Culture

When your friends are closer than your family

Girlfriends? More like sisters

The day after my 21st birthday, my mum Anna died. It remains a defining moment of my life. But among the tears and torture that came with saying goodbye to her, something brilliant happened that day: I gained four, totally fabulous new members in my family. This famous four began as friends. We met during the first week of university and bonded over a mutual love of Missy Elliott and Malibu-and-pineapple mixers. But in that moment of great grief came the need to hold those close even closer, and as an only child from a single- parent family, they were there. They held me on that sad day in July, sat next to me dressed like Alaïa heroines in sculptural black at the funeral.

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 And they have been by my side for the failures, heartbreak and celebrations ever since. It was their laps I howled into after a man with an over-pruned beard dumped me, and they were the ones in the hospital waiting room with margaritas when my daughter was born last year.

The old saying goes, ‘You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.’ Well, I’m calling bullshit on that. These friends are the sisters I was meant to have. There are plenty of people who, like me, don’t know, don’t like, or lose their families, and I see no reason for them to be stuck with their lot. When you get married, that person becomes your family, so why can’t the same rule apply to friends? My friends are the only ones I’m romantic for, after all. I only ever light the expensive candles when they come for dinner.

Anyone who heard Sheryl Sandberg talk about ‘the girls’ on Desert Island Discs last year, who listened as she choked her way through heartfelt moments, describing how they’ve supported her through marriage, divorce, the birth of both her children and her husband’s death, will agree that friendship is a bond as strong as any kin. The closer the bond, the greater the power to hurt. There are fights and we can scream and slam doors just like any regular family.

The brilliant thing about friends being your family is that you actually like them. There are no unwanted weekend visits, or obliged Skype calls on a Sunday. With them, it's always fun. Like the time the family and I rented a fishing boat in Croatia and spent the day skinny dipping, with Rihanna pumping from an iPhone — who could ever do that with their in-laws? Of course, just as with literal families, they can bring not only happiness but also pain. The closer the bond, the greater the power to hurt. There are fights and we can scream and slam doors just like any regular family.

 friends 2 

As the years have gone by, our family has now begun to grow. Our daughters have become like sisters, and our partners like brothers. We often talk fondly about growing old together, sat side by side in rocking chairs in some care home, feeding each other jelly and caring for one other – just like a family.

From: ELLE UK