It’s autumn in New Zealand, spring in in the Northern Hemisphere – time for gentler pleasures, long contemplative walks, appreciating soft rain and changing leaves. I have been thinking about friends having surgery, the social construction of female interactions, and the dresses I want to make.
Lately there is a social construction of feminine friendship based on relentless socializing, both present and virtual. It came from the ’90s, with the double cultural whammy of Bridget Jones’ Diary and the Sex and the City television show. (The book this show is based on has much less friendship between the women – it was written into the show as a narrative linking device). Before this, the Greek chorus of BFFs was not a requirement in stories about women, or our own lives. There were songs about Sisters Doing It For Themselves and being On My Own. Today, it can seem like every nail polish application must be Facebooked! Every cupcake must be eaten with your six BFFs! Still, some of my favorite books are about women going through their travails without a BFF by their side. They may be beautiful (Polly Hampton), ruthless (Becky Sharpe), or self-aware and determined(Renee Nere, Cassandra Mortmain) – but, with the absence of the BFF, they do what they must, on their own.
This fervid female friendship ideal has a dark side. It chips away at the time we spend by ourselves, in Virginia Woolfe’s “room of one’s own” being creative, or thinking, or re-energizing. Nor is it friendly to introverts or to how introverts like to be friends. (Even burlesque artists can be introverts.) Some of my favorite moments with friends have been when we shared our introverted sides – we sat in the same room reading books together, or escaped from a noisy bar for a brisk walk and an intimate catch-up.
Earlier this month, a good friend of mine had surgery. In May, two more good friends are having surgery. Tomorrow, one of my best friends over the past 10 years is having very major surgery. Each of them has different needs and desires for support from friends, but I am thinking about them all. I had minor surgery in February and I appreciated not just concrete help, but my partner and my friends extending themselves to spend time with me, bored and trapped while I healed. There were some quiet moments that I still think of with deep warmth.
Right now I’m trying to build the middle ground. To be there, as needed, for those friends of mine about to have their procedures. To stay connected with older friends and be open and friendly to those I meet in passing. To get my creative stuff done – to finish the drawing, start a new book, make the dress, cook the long-simmered stew. And also, to experience the pleasures of quiet time in autumn.