While it’s hard to explain what sets apart the intimacy between women, this bond of friendship is what sustains us and keeps us true to ourselves
Three years ago I decided to let my hair grow long, Rapunzel like. I’m not sure why. Maybe it had something to do with what a friend cited when she was inching towards 30 and had decided to chop off her locks in lieu of a sexier hairdo, something the fashion icon Coco Chanel once said, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” Perhaps I realised I was supremely content and sought to alter nothing. Perhaps I wanted to look more like my mother when she was the age I am now. Every three or four months I get my hair imperceptibly trimmed, nothing more dramatic than that.
Each time we reconvene over a bottle of wine or a meal we reconnect effortlessly, as if there had been no interruption whatsoever. Representation pic/Thinkstock
The other night I was seated at a table with friends. We were celebrating the 30th birthday of our lovely designer friend, Subir. Suddenly I felt the comforting trail of fingers skimming through my hair. They belonged to my ex-flatmate, Simar, who is an editor at a prestigious publishing house. Before long, she had parted my hair and spun one section into a voluminous bun. I turned to offer her a frontal view. She laughed when she realized she had forgotten about the other section, which she then remedially twirled and coiled towards the bun. It was an unconscious gesture. She hadn’t meant to play with my hair, she just happened to do so spontaneously. As such, it was a non-event mid-way through a very nourishing evening, which eventually saw us gorging on Telugu cuisine at Carnatic Café. But it stayed with me. Four years have passed since I was a resident of Khirki, and had lived with Simar. During that two-year span, both she, and our third flatmate, Malini, had nurtured me while I pursued my manuscript, supplying me with tea, spoiling me with home-cooked food, and providing me the subsidised space I needed to complete what we all believed was going to be my magnum opus.
Her involuntary caress reminded me of how blessed I have been in my friendships with women. One of the most wonderful things I came to realise when I turned 30 eight months ago, was that my relationships with my best friends, too, had aged; that, for instance, my closest friend Mona and I had now known each other for a solid 15 years, despite the intervening time when we lived in different cities. Another dear friend, Bhuvana, whom I inherited through an ex (who no longer speaks to me), had watched me transform myself through multiple relationships. She is something of a witness and a confessional, one of my closest allies.
Lovers come and go, and when they drift out of your life they leave behind a melancholic taste that gradually dissipates over time until all that remains is a forgettable tinge of sorrow. But if I were to lose the confidence of the women I’m closest to, I think I’d be truly heartbroken.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what it is that sanctifies the collegial bond between two women; the intimacy is wholly unlike the kind you share with a lover. I rarely ever hesitate to end a phone call to my closest girlfriends with a not-so-casual “I love you” and always mean it. My ridiculous schedule doesn’t always permit me to be there for them in their hour of need, but each time we reconvene over a bottle of wine or a meal we reconnect effortlessly, as if there had been no interruption whatsoever. Recently, I was reacquainted with a friend with whom I’d lost touch for years. She and I were inseparable during our last year of graduation. Still, despite the distance between us, despite the knowledge of a rift that pulled us apart, when I met her it felt like we had merely time-travelled. Nothing had changed. We were still the same people, and the intimacy felt amazingly intact.
At 30, I count my friendships with women among my biggest achievements. As someone consciously choosing not to conform to the conservative narrative of marriage and children in favour of a more nomadic lifestyle that is fuelled by my passion for art, literature, and everything in between (and because, despite what they tell you, it’s tiring as a woman to even attempt to have it all), it is this constellation of female friends that holds me together, that props me up when I begin to doubt myself, that reminds me of everything that’s at stake, that coaxes me into trusting my inner compulsions so I can be the truest version of myself.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputed art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org