GAZE

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FRIENDS CAN TAKE YOU A LONG, LONG WAY

Image by Miguel Oros

By Irena Ioannou

I am a private person. I usually keep my thoughts to myself and I need time to feel comfortable getting close to other people. The older I’ve got, the more reserved I’ve become. I can recognize whether I like a new acquaintance immediately. I don’t fall in love so easily. To make new friends for me is even more extraordinary.

I admit that I don’t have so much time to spare for socializing of any kind, and the job and the kids and the routine suck the life out of me. I also admit that at times I consider my husband my best friend. Yet a husband is a husband, and a relationship is a relationship. They can never replace a friend.

‘When the snow falls and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives’ couldn’t be more true when it comes to friends. 

Bad things happen

Sometimes we get mixed up with the wrong crowd, or more specifically, the wrong men. When in love, we are unable to see what stands in front of our eyes either because of lack of experience or because all we see is love-hearts and roses and the image we have conjured in our minds. We think our new relationship is perfect for us and we may get used to this new reality. We are often wrong.

Real friends are the ones who choose to step in. With sweet or even harsh words they try to make us see that the new prince is in fact another frog. That his definition of love is different from ours, and that he is used to getting instead of giving. Sometimes he may even be violent towards us. He will swear that he loves us and will change. He will isolate us for a reason—so that friends and family cannot intervene. The reality is that 1 in 3 women in the world today experience physical or sexual violence, or both, and one woman every hour falls victim of domestic violence in Germany alone. Having someone to turn to in times of crisis is paramount. Especially when we feel humiliated and weak and think we have nowhere to go. Friends are those who have our back when even our family works against us and believe they know what is best for us.  

Good things happen.

Particularly to those who have good friends. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, as a rule, the women who reach top positions are those who, on top of having the necessary qualifications, have an inner circle of close female contacts. Female friends can take a woman a long way, it seems. The reason women friends are so central to women’s success, the study’s scientists argue, is that sharing private information with each other advances their negotiating ability. In fact, women who had a “female-dominated inner circle of 1-3 women landed leadership positions that were 2.5 times higher in authority and pay than those of their female peers lacking this combination”.

It seems that all those suggesting women cannot become friends are not only misguided but perhaps also have other motives in mind. Excluding women from positions of authority favors men for these same positions. In fact, there is no limit as to how far a good friend can take you, and if you are a woman, they can even take you beyond the glass ceiling.

Life happens

Small things, everyday things happen, things about which we just need to pick up the phone and vent to someone. A friend is someone who will always answer back and will be willing to listen to the most mundane, stupid things that cross our minds, like what happened at school or at work or at the supermarket. Someone who will also be willing to listen to our problems and concerns like when we find a colleague attractive or when we experience problems as parents. We need to feel that we have the type of school friend who would fight for us and also ease our worries.

I really miss the innocence of my childhood friends and the intensity of our mutual feelings. The time when we were young and time moved on so slowly we thought we would never grow up and all we had was dreaming. We dreamt that we would become someone important, meet the right person and live happily ever after, away from this world’s unanticipated ugliness, and our friend would be there, persisting at our side, holding our hand and being happy for our happiness. Some of our dreams have been realized, some not, but the necessity of our friends has never abated.

Irena Ioannou writes from Crete, Greece and her work has recently appeared in Crannóg and Betty Fedora. She is currently working on her first novel. She is a mother of five.

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