Blindfolded in a room, I could smell her. I could seek her out, smack kisses on both cheeks as is her continental preference, feel the swing of thick red hair, then throw off the blindfold to laugh into eyes as dancingly brown as mine are blue.

My friend. My lovely long-distance friend with whom I’ve traversed nearly half my life in conversation as tangential as it is profound; hair, husbands, miscarriages, mothers, books, babies, crumb-wiping, bum-wiping – all tumbling out down the phone. A lifeline of succour and good sense.

I can’t imagine life without her, or the other half-dozen women who both anchor and buoy my world. Friendship, I’ve learnt, is a love story as sweeping and sustaining as anything you’ll find in a romance novel.

How sad, then, that some women forego friends, bolting onto their partner with parasitic ardour. “I don’t really have girlfriends,” Angelina Jolie said recently, revealing what I’ve long suspected – that loneliness underpins her chill, and that tattoos are words you wear because you can’t say them. “I’ll talk to my family, I talk to Brad. He’s really the only person I talk to.”

Oh, Ange. I’d love to whisk you away on a girls’ weekend, to drink wine and giggle about what a ball-breaker Zahara’s going to be. You could tell your secrets, because trusting them to others is like being enfolded in whipped eggwhites. Good friends love and lighten you.

Yet friendship is being sabotaged by ‘social’ media, with the number of friends you accumulate more important than the handful who truly care for your happiness.

“Facebook prioritises acquaintances,” says US psychologist Dr Leonard Sax. “Many girls now say they don’t have one or two best friends, they have 12, 15, 20. They’re losing the skills to nurture close friendships.”

And schools – where you learn what makes friendships flourish or flounder – are meddling. Some head teachers in the UK have instituted a ‘no best friends’ policy, so kids don’t suffer the trauma of falling out with a close pal.

What twaddle. As our lives are increasingly characterised by change, short-term contracts and even shorter attention spans, we need, like never before, to lash ourselves to our mates.

“When women don’t have friends,” Beyoncé remarked recently, “I’m afraid of them.”

I’m equally suspicious of those who shed friends like a tree dropping flawed fruit, such as a thrice-married author of my (thankfully) fleeting acquaintance, who writes, “When I fall out with a friend, part of me feels pleased because there’s a vacancy for a new one.”

“You are my sunshine,” I emailed my far-flung friend after she recently helped me through a problem. Sarah, who knows my mother’s name, who could point out my worst feature but only mentions the best, who called from the Afghani desert to shriek her delight after I fell pregnant.

When we met, mid-20s and battling it out at rival newspapers, I envied her chutzpah, her clothes, her relaxed attitude to parking tickets. Never have I subscribed to Gore Vidal’s theory, “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” Her victories are my victories; her heartaches cut as deeply as my own.

Recently, she mused we’d be lucky to see each other 15 more times in our lifetime. I could have killed her. Because sometimes I miss her so much, I nick into David Jones and spray myself with Chanel No 5 – not because it’s my perfume, but because it’s hers.

Angela is on a trek in Nepal, which is raising funds for the Australian Himalayan Foundation. To donate, visit www.gofundraise.com.au.

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    • Hank says:

      08:13am | 06/05/12

      “Recently, she mused we’d be lucky to see each other 15 more times in our lifetime. I could have killed her. Because sometimes I miss her so much, I nick into David Jones and spray myself with Chanel No 5 – not because it’s my perfume, but because it’s hers.”

      Weird.

    • Mez says:

      09:22am | 06/05/12

      Completely agree….weird.

      For some, it’s more enjoyable to hang with people we know love and care about us than waste our time with competitive friends and their petty insecurities and jealousies.  There is nothing like sharing your life and thoughts with a friend for years and have them turn because of some perceived transgression, such as having a life. When this happens, the underhanded insults come thick and fast, even towards my baby.

      The reason some of us shed friends is because we decide we’re taking on a No Bitchy Friend policy. And there are a lot of these around. I’ll take my male friends over the female any day of the week.

    • Karin says:

      03:19pm | 06/05/12

      “Weird”

      Very.Most of us grow out of teenage adulation.Or should.

