As women, our craving for connection is beyond intrinsic. We’ve been wired that way – to burrow deep and to desire belonging.
Isn’t it a wonder why women tend to be each other’s worst enemies? How does it look like to have a community of women that support each other, love each other and celebrate each other?
Now, this book ‘Never Unfriended’ by Lisa-Jo Baker ended up on my radar soon after a friend’s bridal shower. As we gathered together to celebrate her upcoming nuptials, friend after friend gushed about her selflessness, her heart and how she came through when it mattered the most. Every one had a story (a good one) about the oceans she crossed and mountains she climbed for them.
And naturally, I questioned the quality of friend I happen to be.
After paying no mind to it for a month, God (there’s no running from You, huh?) sort of slipped Lisa-Jo’s book sample across to me last week as I was catching up on a few bloggers I’ve read over the years who started out as that but today have books upon books of their own. In short, me, without the books for now. Lol.
Lisa-Jo’s come such a long way and with 3 books (one a brilliant Bible study standing on the shoulders of Never Unfriended) I got lost retracing her journey.
The book is brilliant. And I’ve had my nose stuck in it ever since. It’s about building healthy, lasting and necessary friendships with other women and boy oh boy!
There’s so much I want to say about it, so I’ve picked out some of the parts that stand out for me so I can journey through them with you. I hope you can do the same too. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
The web that is the female friend experience
“I have spent thousands of hours of my life held hostage by worry about friendships. I have over-analyzed, ranted, and kept my husband awake as I rehashed interactions with women I care about—mining our conversations for minute details and trying to make sense of who was wrong and whether or not I needed to apologize or if I was justified in feeling so upset. I have worried just as much about misunderstandings with women I didn’t even know on a first-name basis. I have cried in hidden corners of hotel lobbies over throwaway sentences that still managed to cut deep, and panic-checked my phone in the middle of the night for text messages. I have woken up first thing in the morning to squint at my emails in order to determine if an argument has escalated or finally been resolved. And I’ve walked through long days under the weight of dread that comes with unresolved conflict. I have hit refresh hundreds of times on Facebook to see who has included me, criticized me, or misunderstood me.”
— Lisa-Jo Baker
Am I the only one who does this? Please say no. Even when Dave and I were dating, I’d pick up fragments of my interactions and debunk them with him.
“So and so poked fun at my hair today.”
This one features a lot. One time a friend said my hair smells like medicine and burst out laughing right after in the midst of a small circle of friends one Sunday morning. I’d give it to her. I was testing out my Saru Organics Leave In conditioner and my hair smelled like a eucalyptus and mint factory. I so badly wanted to tear up in that moment, my cheeks all flushed, but I put up a brave face.
I was the one raising hands singing hallelujah and weeping during worship later that morning to the God who knew the quiet cry in my heart longing to for a new way to do my hair.
“So and so asked me if I’m starting a Youtube channel. And you know what she said after that? She said, ‘Just don’t be boring.'”
This was at the gazebo in the middle of a short Bible study a week after my camera and equipment was shipped into the country.
What she didn’t know was how last Thursday I had gone and pitched my skills to the CEO of a production company and got turned down.
What she didn’t know was that I had given up on my dreams and trying in general. I wondered why I should try in the first place even though I knew I had to (because my hubby and I invested a lot into it by forfeiting a December vacation to buy equipment) though I didn’t want to.
What she didn’t know is that I would cry every day unable to put to words the pain I felt to God concerning my dreams, and how hope (expectation), faith and dreaming with God was a sore subject that felt like a mirage.
I smiled back at her and nodded as she walked away oblivious of the turmoil in my heart.
“So and so called me fat without calling me fat.”
Okay. What she actually said, emphasis hers, is, “No, YOU’VE gained weight.”
Thanks. I already knew this (even though I didn’t think it was that much) but thanks. Everyone needed to hear it like that.
“I think so and so won’t talk to me for a while because of this. Was I wrong? Should I explain to her where I was coming from? Do you think our friendship will make it after this since we didn’t talk for a so many months after the last time she came to me with something?”
