Thoughts on 40: female friends


Didn’t know what photo to include.  I didn’t feel right posting people so here, enjoy some of my favorite flower!

Turning 40 made me reflective. No surprise here.  There is a lot on my mind.  Some of it is good, because let’s face it, aging is a privilege, and I’m aware of it, and fully thankful for the life I live and the opportunity to have more of it.  Some of it is more complicated, about regret and loss and sorrow.

Front of mind right now is my female friends. I’ve always esteemed and valued my female friendships, and I’ve written about different women who are in my life here.  I’ve also observed that certain seasons in our lives lend themselves to making close relationships, and many of my dearest friends were made during one of these times.  One of the anthologies in which I’ve been fortunate to be published is The HerStories Project, which is a complication of essays about female friendship.

Though I have always cherished my female friends, I think they are growing more and more important as I get older.

There are the old, lifetime friends, the ones I met when I was becoming who I am.  The ones who knew me before I was a grown-up.  These women are my safest place, my most trusted companions, the ones who hold the stories that are in many ways most essential to who I am.  I’m looking forward to my annual reunion with these women, which is in a few weeks.  I cherish them and I think they know it.

There are the day to day friends, the ones who drive my children to practices and take Grace’s fish when we go away and pick up our mail we’re gone.  I joked this summer about the “particular intimacy of tying someone’s son’s hockey laces for two years” and I wasn’t wrong.  There’s a particular kind of closeness I feel with these friends, a loyalty and trust, a familiarity borne out of day-to-day involvement in each others’ lives.  These are the women I share the dailyness of motherhood and of life with, and I know from watching my own mother that these can grow into deep, irreplaceable, lifetime friendships.

There are the friends I met when I had my babies.  The friends with whom I became a mother, those whose nap schedules and feeding routines and choices about solid foods I’m still very familiar with.  This time of life is unique and exhausting and spectacular and sweet, and the women who shared it with me will always be special.

My friend Allison wrote about the importance of the friends who will eulogize us, when that time comes, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that.  My mother’s best friend died at 49 and I watched from a front-row seat.  Mum had three best friends, who functioned as adjunct mothers for me.  They held down the four corners of the tent underneath which my childhood took place.  When Susie got sick, it was, as I wrote in an essay published in So Long: Short Memoirs of Loss and Remembrance, as though “one corner of the tent was flapping.”  Susie’s son remains one of my most cherished friends (he was in our wedding and he is one of Whit’s godfathers) and I think of my fourth mother, now gone many years, every day.  I know that my mother still carries her with her.  The passage that has come closest to capturing what I observed in my mother and her dearest friends is from Elizabeth Berg’s Talk Before Sleep:

Women do not leave situations like this: we push up our sleeves, lean in closer, and say, “What do you need? Tell me what you need and by God I will do it.” I believe that the souls of women flatten and anchor themselves in times of adversity, lay in for the stay.

These are probably the most special and essential friends of all: those will will lay in for the stay with us, those who will stand up and fight tears to talk about us if that tragic day comes, the ones who will carry us no matter what.  And the ones who will tell our children who we were.  I think I know who those people are for me, and they come from all the groups described above. They are the women who show up for me in ways big and small every day.

I’m hugely thankful for these friends, who know who they are, and that gratitude grows every day.

What are your thoughts on female friendships?  Who do you love most?  Do you think they know?

8 thoughts on “Thoughts on 40: female friends”

  1. Lovely tribute to women friends you’ve written here. There’s so much I’d like to say about this subject, but to do so would likely sound desperate or pitiful, and result in many tears for me. I could, in fact, write the antithesis to this, not in the notion that female friendships are important (YES! they so very much are), but my own luck in this regard, particularly the last 15 years. But given that I am also 40, and my daughter is just 7, I’ve been hanging my hat on the positive kind of sentiment you note about day to day friends. Namely, that they “can grow into deep, irreplaceable, lifetime friendships.” Yes, I do hope that’s true.

  2. So beautiful. I’ve been thinking a lot about friends lately as I have, for perhaps the first time ever, a group of friends and a few close ones in particular who I can turn to with anything – from simple every day mom help to a shoulder to cry on when life gets way too heavy. I used to think I didn’t need close female friends but now I can’t live without these amazing women.

  3. I’ve thought about this post all morning, and I know it will stay with me for a long time to come–especially that perfect, poignant image of one corner of the tent flapping. I love thinking about how the different seasons of our lives bring different people along with them. How lucky we are. Do ‘my people’ know who they are…I’m not sure. As always, you’ve given me pause and something to ponder. Thank you…xo

  4. I’ve just found your blog and the thoughts you share on mothering and being a woman ring so true to me, it’s as if you’re transcribing my thoughts. Albeit, much more eloquently. Looking forward to exploring your writing more. Thank you!

  5. How nice for you that you have these different groups of friends and cherish them each for the unique piece of the great puzzle of life that you offer each other. That is just lovely.
    Four years ago, I had just moved 1,000 miles, quit my job, and had a new baby. I struggled to make friends in our new town and started therapy to help me adjust. My therapist asked me who I relied on to help me get through, and I said I didn’t know anyone well enough to ask for help. She explained the concept of an “inner circle” and said none of my friends/acquaintances would let me in until I let myself be vulnerable. Boy was she right! The next day I asked a fellow preschool mom to go for coffee with me, and I opened up to her about feeling alone. It turns out she felt the same way, and she’s my best local friend today. I still think about the inner circle when I meet new women and try to seem less like I have it all together.

  6. This is beautiful, Lindsey. I also love what’s been written in the comments above, especially Justine, who mentions vulnerability. Yes, that is it.

    I love the image of the tent and the four flaps. I grew up with a mother who had no friends. None. I can’t imagine a life with other women helping to raise me, but it sounds divine.

    I cherish those friends in my own life, that inner circle which is so pivotal and essential–and from this piece, I am inspired, again. Thank you, Lindsey! xo

  7. I simply loved the article on turning being a woman and turning 40. What an amazing article and it’s s true it really hit home for me.

    Thank you for this awesome article.

    Holly M. Heg

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