      Not for nothing the female of most species are know to be deadlier than the male.

    • Karin says:

      03:20pm | 06/05/12

      “Weird”

      Very.Most of us grow out of teenage adulation.Or should.

      Not for nothing the female of most species are know to be deadlier than the male.

    • Kirsty says:

      12:58am | 07/05/12

      No way! Not weird. True friends, far apart. I understand it completely. Great article once again Angela.

    • Carz says:

      08:36am | 06/05/12

      I love my female friends. For many years I lived in social isolation because of things that were happening at home. Its so hard to look a friend in the face when your can’t even look at yourself in the mirror. Now I have a great group of friends who I love dearly. Without them I wouldn’t be who I am. We raise each other up, celebrate our victories, commiserate our losses, and remember that were are people, not just somebody’s wife or mother.

    • Beau says:

      10:58am | 07/05/12

      Here,here!  I could not have put it better myself. Would be lost without my beautiful girlfriends.  I can count them on one hand but my God do they are there for me come the good and the not so good times, and me for them.

    • Slothy says:

      09:04am | 06/05/12

      I was this kind of girl in my late teens and early 20s. You know the type. “Oh, I’m just one of the guys really. Girls just don’t get me. Guys are just so much more fun don’t you think?”

      I still have guy friends, proper ones as opposed to the glorified drinking buddies of my youth, and I’ll never be one for makeovers and clothes shopping, but I also realised that my “oh, I’m not like THOSE girls” attitude was obnoxious and cutting me off from half the human race.

      There’s just something about seeing someone who you’ve known for 10 years, who knows you so well there’s no point putting up a front, who doesn’t need you to organise anything because just catching up over takeaway on the couch is a true pleasure.

      A glass of wine - or three - to girlfriends .

    • bec says:

      10:19am | 06/05/12

      Well said. I was exactly the same in my late teens.

      Then I heard how some of my male “friends” would talk about women on the periphery of our group, realised they were probably saying the same things about me, and ditched the hell out of that.

      The best part is, quality male friends came with the quality ladies, and they are truly a million percent better than the douchecanoes who loved giving me the backhanded compliment “you’re so much better than other women”.

    • bec says:

      09:15am | 06/05/12

      Never trust a woman who doesn’t have any female friends. There is usually a compelling reason located clearly in her conduct.

    • fml says:

      08:54am | 07/05/12

      “Never trust a woman who doesn’t have any female friends.”

      I have heard the same line except it ended in, “How can you trust someone who doesn’t get along with a half the human race”

    • Condor says:

      09:37am | 06/05/12

      “conversation as tangential as it is profound; hair, husbands, miscarriages, mothers, books, babies, crumb-wiping, bum-wiping”

      You should look up the word “profound” in a dictionary. Then contrast it with the definitions of “trivial” and “inane”

    • Rita says:

      10:01am | 06/05/12

      My mum had a best friend ,then came home and found her in bed with my father. Then I had a best friend ,who nearly went the same road,end of story.

    • Audra Blue says:

      03:50pm | 06/05/12

      I feel your pain, Rita.  When my son was little, I had a wonderful girlfriend who was a single parent like me.  I started dating a guy I’d known since childhood and the three of us were inseparable. I felt so lucky that my best girlfriend and my boyfriend became good buddies as well.

      I had to go interstate for two weeks for a family reason and when I came back, my relationship with my boyfriend collapsed pretty quickly.  He told me he’d slept with someone while I was away and wouldn’t tell me who.  So I confided my situation in my best friend.

      It baffled me who was this woman who knew both he and I as I didn’t think we had any common friends.  When I expressed my incomprehension at who the mystery slut could be, my best friend said, “well, if you don’t know then I can’t help you.”  It never occurred to me in a zillion years it was her.

      When I found out I was devastated, heartbroken and angry.  When I asked him why he did it, he said, “she was there.”  And when I asked him what made her so special when I thought that we were good together, he said, “don’t be too upset, she wasn’t that great.”