Our interactions can feel like a mine field that has us tiptoeing. You don’t want to hurt anyone but you don’t want to come out as “the sensitive one.” So we overthink it, say sorry where we can and hope they don’t shun us, albeit for a while. We create distance and sometimes sever ties because not knowing where we stand with each other is the worst kind of knowing.
It gets worse.
The need to impress and feeling left out
“I don’t know about you, but the last time I dressed up to seriously impress a man was when my husband and I were still in the do-you-notice-me-notnoticing-you-noticing-me phase. But the last time I dressed up to impress another woman was yesterday morning when I painstakingly blow-dried my hair before escorting a group of kids on a field trip to the farm.
To. The. Farm.
No one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman. We can stand knee-deep in witty conversation holding cupcakes in one hand and our highly connected smart phones in the other—only to go home and whisper in quiet tears to our husbands, our roommates, or our moms how left out we felt. There is a mean girl inside us all who will hypnotize us if we let her. She will poison and paralyze our friendships by focusing on the moments when we felt excluded. She will trick us into thinking that there’s an inner circle we’ve been left out of. She will repeat the lie that we’ve been left out on purpose. And maybe, painfully, sometimes we have.”
— Lisa-Jo Baker
In my community, we have event after a event every calendar year ranging from bridal showers, baby showers, church related events and weddings.
I’m positive that I’m never the only one who feels like she has nothing to wear as the events roll up. This is especially since the dress code is always ‘Dress to Kill’ and I end up feeling like the dying one in the 6 year old dress I can now barely fit into because I stopped wearing it to save it for one of the many future events.
Recycling and ‘Dress to Kill’ seldom go hand in hand and quite honestly, I have feared that if someone put together a montage of the outfits I wore at the weddings since 2016, I’d look the same.
And it’s because we want to stand out. We long to. Each of us like flowers long to shine. Even those of us in last season’s petals. And everyone knows that you won’t make the highlight reel in last season’s dress no matter how hard you try.
I had the mean girl come out of me once, in 2017. It was at another church event where I bought a last minute dress (a polyester black with red roses A line dress) for an all black event. Talk about major faux pas. But the thing that added insult to injury was a friend that I met at the bathroom laughing to tears at the splendid realization that my dress is a Kao number. And by that, I mean, that my dress was the kind of dress Kamba ladies would wear for a function. Awesome. FYI, I haven’t worn the dress since.
But the mean girl in me didn’t rear her head at that. No. It was only when I made my way past her to the mirror to touch up my cheap lippie (I bought a couple at 250 each coz I was trying to switch up my look) and got a few compliments about it when I realized that my lippie was the kind no one wanted to borrow. A dud, that is. And I knew because when I offered to share it with them, they politely declined and scrambled for another friend’s matte lippie.
They took turns putting it on and giggled while returning to the auditorium. I stayed back, wiped off my cheap nobody-wants-you-lippie and tried to shake off the sting of fake compliments. And there, as I stared at myself – barefaced and a little broken because I felt left out – she came out.
A few days after that incident there I was buying 2 Huddah lippies that I previously thought I couldn’t afford. And that coming Sunday, 8 days past the event, I strut into church service like I owned the joint. Haha! And I knew, I KNEW, that all the ladies would want my lippie or would at least compliment me for it, for real this time. And they did. But I made sure I left it at home. Collateral damage.
Boy did I ride that high. It lasted a long moment. And then reality sunk in.
“I know. I know God. The Huddah lippies were a revenge buy. I know I should have dealt with my hurt feelings better. I know. But they laughed at me. Okay. They didn’t. They fake complimented me. Still felt that way. And no. I don’t feel any better. Honestly… Maybe I do. A little, but I know it’s for all the wrong reasons. I’m sorry. Please heal my heart.”
It was another snot filled Sunday with my hands raised during worship weeping at God’s graciousness toward me.
Feeling left out, feeling behind or like you don’t fit in suuuuuuuuuuuucks!
