When I was in primary school, I wanted a team of friends like the popular Chinese movie ‘Seven lucky kids’. If you don’t remember it, call me aunty, I insist!
But my friends never wanted to be a tribe. One of them even pushed K, causing her to break her arm because instead of understanding that I would love all of them equally, my friend F, saw K as her replacement and didn’t take kindly to it.
In secondary school, I wanted a group of friends like the Spice girls but my friend M was quite possessive, well according to reports by the other potential members of the Spice girl group, my other friend A was not keen on letting other people past her three is a crowd philosophy.
In University, I thought a miniature sex and the city group of friends would be amazing but again there was a problem. Two of my closest friends could not see eye to eye on anything. So even though I have quite a number of SATC-like pics, the dramatic undercurrent sizzled from time to time.
I have always had lots of friends, and I love each one especially but my friends rarely got along and it made me wonder why for the longest time. I was the girl that each friend would tell a secret to and warn not to tell the other girls because they were my friends and not hers even though she tolerated their audio friendship and sometimes was actually quite into it.
It was draining but a part of me liked the attention. I felt like a rich Alhaji whose (four or more) wives couldn’t get along even though I had promised to love all of them equally. I wasn’t the perfect friend, I still royally suck at keeping in touch but when you are my friend I will bend over backwards for you if I have to, regardless of distance or time apart. I don’t joke with loyalty or friendship. It wasn’t until I read Tim Lahaye’s book that I realised that I was acting like a true sanguine (let’s ignore the choleric part of my ‘SANchol’ personality assessment for now).
The world tries to peddle three narratives where female friendships are concerned.
1. Women can’t be friends. We are too competitive, too back stabbing, too *insert other derogatory terms*.
This is absolute bullocks. If you are a woman and you believe this, you are either hanging with the wrong crowd or you need to check yourself- you just may be the problem! One bad experience is not enough to disqualify the entire female race.
2. The fakest sort of friendships are the tribes! Despite the travel together, attend events together, coordinate clothing and 4 way phone conversations, the women actually hate each other and gossip about each other and there’s always the queen bee, the underdog, the famzer and the Judas in the entourage!
Naaah fam, leave the movies out of real life. A meaningful friendship can exist amongst several women. There just needs to be shared interests, mutual trust, boundaries, honest communication, kindness, love and forgiveness and many women have tribes that actually work!
3. Three is a crowd. Women can only be friends in pairs. Once there’s a third person, two would always be closer and there would be backbiting, hurt feelings and somebody always feeling left out.
Not true. If this was true then tribes wouldn’t exist. No friendship is perfect, if you want it to work, you need to put in the work!
Here are three actual facts about friendship among women:
1. It’s okay for there to be closer circles of friends within a big tribe.
It’s okay for two people to be closer to each other than everyone else but still be amazing friends to every one in the tribe. Remember that the larger a friendship circle is, the more complex the mashup of personalities, perceptions and opinions. This is mostly a good thing but it isn’t unexpected that friends with similar mindsets within the tribe or some other similarity would gravitate towards each other. Accept it, fighting it causes negative energy and discord within a tribe.
2. It’s necessary to know and set the rules of engagement for any friendship.
If you don’t like something, say it from the onset and reiterate it from time to time. If the person values you, they will act right and if they don’t, don’t be sentimental about moving. Passive aggression is the bedrock of beef. Don’t morph into a frenemy because your friend keeps jabbing at your wound albeit unconsciously. Also, be sensitive. Some people struggle with envy and on the other end of the spectrum, some people struggle with low self esteem which makes them continually boast about their achievements and material gains to cover up for secret inadequacies. Now imagine the disaster of a friendship if two women from either ends of this spectrum become BFFs? Our instincts do not go to sleep when picking friends, we just choose not to listen to them.
3. Fights, cat fights, cold wars and separations will happen.
Many women bear scars from previous friendships but here are two things you should know. The first is that this is not a reason to give up on female friendships. It’s just a mandate to be intentional about future friendships and test the waters before going all in. I actually pray about friendships before taking them to the next level because I’m a ‘stick with you through thick and thin’ kinda girl.
The second thing is to allow a small window in your heart for forgiveness. Remember that many times, discord is not entirely one person’s fault. If the person has matured and genuinely asks for forgiveness and wants another chance at the friendship, it could be because they miss the perks, access to your life or control (run from them) or because they have genuinely matured and miss the friendship (pause, reflect and maybe give it another go). I have this three strikes rule for friendship. After the third ‘how could she hurt me like this?’, I walk away. It feels like I have given the friendship my all and there is nothing left to give. This kind of walking away brings the sort of peace that evades you when you are keeping malice. There’s a finality to this one, closure as they say. I have only had to get to this final bus stop with two friends in my entire life and man, it wasn’t easy but the overwhelming peace I got after walking away was my assurance that it was the right thing to do.
My oldest friendship is 23 years old.
How old is your oldest (genuine, we are still in each other’s lives on a regular basis) friendship?
Back to tribes.
For centuries, tribes have been responsible for setting norms, coordinating behaviour patterns, setting standards for social interaction and defending individual members. If your tribe is successful, motivated, driven it would certainly rub off on you. If your friends live a phoney lifestyle or have questionable morals, that’s you babe, you can’t run away from that reputation. It’s a label by association so choose your labels wisely!
So where is my tribe?
I have several right now and I’m fully committed to all of them. It just occured to me that with the world being so mixed now (I’m half Auchi, half Isoko, 1/8th Hausa (one great grandmother), Bini by marriage, 1/2 Ibo (Ibusa- mother in law) and Yoruba by birth), I certainly can belong to more than one tribe! 😊
You can too.
When you have genuine friends, labels don’t matter. When you learn to keep the secrets told to you in confidence and learn to treat others as you would want to be treated, female friendships become easier, less complicated, less draining and of course, every grown woman knows how to spot bullsh*t a mile away, so you end up with less toxic friends and less frenemies because frankly, nobody gat time for that!
To have a friend, you’ve gotta be a friend
Have a great day Chutzpah fam,
Identify your tribe this Christmas and hold them close! ❤
Every woman needs a woman or women in her circle. Don’t joke with your support system!