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The book

justbetweenusIt’s not uncommon for women to invest more in our friendships than our romantic relationships, yet the cliche of the BFF—that kindred spirit you meet in kindergarten and  remain thick as thieves with no matter what shit storms life throws at you—is a rare reality. While from the outside female friendships may appear simple, they are, more often than not, rife with subtext. Through personal essays and short stories, nineteen Australian women writers share their experiences of friendship.

As you might expect, there’s a fair amount of bitching and gossiping with some of the writers clearly in need of a good vent and you can’t help thinking that there’s definitely another side to some of the stories. However, there are some guilty admissions too. Maya Linden’s non-fiction piece, ‘The Complementarity Principle’ begins: ‘It didn’t end because I’d done something unimaginably terrible. I had, but that’s not what ended it.’ And while this and many other pieces begin with the promise of intrigue and the sense of a scandal brewing, they ultimately reveal themselves as highly personal and heartfelt.

As a reader, you feel you are being spoken to in confidence with many of the writers showing a side of themselves that is normally hidden from view. Clementine Ford, who never fails to crack me up and who’s voice normally booms from the page, reveals a very different side of herself in ‘Girls Who Wear Gingham’, where she talks about her experience of being sent halfway around the world to boarding school when she was just eight years old. In fact, if I hadn’t read her name beneath the title, I wouldn’t have picked it as her writing.

Though some pieces are lighthearted, they are largely stories of friendships in decline, with the writers sifting through their memories trying to understand what went wrong. Because what is abundantly evident is that these relationships, complex and imperfect as they be, are important.

There were many moments when I screamed: YES! I’ve been there! I know that feeling! And I wanted to reply with my own stories. For a long time after I finished the book, I found myself reflecting on my own friendships, particularly ones I have been neglectful of.

This is definitely one for the girls, and I must confess, I absolutely tore through it. The experience of reading it was like catching up for drinks with the girls, having a bit too much wine and swapping stories, and it reminded me that it is something I should do in real life more often.

Meanwhile in real life…

I was thinking about my friends and, for the most part, missing them terribly. I remember a girls’ night years ago, just before I went backpacking and another friend moved to Melbourne. There were three of us and we wondered when all of us would next be back in Adelaide. At the time I didn’t give it much thought. We saw each other almost every day. The idea that years could pass between face-to-face meetings seemed ridiculous. Looking back, though, I only recall one dinner party since when the three of us managed to get together.

When you do a creative arts degree in Adelaide, you know there’s a high chance you’ll end up working interstate or overseas, even if only for a time. But for me, living in a big city always seemed something of a pipe dream and even after almost two years in Melbourne, I don’t fully consider that my life is here. At uni I found the kind of friends I want to keep with me for life. I still think of them and stalk follow and chat with them on Facebook so often that sometimes I kid myself that I’m a much better friend than I actually am. It is so incredibly easy for months and even years to slip by without me seeing those I consider my nearest and dearest and each time I go home I find that yet another friend has left and we are increasingly scattered across the globe.

So I have been making an effort to see those I can. Fortunately, when arty types leave Adelaide, their first port of call is often Melbourne and I have several uni friends in the city. By pure coincidence, one has just come back from overseas and moved into a house just a few streets from mine.

I’m also booking some holiday time in early August to catch up with friends at home. Adelaide friends you have been warned; I will be knocking on your doors. However, the main reason for the trip now is that my best friend in the whole wide world just got engaged and there is nothing I want more than to give her and her hubby-to-be a massive, bone-crunching hug.

We’ve been doing the long-distance friendship gig for a long time, but it’s never seemed to matter because even when months pass between catchups, it always feels like no time at all. I cannot believe we’re going to be brides together. Planning a wedding is a bit overwhelming, there’s a lot more to it that I originally thought and it’s scary and exciting and I’m so happy that we get to go through that together. But I wish I was home for it. I so badly want to get a stack of wedding magazines and spend a day flipping through them with her and swapping ideas.

The longer we stay away from home, the more I realise I’m missing out on these big life events. My friends are meeting people, settling down and, I imagine, before too long there will be kids. And if they’re not doing that, they’re doing other equally exiting things, suddenly, all at once it seems, we are becoming the people we used to dream of being, or not being, and it sucks to just catch the highlights over a drink every once in a blue moon So I think I need to make more of an effort to be a better friend. Let people know when I’m thinking of them and not take it for granted that they’ll always be there.

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