      So I did the only thing I could - I dropped them both and told them to never speak to me again.  Sixteen years later, I still haven’t spoken to them and I have no idea where they are or what happened to them and I’m very glad about that.

      After that, I couldn’t trust women again.  I was friendly with them but I didn’t get close to them, especially if I was dating a guy.  My sister is my best friend and that’s all I need.

      I’m really not interested in having any close girlfriends.  I’m mostly solitary and that works for me.  I’m happy having friends at work and even talking with strangers in the street but in my personal time, I’m happy just to potter around on my own.

    • stephen says:

      11:25am | 06/05/12

      Trekking in Nepal, heh ?
      Sounds like you got wet feet Angie, cause some girls do, and some girls don’t.
      That is to say, if you need a friend that muchAngie - any friend - that you gotta nip into DJ’s and spray the oh-de-colony in the pits just so’s you can smell the rabbits ... well, I reckon you need a shoulder only, and not the whole body and mind.
      And if I was your friend - male or otherwise - I’d recommend you stay in Tibet a little longer, stop walking, and talk to local.

      (Next thing yer know, you’ll be wanting to share her jetski.)

    • renold says:

      12:13pm | 06/05/12

      Bizarre article, is there something Im missing or is it a Sunday thing

    • Hamelcare says:

      12:26pm | 06/05/12

      From an OS male perspective:

      Every single Australian women I ever dated spent a dispropotionate amount of time character assassinating the very people she claimed were her best friends.

      Which is why I didn’t marry one. It’s just weird. If you hate them so much why do you run your life around them?

      You girls take bitchy, catty and downright mean to new and elite levels I’d never seen before.

      The whole Australian sisterhood is a lie. If you want to know about female friendship you need to look at cultures that celebrate women. Australia certainly isn’t one of those cultures and it has a profound effect on the way women here interact with each other.

      What Australian women tell their girlfriends and what they say to men about the same women are two whole different worlds. Australian women are fiercely competitive and brutal in their ability to dress other women down.

      There is nothing more uncomfortable than the first hour of an a social event when Australian women dress up to attend. The evil eyes, positioning and paranoia are palpable.

      Most men in Australia will tell you the same thing.

      Australian women only work well when they are socially equal as each other. When one of them gets too successful, too in love, too thin or too lucky in the eyes of the group = Meltdown.

      As a 31 year old Aussie girl I once worked with said to me “Any women that’s not my friend is my enemy.”

      All the girls around her agreed. Crazy.

    • renold says:

      01:59pm | 06/05/12

      Yeah, been there done that.

      Bitching and biting, moment those “girlfriends” walk in, it’s all lovey dovey.
      Then you point this out, it becomes…it’s a woman thing. When you reply with….., no that’s what hypocrites do…you suddenly become a typical male bastard and will spend more time with her “girlfriends, lol

    • Fiona says:

      02:02pm | 06/05/12

      Thanks for the massive generalisation hamelcare. Don’t you think that you could have been the common demoninator with all the girls you dated? We’re not all like that and I would know, I work with nurses, who can be brutal.
      Having a culture that celebrates women (and I’d love to know which one that is) is partly a male responsibility too.

    • M says:

      10:49am | 07/05/12

      I agree. I’ve seen the same thing from mothers, sisters, girlfriends and friends.

      European girls are more lady like.

    • Lilly Marlane says:

      01:30pm | 07/05/12

      Wow - totally agree although i’ve never thought of it like that;

      “The whole Australian sisterhood is a lie. If you want to know about female friendship you need to look at cultures that celebrate women. Australia certainly isn’t one of those cultures and it has a profound effect on the way women here interact with each other.”

      I’ve never been one to invest myself so emotionally into friendships like some of the other contributors who are left feeling ‘betrayed’ when human nature disappoints them, still all my friends I feel are mere acquaintances since they’ve all chased academic careers, or joined the baby race and have invested themselves financially for the next 20 to 30 years.

      after following that path I’ve recently had a revelation, and i’m no longer continuing a professional career, i’ve gone to the arts, I’m now a minimalist who cares little for clothes and shoes etc, and have now vowed ‘no children by choice’  all these revelations have left me feeling friendless as now i’m different and on the out.

      but head up, i’m sure there’s other woman out there who are more like me, i just have to find them, and only until i transformed did I discover how much our social standings and positions dictate our friendships.

      so…..

