A decade ago, I walked into a bar during Freshers’ week as a naïve 18-year-old, hoping that I was about to have the experience of a lifetime (spoiler, I did!).
It was on that night, armed with my first ever iPhone to collect any new mates’ numbers, that I made three friends who have been a constant presence in my life ever since – all the way through my multiple identity crises, my various successes and my failures.
Over the years, I have double tapped countless anniversary posts celebrating the romantic relationships in the lives of my friends and family – a sizeable proportion of which are scrubbed from existence once those relationships fall apart.
However, the one reliable, constant presence that is never celebrated similarly are the anniversaries we share with our friends – the ones that remain by our sides through the different stages of our lives.
When Rhea, our group’s chief organiser, suggested that we honour a decade of friendship with a romantic holiday, it dawned on me that I had never marked a friendship anniversary before, despite the colossal impact of these people in my life. Naturally, we all jumped on the idea and before long we had a week-long holiday in the diary to mark the occasion.
The holiday consisted of things usually reserved for a romantic anniversary; getting sentimental while watching the sunset, an array of fancy dinners where we dressed up in our best outfits, and spending the entire time reminiscing about our greatest memories. On our return, we posted adorable snaps about our friendship to Instagram, where we gushed about each other in the captions, just like couples do.
Although this experience is not considered the norm by societal standards, our trip made me feel closer and more connected to my friends. It allowed me a time and space to show these women my gratitude and appreciation for the ways they have been there and lifted me up throughout our friendship.
It’s fair to say these women are some of my biggest supporters. From cheering me on in dance shows like proud parents, proof-reading every blog or article I’ve written, and being there when admit that I don’t feel good enough (then reassuring me I am), they’ve been instrumental to my growth as a person.
Because we don’t have days in the calendar that force us to, I have found that it is all too easy to leave these things unsaid, especially when it comes to our platonic loves. Unlike romantic or familial relationships, it’s not common to send cards or messages declaring our love and appreciation, but they are connections we shouldn’t take for granted.
I grew up on a diet of 90’s rom-coms, where friends took a backseat when romance came along, and reality TV series that fixated on match-making. These films and TV shows consistently fed me the message that romantic relationships were the only ones worth making a fuss over. However, I am beginning to see a shift in this narrative.
Take Love Island; we once would spur on couples to stick together and crown the consistent pair as our winner. Yet, what this year’s series showed is that people are tired of getting behind forced connections. In previous years Gemma and Luca may have been seen as the clear favourites, both staying loyal in Casa Amor and having a fairly straightforward trajectory in the villa, however many viewers questioned their authenticity and were vocal online about not backing them.
What truly reels us in is the authentic friendship dynamics, like Chris and Kem, or Kaz and Liberty from previous years. The lack of these true friendships in the latest series was actually been called out as one of the reasons people didn’t enjoy the series as much.
Even Married at First Sight Australia, which became a massive hit for UK audiences, had two standout contestants, Domenica and Ella, who gained such popularity due to the way they supported each other through numerous scandals while the show was filming.
The pair were overwhelmingly the most followed contestants from the series and now have their very own podcast.
There has also been a recent surge in popularity in TV shows exploring the depth and value of female friendships, including the adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s book Everything I Know About Love, which centres around Maggie and Birdie’s intimate friendship from childhood to womanhood.
There’s also Mindy Kaling’s The Sex Lives of College Girls, which perfectly illustrates just how quickly strong connections can form between friends.
These shows are a love letter to friendships and should inspire us to take action to show the people closest to us exactly how we feel about them.
The past few years have been tumultuous for a lot of people, including my friends and I. At one of my lowest points during one of the many lockdowns, these women lifted me out of a pit of heartbreak and depression I found myself in.
They scheduled times to watch the Twilight series films with me virtually and provided running commentary, even when we couldn’t be together in person. Rhea and her boyfriend even stayed on the phone with me as I fell asleep crying and puking after a boozy Zoom quiz went south. These friends have held my hand through the rockiest of terrains.
It isn’t just the hard times either. I cannot even count the amount times we’ve strained the muscles in our stomachs laughing with each other or the sheer volume of pride we’ve felt as each of us achieves things we could have only dreamed of as those hopeful 19-year-olds, who sat in our university halls, scoffing biscuits and watching Cheaters together instead of studying.
For so many of us, our friendships sustain us and provide so much joy, especially in bleak times – so why would we only reserve marking milestones for one type of love?
I think we need an overhaul of the arbitrary societal rules that dictate other types of love are not as profound or valuable as romantic love. Text your friends right now and arrange a dinner, day out or holiday just to celebrate the bond you share!
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