Thankful for the great girls in my life

I'm the first to admit that I have needed my friends more intensely than they have needed me over these past few years.

But I would hope that the bonds that have kept us connected during this time may have grown a little stronger as a result of the pain, parental dramas and changing romantic relationships that have defined our paths from girlhood to adulthood.

I have many excellent male friends, but for me, one of the most important features of womanhood is the beautiful solid structure of female friends that holds you down in times of trouble.

Over these past few years, my female friends have become my family.

I know that without a range of my strong, funny women blowing up my WhatsApp with lowbrow memes, highbrow jokes and a regular selection of weekend plans and make-up tips, I feel hollow and lost.

My soul feels... empty. I have always felt the pain of arguing with a female friend more acutely than I have with someone I have been romantically involved with.

My natural instinct has always been to surround myself with like-minded women, despite having been something of a tomboy in primary school.

Amazing female friends are useful because they ground you when you get silly, lift you up when you need a boost and reflect you back to yourself when you are totally lost.

My friends know me well, but they probably know less about the despondent thoughts that race through my mind when I think about arguing with one of them.

The idea of losing one of these women makes me feel sick.

And after struggling with a range of family issues for the past few years, I know that, when you have friends like mine, having petty arguments with them is just not worth it - because of the distance they create between us.

Before I headed off to university, I remember masking my anxiety about leaving home by adopting a tone of reluctance and disbelief that I might have to make new connections.

"I have enough mates. I don't need any more," I remember moaning to mum, as she hugged me in my room among packed cases and folded clothes.

But university brought me a series of outrageous, laugh-until-your-belly-hurts experiences with women I did not think I wanted to know, until I met them.

And even though work and travel have stretched out the distances between us, all it takes is a photo, a sniff of a scent or the tail-end of an old joke to reinstate all the memories and have that intimacy ebbing and flowing between us again.

Before dad died, he told me he was proud of the two best friends I had known since I was 11 and that I had better hold on to them because they were "great girls".

Thankfully, I have managed to do that.

These two friends are the kindest, most loyal, most supportive, un-catty women I know and, as a trio, our energies balance out one another perfectly.

Years of bed-sharing practice in houses and at festivals mean we instinctively know how to slot our bodies next to one another after a night out.

One friend always falls asleep mid-anecdote; the other will force herself to stay up just to listen to me offload.

These past few years, they have cancelled plans to wipe away my tears, offered insight and advice and have grown into women I am so proud to know.

Amazing female friends are useful because they ground you when you get silly, lift you up when you need a boost and reflect you back to yourself when you are totally lost.

I also owe a lot to the new female friends of colour whom I have made in this past year.

Looking around at my friends from school and university, though, I hope they would think of me as someone who encourages and motivates them too.

But as I was the first to lose a parent and have so greatly struggled to rebuild myself in the aftermath of that, I know that I have leaned on them far more than I ever planned to.

Their unwavering support has instilled in me the urge to return the favour whenever they need it and that's something I am determined to do.


•The writer is a Guardian Family columnist and freelance journalist.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Thankful for the great girls in my life'. Print Edition | Subscribe