    • PsychoHyena says:

      04:32pm | 07/05/12

      @Hamelcare OMG yes… I saw this just the other day actually… my wife and sister-in-law were talking about their brother’s partner, not hugely nice stuff, anyway as soon as she turned up, they stopped talking and looked at her and cheerfully said “Hi.”

      The whole thing makes me sick, so I tend to avoid being around them when they’re all together.

      @Fiona, I’m sorry but I’m pretty sure you’ll find that here are girls in your circle of friends that you talk about behind their backs and they do it to you as well. Also if women can’t respect themselves how is anyone else supposed to do it? If I was a complete and utter bastard and mistreating myself I would expect that would be how anyone else would treat me.

      Women will attack women, until this stops things aren’t going to improve.

    • Stormy Weather says:

      02:00pm | 06/05/12

      Some women don’t have friends because of trust issues. It could stem from childhood abuse or it could be that being a woman does not automatically make you a morally superior human being full of gooey goodness and kindness.
      In fact, many women i have known have been backstabbing, social climbers or women who can’t think for themselves so are threatened if you have an opinion, threatened if you have talent, threatened if you are attractive, or don’t like you if you are stupid, have no status or are ugly.

      Relational aggression is the covert bullying among women. I think women who develop great sister-like relationships with friends are very fortunate, but they have probably tossed aside many others without knowing it.
      I considered my sisters as my friends until sibling rivalry reared its ugly head. I didn’t consider developing other friendships.

      As for beyonce being scared of women with no friends? That’s crazy.
      Many women are bullied by more successful women. Some of us don’t want to be door mats or play stupid games.

      The blame of having no female friends could lie in women’s character in general. Personally I push all my friends away, it’s some kind of protective measure. It doesn’t mean I am an evil devil woman out to steal some woman’s man. Even worst when you are a single mother. You are treated with suspicion by everyone.

      I find some of the women with many friends and acquaintances are game players, manipulators or just have very good communication skills and over inflated self esteem.

      The last thing a woman without friends needs is more isolation and scrutiny.

    • Stormy Weather says:

      02:02pm | 06/05/12

      Some women don’t have friends because of trust issues. It could stem from childhood abuse or it could be that being a woman does not automatically make you a morally superior human being full of gooey goodness and kindness.
      In fact, many women i have known have been backstabbing, social climbers or women who can’t think for themselves so are threatened if you have an opinion, threatened if you have talent, threatened if you are attractive, or don’t like you if you are stupid, have no status or are ugly.

      Relational aggression is the covert bullying among women. I think women who develop great sister-like relationships with friends are very fortunate, but they have probably tossed aside many others without knowing it.
      I considered my sisters as my friends until sibling rivalry reared its ugly head. I didn’t consider developing other friendships.

      As for beyonce being scared of women with no friends? That’s crazy.
      Many women are bullied by more successful women. Some of us don’t want to be door mats or play stupid games.

      The blame of having no female friends could lie in women’s character in general. Personally I push all my friends away, it’s some kind of protective measure. It doesn’t mean I am an evil devil woman out to steal some woman’s man. Even worst when you are a single mother. You are treated with suspicion by everyone.

      I find some of the women with many friends and acquaintances are game players, manipulators or just have very good communication skills and over inflated self esteem.

      The last thing a woman without friends needs is more isolation and scrutiny.

    • Thetruthwouldn'thurt says:

      04:35pm | 06/05/12

      Sure, we all need friends. Women friends are great, (if you’re a woman),  because there are similarities that are simply biological. Not saying we’re all the same, just similar. The right women for you, often have been through some of the same experiences. Marriage, children, even divorce and remarriage. We can empathise and understand in a way that men can’t. Simply because men and women are different. (thank God)

      I have a small number of women I can call my “good friends”. I don’t have friends for the sake of it and I don’t bitch about friends. If I have a need to bitch about someone, they are obviously not my friend. That doesn’t mean that all of my friends are perfect and never do anything I don’t agree with, it just means that we accept each other completely, faults and all.

