Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: On Female Friendships

I am, and have always been, a chick magnet.

Someone said to me once how great it must be for my ego, being a performer and having all the hot dudes come up to me after a show. That’s never happened. I am, and have always been, a chick magnet.

Men don’t listen to a mouthy in-your-face woman like me and think; wow I can’t wait to meet her so she can tell me what’s wrong with me. I scare men. That’s why women like me. It’s always women who want to meet me. It’s women who are attracted to what they perceive as a show of strength – a sister who has the courage to put herself in the firing line. Either I’m brave, or stupid, or both. I think they come to meet me to work out which. They tell me funny stories, they confide personal details of their life, they thank me, and if they’re a bit drunk they hug me and get a selfie with me. It’s kind of lovely. I like that women who don’t know me find me approachable. I’ve even been hugged and kissed by two young girls in a long queue for the port-a-loos at a music festival. I was impressed that I had broadened my demographic to under 25’s, but as they snapped selfie’s they confessed ‘Our mums love you’. It’s certainly a gift to be loved by women, even if they use their daughters as a proxy. I am a woman’s woman.

I was thinking the other day how stupid and insincere Valentine’s day is – and why do we only celebrate romantic love? With relationship failures more prevalent than successes, perhaps we need to acknowledge the people who stick by us. The ones who listen to us repeat ourselves over and over as we trawl through the emotional autopsy of a failed romance, the ones who come over when we’re sad, or celebrate our successes. The ones who pick our kids up from school so we can work, who put us in a cab and send us home when we’ve drunk too much. The ones who notice we’ve lost weight, or put it on, and know which one they should comment on. These are our female friends. These are the relationships that last a lifetime.

In a sense, for me as a woman with a chequered husband-history, my women friends are my ‘forevers’. I still have girlfriends from when I was three, girlfriends I went to school with, girlfriends who confessed to hating me from afar – until they got to know me and love me close up – girlfriends I shared houses with when I was at uni, girlfriends I met in cafes when we waitressed together, girlfriends who were friends of my partner, and when we split they shifted allegiance. I have girlfriends I met at parties. One I met on a plane. Even girlfriends whose boyfriends I ‘accidentally’ slept with.

I have always attracted strong female friendships. I love women. I love my rich array of women friends. I love how different they are. They are mothers, artists, teachers, comedians, musicians, dancers, writers, businesswomen, gardeners and humanitarians. They are young and they are old, and they are my age. I remember how I met each of them; that spark of attraction that fired between two women who recognised another from her tribe. It’s almost as compelling as falling in love – that recognition of deep belonging and sisterhood.

As girls grow up, patriarchy divides our inner world. We are quietly socialised into being in constant competition with other women. It’s at the core of our being. Is she prettier than me? Thinner than me? More worthy? This internal narrative destroys friendships by eroding our sense of self. When that drops, and you get to truly love a female friend without feeling diminished by her amazingness – it’s wonderful! It’s this warm feeling that someone sees you for who you are when your make-up is off and your tracksuit pants are on. When your eyes are swollen and your face is panda-beared with mascara from the tears. So maybe, in this three weeks that sit between Valentine’s Day and International Women’s Day we could celebrate the power and beauty of our female friendships? Let’s have a frizzy-hair tracksuit-pants day to honour the love and loyalty of our female friends.

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5 responses to “Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: On Female Friendships”

  1. Emily Stewart says:

    Mandy shows who she is.

  2. KevinO’Sullivan says:

    Lovely article Mandy. As a man I m jealous of how women have listening and talking girlfriends. Men don’t have that and we are poorer for it.

  3. Debra says:

    Such enjoyable reading.
    In younger days … much younger we had PJ parties, more recently with sister and mates it was dressing gowns lounging about watching girl movies.
    I’m with you Mandy, count me in who’s up for a trackie day in?
    Thanks Mandy.
    Deb Conomy

  4. Mandy, you are right. Great female friendship is deep and strong. I remember the first time I met you and loved you immediately. This love grows the longer I know you, the more I know you and the more we share. This growth and growing longevity is also deep and amazing. I am incredibly honoured to count you as my close friend as I am with literally just a handful of other women. You are remarkable and your generosity of spirit, lack of competition and preparedness to let others shine even if it was actually you who were booked to be in the spotlight, gives evidence to the respect, admiration and love you have earned and attests to the fact that you are one of the most evolved people I have met. And as I am one of your older friends, my age declares that I have met a lot of women. So thank you dear sister. Thank you for being you and for supporting me and a multitude of other women to be the best versions of ourselves.
    Evolved you are dear sister and loved you will always be.

  5. DD says:

    Tribalism amongst women in Byronshire is destroying the sisterhood, Tribes who never the twain shall meet, Tribes who tell their girls that it is acceptable not to socialise with other girls out of their zones. Yes, it is fulfilling to meet women with similar mindsets but it is also enriching to accept women who are classed as ”different”.

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