NO WOMAN IS AN ISLAND
“You do not beat your own heart,” wrote Florence Welch in an essay for Vogue Magazine earlier this year. She was referring to the relief of having your body work for you and not against you in the aftermath of destruction— something I know all too well. But those words also meant something else to me. They drummed up another meaning in my mind that hasn’t left me since. And that is the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.
It’s strange to look back and see how the value I’ve placed upon my friendships has changed over time. How much more my female friendships mean to me now they are woman to woman and not girl to girl.
Growing up I never fell into friendships easily. Or, they didn’t sit comfortably for me to be in. I had friends, but I never felt a true bond that tied me to them for longer than needed or was necessary.
I was the one momentarily forgotten, the one mentally or physically absent from an anecdote that would later define the group, the solo rider as the others boarded the rollercoaster in pairs. I felt like an outsider — partly because they were simply not my people and partly, admittedly, because I had no interest in being.
I liked being alone (I still do), I thought I could beat my own heart.
But as I have grown, in the last year especially, I have realised that no woman is an island.
That I find myself having more compassion, empathy, appreciation and connection to the women in my life because we are bound together by what it means to be a woman in the world. That it’s the reaching out to other women that heals you, that shifts some of the heartbreak of life because her allyship comes from the same experiences as yours. You begin to cross borders with your female friends; that with every birthday, wedding, birth, divorce and loss forward, you will always understand one another more because you are one of the same.
I think it’s why franchises such as Sex and the City do so well — they tap into the notion that female friendship only gets better with age in a world that constantly tries to sell the idea that everything else gets worse with the loss of your youth. I am obviously only one side of the coin, but like cheese and wine, I believe my friendships really have got better with age.
Not least because there has been a definite sisterhood awakening in recent years. With the emergence of movements like #MeToo, with more and more of us willing to share the truth of womanhood, we have found alignment in other women’s stories, sympathy. We’ve carved out women’s only spaces and platforms to build meaningful connections in safety. We look out for one another more — and not just those close to us, but strangers too.
That doesn’t happen so much when you’re younger because you have a very rose-tinted view of the world. I observed recently how, a decade ago, I’d tear around town at night on my own but now I don’t even dare walk through the park alone at dusk! As you grow into an awareness of the truth of the world, you instinctively begin to feel more protective of the women in your life and beyond — the ones who feel the quickening in their step as they move through an empty car park just like you do.
“You do not know men,” my boyfriend recently told me in a conversation. I understood where he was coming from. I work with only women, I have very little male presence in my life and I consume works by mostly only brilliant women. I live in an echo-chamber of women, basically. Dolly Alderton recently wrote about being in a similar conundrum for her column in The Sunday Times.
But I don’t see it as a conundrum myself. The women in my life provide me with enough to always have me in awe.
I have a friend who has just released her debut E.P. A friend who recently interviewed Dina Asher-Smith. One that’s getting her PHD and one that’s travelling on the other side of the world. My friends are quitting their jobs to get qualifications in entirely new fields, exhibiting their art, raising money for causes beyond themselves. Growing, shining, thriving. This is why I’m friends with women. I’m friends with women because they bring out the best in me, teach me, show me what’s possible regardless of the patriarchal limitations womanhood places on our shoulders. The very reason we are able to connect to one another so deeply in the first place. The women in my life are the ones that shape me, over and over again.
The teacher in primary school who held out her hand when seeing me harassed.
The friend who turned up at my house when I was dumped and heartbroken.
The girl who walked into my life just as the boy was leaving.
The therapist who complimented me every single session regardless of what she knew about me.
The healer who introduced me to practices that would save my life.
The sister who has shown me to be brave and courageous.
The stranger who walks in alliance with me until we’re into safety.
They are the ones that beat my heart.
To receive new essays direct to your inbox every other Monday, sign up to my newsletter here