it’s just what we do best. I think my favourite fact of all time, one that I’ve found myself regurgiating a lot recently (inevitably at wine-fuelled girly dinner parties), is that language evolved to, and for gossip. Inane chat, mothers’ meetings, nattering away, call it what you want. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years, and if that doesn’t show you the importance of female friendships, I truly don’t know what will.
Illustration by: Sarah Knight