The Beauty of Female Friendships
Loudly complaining about my lack of period products, I was making a bit of a scene to my friends in the airport. Our bags had been checked, and none of us came prepared. With my hope almost lost and accepting defeat, I dramatically slid down the airport wall. Leaning against this wall, I heard an unfamiliar voice ask me if I needed anything.
Two women gathered around me and offered me the products I needed. Another called out to reassure me: “We’ve all been there.”
The beauty of the almost spiritual connections made between women continues to baffle me. These connections made through shared experiences tie together relationships in a way that feels exponentially stronger than other relationships. Even writing about these experiences causes an influx of emotion to pour over me. This rather common phenomenon of instant connection is credited to shared experiences: both positive and negative.
For me, the excited anticipation I feel before certain events doesn’t even pertain to the event itself; it pertains to the bonding experience that is getting ready with my friends beforehand. Whether prom, homecoming, a winter formal, or even a dinner, this phenomenon of warmth and comfort beforehand usually overtakes the actual activity. Oftentimes, I have to hold myself back from exclaiming how grateful I am to be surrounded by women that care about me. Specifically, something about living through similar aspects of our lives has led to connections that ultimately center on our personal relationships with femininity. Furthermore, the amount I’ve learned from these friendships has caused a bond unlike others. There's always that reassuring idea that in a time of need, another woman will be there to support you.
This reassuring fact has always been apparent to me. However, I began to realize the level of these relationships more as I got older. When I was first accepted to the Rising Voices Fellowship, lots of fear over bonding with a new group of people arose in me. After realizing I’d meet my cohort in person, I wasn’t sure how connecting with a group of talented strangers would go. I arrived to our first writing retreat only to be greeted by pouring rain and thunder. Already concerned, I was unsure how we were going to connect now that we were confined indoors.
But within seconds of entering the retreat building, I was energetically greeted by a group of other fellows and my stress immediately diminished. Despite all having differing interests, coming from different places and backgrounds, we all have a common experience through our shared identities as Jewish women. For the rest of the retreat, staying up late conversing about different aspects of our life was a daily practice. It was like I had always known the other fellows. Even more so, I knew that the next retreat would continue to help us grow closer. The anticipation to continue these friendships only grew.
By the time of the next retreat, which was also the goodbye, it felt like I was visiting friends from the past. This time I arrived earlier, and I ended up taking a nap while waiting for the others. Eyes drooping and hair still out of place from my nap, I left my room to see if the other fellows had arrived. Almost immediately, a flood of hugs and greetings filled the room. Of course, our tradition of staying up late and chatting about our lives continued.
However, the night before our departure was when I realized these were relationships that connected us on levels deeper than before. Conversations regarding Israel and Palestine have always deeply affected me on a level where sometimes I feel the only option is to remain silent. Occasionally, I feel a sense of guilt for speaking about my experiences as the daughter of a Jewish mother and Palestinian father. However, during this conversation, my input was not only appreciated but it was celebrated. After our discussion, a few fellows approached me to ask more about my personal experiences, and to thank me for sharing. This was one of the first times I felt openly able to share.
I’ve always felt a sense of reliability and safeness around other women. Unfortunately, some of these shared experiences stem from the misogyny and sexism that we face. When facing this common struggle, we bond closer together because of this experience that others may not confront. Ultimately, this comfort with other women has allowed a sense of reassurance in my own femininity and identity to flourish. My relationship with femininity has been altered by the roles society implements and expects of us. Frequently, there's a pressure to conform to these “rules,” whether how to dress, act, or what roles we must play. Throughout my ongoing experience with identity, I’ve always had to grapple with how society sees femininity versus how I see femininity: as a concept that alters person-to-person. The friendships, relationships, and encounters with other women reinforce the infinitely adapting idea of femininity for me. A wave of excitement surrounds my mind even writing about it.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.