      A husband is great, for so many reasons. smile But I bet most husbands are glad their wives have friends so they don’t have to listen to the sort of discussions that we have with our girl friends!

    • Georgina Goodenough says:

      04:42pm | 06/05/12

      And some of us were RAAF brats who moved every few years and never saw any of the school friends or neighbours again. In my case, I compounded that problem by being a Defence spouse for 21 years. What is the point of putting time and effort into creating intimacy in a relationship when in 18 months to three years you will move on? Heck, I couldn’t even bring myself to plant in my garden because I’d never see the results. Now it’s a habit. I’m a union rep at work, and I’ve been on the social club committee. I am possibly the best known women in three buildings, but I have no friends there just a lot of acquaintances. I rely on my daughters and husband for company and support. I don’t think it’s unusual any more, but I do encourage my daughters to keep up their friendships as they will be suburban dwellers in the same area, which I never was.

    • M.Mouse says:

      06:19pm | 06/05/12

      I’m not the type of woman to get on with girly girls, and through my life there have probably been about four really special girlfriends with whom life-changing events were shared. Fast forward thirty years and the other side of the planet and thanks to Facebook we are reconnected. With a really good friend you can carry on where you left off and sometimes it’s great after a long time apart to lay some old ghosts to rest. But I don’t go around spraying myself with thier perfume! Maybe the altitude is getting to Angela a bit. Enjoy your trek!

    • Julia's Island says:

      06:46pm | 06/05/12

      Introverts can survive anywhere without people. Extroverts cannot survive anywhere with people!

    • Lorraine says:

      07:50pm | 06/05/12

      Women need the company of women. it strengthens them and rewards them.
      The world brings girls up so they can please men. In the company of women they learn to please themselves, something men are encouraged to do from birth.

    • Audax says:

      03:10pm | 07/05/12

      ICB.

      If only that were true.

    • Annon says:

      09:12pm | 06/05/12

      Quite agree. I am a 35 year old woman who is married with young children. I have 3 female friends and that is it. They’re all older than me (in one case nearly 20 years older) and I’ve known each of them for at least 10-15 years.
      I am pretty fussy about who I consider to be a friend these days, after my personal experiences being friends with other girls/women. I am reluctant to become friends with other women as I have massive trust issues.

      I was on the receiving end of bullying and the silent treatment from female “friends” in primary school.
      In high school I went through 4 years of hell from bullying, alienation, the silent treatment, etc from female “friends” including 2 “friends” who would talk to me one day, ignore me for a week or two and then out of the blue, start talking to me again, never with any explanation.
      As an adult, I had a close “friend” who tried to hit on to my boyfriend and when that didn’t work and I cut her from from life, she spread vicious and untrue rumours about me.
      At university I had another “friend” who coaxed my deepest secrets out of me and then spread them (adding her own twist) to all and sundry.
      In my 20’s I met a “friend” through work who regularly borrowed money and never repaid it, regularly rang me blubbering at midnight after having a fight with her boyfriend and relied on me looking after her animals and house while she was on holidays as well as loaning her my car and yet didn’t want to know me when I wasn’t a barrel of laughs after losing a family member to cancer. Luckily, she ditched me anyway as was her habit of recycling all her friendships every 18 months or so, without any obvious reason or explanation.
      In my late 20’s I was friends with a small group of women I met through sport who crowed about our ‘sisterhood’. As it turns out, one tried to convince my boyfriend (now husband) to ditch me because I wasn’t up to his standards apparently, while the others regularly enjoyed me helping them move house and babysitting for them and all I got in return were knives in my back. Last I heard none of them were speaking to eachother while one has launched a defamation claim against another.
      Now as someone approaching 40, I recently made the decision to end a 20 year friendship with a woman who I met at school. The mind games, constant silent treatment (never with any explanation or apology), shocking moodiness and tantrums when I failed to act/deliver as expected as well as expectation that I was the one who did all the calling and visiting (even when I was juggling a newborn, toddler, 2 jobs and study) finally had me throwing in the towel. Before I get flamed, this was a friend who refused to come to the phone one evening because apparently I should have called her for her birthday that morning, not in the evening after I got home from work. I got the silent treatment for 6 months on that occasion.