Sometimes, these experiences, as minuscule as they seem, if not dealt with brutal honesty within and with your friends, can leave you fraying. And sometimes, even the good ones say goodbye. Whether you see it coming or not, it hurts just the same.
Breaking up as friends
“There it was. The breakup. And I stared at the phone and wasn’t surprised but still there was a quiet trickle of blood from an internal injury that no one could see. You can bleed to death from broken friendships without ever telling anyone that it’s happening. You can bleed from the loss of sharing the ordinary stories and secrets that make up the inner lives of girls. That’s the magic of being invited into someone else’s head. So when her door closes in your face and you’re alone with your thoughts again, it’s confusing even when it makes sense. It will take you months to un-learn the habit of dialing her number, needing her opinion, wanting her company more than you want your own. We are wired to connect.”
— Lisa-Jo Baker
I had a best friend once. We had grown up together in the same neighbourhood as kids. We shared the same obsession for Passions (an American soap that felt vibrant and young) she rooting for Ethan (she was Ethan’s Theresa) and me Miguel (so I guess that made me Miguel’s Charity) who after that ended up as Desperate Housewive’s famous pool boy. That guy.
Dear God I remember too much!
We’d always run out of the house after Passions would air and hash out the plot of the episode after singing the theme song (I still know it by heart to this day. Feel free to ask me to jukebox to it). We’d talk about our neighbourhood crushes and sing the latest songs (this is also why I know all the words to TLC Scrubs and pretty much all of Usher’s 90’s and early 2000’s songs) out loud for the neighbourhood to hear. So dastardly, I know!
What Kathambi didn’t know was that my neighbourhood crush was her brother. It was a secret I was determined to keep to myself (save for the few moments we’d go over to her place for 4 o’clock tea and mandazi and I’d say some cringeworthy remark about her brother lifting weights in their veranda).
Then one day, while we were watching EATV, P Diddy’s ‘I Need A Girl Part 2′ came on, and I kid you not, he sang it to me, every word, and asked me out. Uh, who flipped through the pages of my diary and made Christmas come early?!
I said yes, of course to my real life, my age Miguel and was ready for my Passions moment.
Dating at the time meant longer hugs, not holding hands of course, but side chats with everyone else looking at you (with envy is how my younger self would imagine it. I’m redeemed now so sssssshhhh! Just enjoy the story. Haha)
What I didn’t know is how this would affect my bestfriendship with Kathambi. We drifted, no duh, because now instead of coming over to hang out with her, I’d have to share my time with her brother too.
As luck would have it, they ended up moving houses a year or so after, and Kathambi and I never had the chance to resolve it.
Oh and her brother and I broke up soon after. Also, no duh.
Lesson learned. Never put a guy you’re dating before your friend. Best friend at that. And even if it works out with the guy (and you get hitched and he becomes your best friend, which he should be FYI) don’t ditch your girl friends.
I was never quite the same.
“As women, our craving for connection is so deep and our orientation toward attachment so primal that “we fear a rupture in relationship more than a loss of independence.” And every time we go through a friendship breakup, we’re teaching our brains that friends can’t be trusted. So the next time someone invites us through the door into their secret world, we’re less likely to step through quite as trustingly as the first time.
Repeated social experiences teach us which relationships are hot to the touch and which ones are delicious.
The patterns we live over and over again in our friendships aren’t by accident. They’re the actual rewiring of our brains to connect or not connect based on past experiences. So if we’ve had a defining relationship that ended up being a bomb that exploded in our hearts, we’re more likely to experience some degree of post-traumatic stress when we find ourselves in a similar relationship situation in the future.”
— Lisa-Jo Baker
Around the same time of my choosing the guy and not Kathambi, I ended up in a new school all sparkly and 12 years of age. I ended up saying something silly but out of turn and one of my new classmates ended up pummeling me in front of everyone in class minutes before the GHC teacher walked in for first period.
Me, the new comer with somewhat of a mouth on her, became damaged in one swoop.
