Earlier this week, I made the journey from Orkney to Edinburgh to see my bridesmaid. (no, she is not called Madge) who was on a flying visit from Canada. We do not see each other often but minutes after meeting in John Lewis we were acting as each other’s personal shopper, knowing that the news would keep till the wine. It was familiar, comfortable and safe. Neither of us had changed. All was as it had always been.
Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to make friends. Some I shared a paddling pool with, some I went to school with, some I shared flats with and some I have met more recently. Within these groups, there are those who are now relegated to the Christmas card list, those I see occasionally and those I see more often. In each category, there are some with whom I share secrets and offload worries and there are others who remain little more than acquaintances.
Women need friends with whom to share their joys and sorrows, with whom to give and take advice. Women ask their friends how they are, how they are getting on (or not) with their partner, how their children are faring and will receive the necessary information. It’s called verbal communication. Men, on the other hand, use their friends as a supportive column to prop them up as they discuss football, politics and anything but personal problems. Is this part of the ‘my equipment is bigger than yours’ way of looking at life – real men don’t have issues that they can’t cope with?
It starts early. Observe in any nursery, and you will see little girls playing games involving words, turn taking, role-playing and you will see little boys playing with cars or riding toy tractors with half an eye on the competition and verbal output limited to car noises. Perhaps it was aye thus. Not much conversation need when hunting a Brontosaurus. Conversely back at the cave, the women were required to collaborate in the skinning and cooking and child-minding while keeping an eye out for the approach of a sabre-toothed tiger.
Friendship is in my mind at the moment because I am plotting. Not in an evil sense you understand, I am merely trying to tease out the storyline for my third book. The nature of friendships, both male and female, could well form a part. Perhaps I should mix up the stereotypes -a self-sufficient woman and a ‘touchy feely’ man – or is there comfort for the reader in the familiar? Comments welcome.