      These days I have a strict No Bitchy Friends policy. I put effort into the few female friends I have and make no effort to make new female friends. The bulk of my emotional energy goes into my husband and children. I’ve been bitten so many times by female friendships, that I’m now 10 ten times shy.

      I am sick to death of the nastiness that comes with women friendships, the backstabbing, the jealousy, the one-upmanship, the moodiness and the bullying.
      Women are their own worst enemies. We’ve all heard of the Mummy Wars. I’m a believer in the Mummy Wars after going to a mothers group after the birth of my first child. Has anyone heard of the Daddy Wars? Hardly.

      Life is too short to give your time and soul to someone who wipes their feet on you or suddenly turns on you with unexpected venom and nastiness.

      So Angela Mollard, those of us who avoid making female friendships aren’t covered in scales or looking at stealing someone’s husband. Chances are, we’ve been burnt so many times by female friends that we’ve finally had enough.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      08:47am | 07/05/12

      I have heard of the Daddy Wars; one is going on at the moment, in Afghanistan.
      Sad story Annon, glad to hear you’ve dropped all the deadbeats. Girls these days are growing up as though they live in a wealthy Californian preppy town. They need to just chill and enjoy being young.

    • Violet says:

      09:35pm | 06/05/12

      I love having friends but I’ve never been one to want to watch rom-coms and do each other’s nails and talk about our feelings.
      I don’t think it’s weird for a married woman who has multiple children to drift away from her friends though.

    • Joan Bennett says:

      07:45am | 07/05/12

      Funny how out of 3.5 billion women in the world, if a few betray you, you think all women suck.  I mean, how many men have to betray you (Rita and Audra Blue) before you will think any the less of them?  What those women did to you (and your Mother) was inexusable, but the exception rather than the rule.  If anything, it will be your male partner hitting on your female friends.

    • Mez says:

      09:11am | 07/05/12

      Joan Bennett - “It will be you male partner hitting on your female friends”.

      Where are the statistics to to back up your argument?  Can you please provide stats for the amount of women who betray you vs your male partner hitting on your female friends.

      Rita’s, Audra Blue’s and my experiences show a completely different story.  My no Bitchy Friend Policy stands, my real and true friends are rare, and they’re the friendships I’ll treasure. 

      The majority of women don’t know the meaning of true friendship.

    • Blossom says:

      09:13am | 07/05/12

      Twaddle, my best and dearest friend for so many years,
      we met when we started Nursing aged 19.
      Over the years we have always been there for each other,
      i love her, just recently the phone rang at night, so i let the machine
      get it.
      Then i heard her voice, so i picked up, she said, i knew you were there,
      who are you avoiding, (with a chuckle), so we laughed and talked for two
      hours, i said you know me to well.
      My dear friend, i am lucky, through everything we have been there for each other.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      10:45am | 07/05/12

      hot. So you were both in nursing together? *inappropriate leer*

      If I got a late-night call from a male friend I would tell him to eff off and call the next day. From a female friend, I would stay on the line so as to hear the emotional charge pulsing down the phone. These days I hate phone calls, and if it lasts more than a minute - ‘what is it you are communicating?’ - then I get impatient. I have no time for drawn out chats on the phone, which is why I don’t have many female friends other than wife. And she is wife, not friend; none of this My Best Friend rubbish. I was much more tolerant when I was younger…

    • Blossom says:

      12:04pm | 07/05/12

      Reply @Scotchfinger,
      Why can’t people have friends that last a lifetime,( we are both married),
      sometimes especially when her sister had died the night before, she had
      someone to talk to, i still think i am lucky, true friendships are like that.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      05:24pm | 07/05/12

      yes I’m probably a bit jealous I don’t have any really good confidants. Probably because I hate talking on the phone. Vicious cycle…

 

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