And even though that hurt (inside and out) what hurt me the most was the girls in class who said and did nothing. These same girls would share a dormitory with me. We’d share bathrooms and showers together.
But no one spoke of it. No one acknowledged my pain. They simply acted like it was a dream so much that I would find myself questioning if it ever happened in the first place. It did. And the guy apologized a year later. But not the girls.
I never had a conversation with any of them about it then, or in the years after. So I had to heal on my own about both events and experiences.
Truthfully, it’s taken years but I know how that gutted me and licked me raw.
I always had so many questions about the girls. Where were they when I needed them? Where were they when I’d cry every night on my pillow for 2 years till I did my KCPE? Did anyone ever hear me? Couldn’t they see past my beetroot red puffy eyes? Was I overreacting? Was what happened okay to everyone else but me? Where was a friend when I needed one? Not many. Even just one.
Where were they? Were they afraid it would happen to them too? Were they afraid to be damaged goods?
This encounter, this girl-friend PTSD has had me in therapy with God for the last 16 years.
When I ended up joining my now church community and eventually leading the ladies fellowship, it seemed somewhat ironic. Me leading, loving and growing relationships with a fresh set of hearts still carrying a scar that would burst open from time to time.
But I’ve done it.
Has it been perfect? No. If the examples in the revenge lipstick paragraph are anything to go by, (each which I dealt with and laugh about, for real, ask me), it’s easy to see that it hasn’t been perfect. I’ve dished out so many sorrys, each with their own aftermath, than I’ve ever ever had in my lifetime. I’ve gotten so much healing from these relationships. So much support, wisdom and comfort in every area of my life and every change of season in my life.
So much that I got to say those words again. You know the words – Best Friend.
They came out of my mouth one Sunday afternoon over Christmas in 2016. I was introducing her to one of my family members and it just kind of slipped. I felt a rush, got flushed and embarrassed in one breath and I swore to make like nothing happened.
But we talked about it, her bringing it up with a short Whatsapp text at the end of the celebrations that read, “I had a great time today. Thanks for thinking of me and always including my husband and I in your family. Goodnight best friend.”
Dave can tell you my reaction about it. I was giddy, happy sighing and jigging at the same time. You see, she and I embodied the word before saying it. When I longed for someone to walk with and be honest with when I got married, she walked with me as we journeyed toward her wedding. I was 6 months deep in this wild voyage called marriage and she 6 months close to saying I do.
We had dug a well back in my engaged year over weeping coffee dates and sleep-overs. We had go-to drinks and cafe booths with our names on them. We heard each other out and wiped each others tears. We’ve been strong when either one of us needs it and brave enough to admit when we needed somewhere soft to lean into.
We are best friends because we don’t filter – in life, marriage or dreams. And because of that, we can skip past pleasantries into the meat of things.
Our calls and whatsapps jump straight into:
“I wasn’t a good wife today.”
“I’m so done with so and so (insert Jane The Virgin plot twist or real life characters).”
And we can both be heard so we can have the depth to receive the tough love that is necessary in the moment after our words are spoken.
I’ve longed for this sort of epidemic amongst women. An epidemic of kindness, honesty, and real love.
And let me tell you this, I can give her the clothes on my back (or closet) in a heartbeat. I’ve received gifts and forfeited them for her sake (coz of the unspoken heart whisper and gumption I vibed from her that having it would lift her spirits for a time). Loving her, being a friend to her, has taught me about laying down my life.
This is a knitting of souls and hearts. This is connection at its best.
In fact, I’m sure people consider her and I a clique but if they come close, they’ll see that we have an open door policy and one rule – come open, but just come. The more the better. For real. Try us.
This is part 1 of what could have been a long wonderful post.
If you’re interested in PART 2, click this and enjoy.
Meantime, drop me a comment about your own friendship PTSDs, break ups with friends or the times you’ve felt the need to impress or when you’ve felt left out.
I’d really love to know. Especially since my revenge buy is so cheesy high school. We bless God for grace!
Also, feel free to share this with a lady friend. It’s time we all heal chicas.