By Justine Lister, writer and blogger at My Crazy Magic Life – My Life. My People. My Work.
I just tried to find out if there was a World Record for the longest group friendship. There is a record for the longest pen pal, for the longest friendship bracelet and for the longest neighbours but not for the longest group friendship.
Cue the music of the very famous show. You know, you know it! ‘Dedication that’s what you need,’ well I have got that in abundance!
My girls, my gang, my tribe, my saviours and I have been together since 1989.
Heading into secondary school at the start of Year 7 is nerve wracking for even the most robust of children, but for me, it was just another level of unknown trepidation. I had come from an out of catchment junior school, so only a handful of us would be diluted into the vast ocean of Year 7.
I was briefly hopeful that the transition would be an anxiety free one. My primary school had been relatively small and at the end of the fourth year (now known as Year 6) I was comfortable with my peers and had had a glorious summer, mainly going to and from the local swimming pool and downtown. One lad lived in the next road to me, and we arranged to walk to school together, and by the luck of the Gods, one of my friends and me had been put into the same tutor group – so I would not be left floundering, isolated and alone.
Please understand, what I am about to tell you is not for sympathy; it is simply the truth.
I was a flippin’ weirdo.
I had a curly mullet. My chubby and squat frame stood out like the Incredible Hulk next to all the size normals, including the boys. Add to this image, if you will, a woman’s grey pleated skirt. Yes, a woman’s because nothing that was aged 12 in clothing would have gone around my thigh, let alone my waist! Imagine something as itchy and scratchy and as unflattering as possible in a dull grey. It fitted around my waist but was all billowy and came down to a ridiculous length. To add insult to injury, it was from the ‘Fat Shop’ in town. It couldn’t have got much worse, except it did. I did. I teamed this s**t show with a plastic blue case that used to contain stationery. In my head I must have been thinking it oozed intellectual glamour, a statement piece. Indeed, it made quite the statement amidst the Nike and Head bags and back packs that everybody else had.
Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Erm… because no one wants to stand out in Year 7, or in the few years that follow.
What planet was I from?
So, I really could not blame my fellow comrades for moving on from our ‘stay together’ pact as soon as they could. I think within the week they had made it into the ‘populars’ and were destined for the celebrity style glory that came with being initiated into the elusive and too cool for school elites. Good for them!
It was one fateful science lesson that a chance conversation with a kind soul about our parents’ taste in music (Eric Clapton was the flavour of the month) that changed the course of my life forever.
Sisterhood: ‘the solidarity of women based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns’
Lots of people are ‘in touch’ with friends from school days gone by but have they and their school friends truly grown up and experienced the full spectrum of life and experiences together? Reflecting on this sisterhood – and it really is a sisterhood – there is not much at all that hasn’t been shared or experienced individually or vicariously through each other’s lives: periods, snogs, first relationships, last relationships, the weddings, babies, funerals, breakdowns, divorces, teenagers, redundancies, terminal illness, dysfunctional families, alcoholism, having money, not having enough, career building and changes, taking risks, abusive relationships, mistakes, holidays and countless personal misdemeanors and secrets that are only known by us. I could go on for infinity.
Few people ‘get’ us as a group. We are that table in a restaurant that is too loud (sorry!) – there are just too many stories and memories and current issues to keep contained in a dignified manner. To each of our own families looking in on our group I guess that we could easily be seen as a co-dependent group. My Mum said to me recently, “You would go to an opening of an envelope if the group was going.” Yes, I probably would and why not? These girls have held me, and we have held each other safe through the peaks and troughs of our whole lives. We will put the groups’ needs first before our own, when required, and we will drop our individual needs for a group member without question as we keep secrets, cover up and protect each other with the swiftness and efficiency of Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction.
However, I argue for the term interdependent to describe our tribe. We are five very different women who have evolved and morphed over the decades. We are not the same people we were 30, 20, 10, or even 2 years ago and yet the group dynamic has stretched, adjusted and flexed to ensure we remain an entire unit. This is real life though and not a rose tinted ideal – of course there have been tensions, tears and tantrums between us, but despite this, there has never been a barrier too big to be bridged or overcome. OK, there may have been time taken for understandings to be reached, apologies to be made and compromises to come into fruition, but the beauty of our group of five is that one or two of us are always on hand to mediate, reassure and reach out when needed. No one is ever without a kindred spirit to turn to.
These four girls know how much I love and value them, but I honestly cannot put into words how grateful I will always be to have been accepted and loved at a time where I felt truly weird and unlovable.
Our group has more than stood the test of time, outlived significant ‘other’ relationships that have fallen by the wayside and has seen five 12-year-olds in the late eighties become an extended family of nineteen. These four girls found me and made me their family and I will never forget that. The men in our lives, and perhaps other members of our families, will never fully understand our formidable allegiance to each other and that’s OK. We can still be great, in fact better than great, we are better and more rounded partners, parents, children and siblings because of the support, love and perspectives we provide for each other as a group.
And I would not change a single thing.
(Actually, I would. Seriously how hard can it be for five of us to be free at the same time?!?!)
P.S. Girls, check WhatsApp – I think we have a record we can break 😂😘👑
For more information on co and interdependent relationships: https://gstherapycenter.com/blog/2019/11/25/moving-from-codependent-to-interdependent-relationships