A recurring topic in glossy magazines, it seems, is the great variety of romantic relationships and the kind of archetypal men women tend to fall in love with – there’s the Boy Next Door, and Prince Charming, and the Irresponsible-But-Oh-So-Irresistible Serial Seducer, and the Mama’s Boy, and the Indiana Jones, and… oh, well, you get the picture. (And I know. I know. There is also Mr. Darcy, but that’s another blog post for another day.)
But less seems to have been written on the thousand tiny variations on female friendships – even if they are just as bountiful and rich as romantic relationships. Or maybe even more so.
For have you ever thought how many different kinds of friendships you’ve had in your life? There is, for example, your Girlie-Girlie Friend, the awfully stylish woman with whom you go out shopping, or to the movies – or out for lunch in a trendy restaurant, eating nothing else but a few low-low-calorie salad leaves, for you can’t eat anything else in the presence of the pretty and desperately skinny Girlie-Girlie (even if you may buy Häagen-Dazs on your way home).
And then there’s your Intellectual Friend, with whom you talk about Jonathan Franzen and Lars von Trier and utter sentences like ‘we must foster liberal communities that encourage awareness, respect and mutual tolerance’ without feeling like an utter fool or a hypocrite. And then, obviously, there is your Party Friend, who is like your wilder, crazier alter ego; with her you’ve done and experienced things you’d never reveal at a family Sunday lunch. Or on your Facebook page.
And, if you’re older (like me), your party friends are gone, and instead you have your Mother Friend: you meet her each and every day while doing the school run, and she knows all the nitty-gritty of your family life – even the fact that your two-year-old boy has been constipated for the last three days. And yes, you can call Mother Friend at midnight and scream down the phone that your daughter’s temperature has risen to thirty-nine, and she will not denounce you for stalking. She understands. She’s that kind of friend.
See, how many friends? See how lucky we are?
And then, of course, there’s the cherry on top – the Best Friend, the queen of all friends. As such, ‘best friend’ is a serious concept… just like first love, really. Not everyone has a best friend, just like not everyone experiences first love: the circumstances for either one to happen are so demanding that it can’t happen every day.
Yes, best friend is different. With a best friend your bond has been transformed onto another level: what was ‘simply’ a friendship before, is now something deeper and stronger.
Sisterhood. That’s what it is.
I have a sister who’s one of my best friends, and a Best Friend who is like a sister to me; so, I’m lucky, because either way I look at it, I have two instead of one. Rohini – my Best Friend – and I go way back to our student years in London, when we were both twenty-something and penniless, and the world was big and rosy, full or promise, and out there for us to conquer. She was my Girlie-Girlie Friend, and my Intellectual Friend, and my Everyday Friend; and together we went through thick and thin, so much so that when I was sick Rohini came to check on me before rushing to intellectual property lectures. Now she lives on another continent… but, hey. There is Skype. And Instagram. And occasional Best Friend Reunions, when we do that Pretty Woman shopping spree, take two.
But the most extraordinary female friendship I’ve ever imagined is the one that takes place in my upcoming novel, The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice. Because it just so happens that one of the women has stolen the body of the other woman, and the one who’s been robbed of her life and identity – and most of all, her perfectly toned arms and one-hundred-per-cent cellulite-free thighs, is hell bent on getting back what is rightfully hers. No matter what the cost.
So, it is a question of a body swap – or body abduction – of the worst kind, and as such, it is hate at first sight rather than anything else. Plus, it doesn’t help that the two women couldn’t be more different. The ‘body thief’ is a frumpy, fifty-something housewife, who spends her free time watching rom com movies and eating Pringles. And dreaming of something else. One day, she wishes to die… but a rather mischievous angel hears her prayers, and catapults her into the body of an A-list Hollywood celebrity who has a body to die for and the ego of an army sergeant. On top of which, of course, she is spoiled. Seriously spoiled.
It is not exactly what you call a perfect match, but out of that rivalry and give-my-body-back bloody battle, somehow, miraculously, a friendship arises that goes beyond anything and everything either of the two women have ever experienced.
They become more than friends. They become… that’s right. They become sisters.
At the end of the book both women sit in an empty piazza in a little Tuscan village, sipping Chianti and gazing into the distance. Then the Hollywood star says suddenly,
‘I’ve always believed that this is how life is. That men come and go and the only thing that lasts is…’
She pauses to think. ‘Bee-venom masks?’ she eventually tries.
The fifty-something housewife, ever so sensible, nearly spits into her glass. ‘Oh, goodness, gracious,’ she cries, not bothering to hide her irritation, ‘there’s more to life than being obsessed with looks!’
The Hollywood It Girl shrugs, accepting her rebuke. Then she looks down, almost shy, averting her eyes.
‘But maybe I was wrong,’ she says quietly. ‘Maybe the only thing that lasts is friendship.’
And, who knows – maybe she is right? For which reason I can’t help but make a mental note, right here and right now, that as soon as I’ve finished writing this blog text I’m going to email Rohini and Whatsapp my sister, just so that they know how lucky I am, to have them around.