By Beverley Harvey
One evening last week, my kitchen reverberated with the laughter and conversation of nine smart, funny and attractive women. It was all about supporting a friend who has recently entered the world of party selling – specifically, a fabulous range of organic beauty products. Keen to help, I agreed to host a pamper-party to introduce a new circle who I thought would appreciate both Lisa and her beauty range. I was right on both counts; it’s difficult to say which went down better, Lisa or her fab products. So, we played with the make-up, road-tested the skin care, drank Prosecco and ate our own bodyweight in crisps and nuts (oh alright, just me doing the latter then).
Only three weeks ago, I called upon the same fabulous group (give or take a couple of faces) to support a Ladies Night fundraiser at our local community centre. The event was a scream – thanks in no small part to a daring troupe of Butlers in the Buff slash Full Monty Dancers – and helped to raise thousands of pounds for Mind, the mental health charity. It was high-octane stuff; locally, people are still talking about it.
But before you have me pegged as a social butterfly, the life and soul of every party, let me share with you that I am in fact a natural hermit who has to make a tremendous effort to socialise at all.
Reflecting on the complexities of friendship
I reflected on the complexities of friendship the following day while I was handwashing the last of the Prosecco glasses and throwing away the uneaten snacks that I’d over-bought only twenty-four hours earlier. Friends, I decided, are like a wardrobe full of clothes: they provide us with a layer of protection from the world, you need different looks (friends) for different occasions, and they come in all colours, shapes and sizes.
If this sounds like a barmy analogy, allow me to expand somewhat; our mates really do protect us – providing love and support by being in our corner when the going gets tough, which life has a tendency to do as we age.
We seek different friends for different situations; the friend you take shoe-shopping, or late-night cosmopolitan drinking may not be the same one who holds your hand during a hospital scan or stands beside you at a parent’s funeral.
Finally, it’s safe to say that our friends are all different; there’s gold in diversity and the chances are, each one is loved and admired for their own special qualities.
The women who lit up my kitchen last week are all great fun, very kind and a tonic to be with. But they are also new friends, so no way would I burden any of them with a serious problem. I’m talking about the big stuff now, like relationship worries, major health concerns and bereavement.
Friendships are precious
Because baring your soul when you’re in pain requires a deeper level of empathy – often with the kind of friend whom you don’t see from one year to the next, but when you do, everything falls back into place and it is as though you were never apart. These friendships are rare and precious and can span decades of shared history.
But anyone who suffers from depression and low self-esteem knows that the very concept of friendship is a double-edged sword. Having interesting friends is a badge of honour – a mark of self-worth. But when the world grows dark and you’re brimming with self-loathing (as I often am) the desire to hide is overwhelming and even close friends can be sent packing. It takes a very special friend indeed to say: ‘I know you are hurting so I’ll just be over here…watching and waiting, whenever you need me.’
There’s a wonderful saying; friends can be for a reason, for a season or for a lifetime. Like me, you’ve probably experienced all three varieties. I truly believe they are all important in their own way, so let’s toast our friends; to the kind, funny, clever, sensitive and irreverent women that make every day that little bit better, from the past, the present and the future – whatever their shelf life. Cheers!
Main photo credit: Helen Rowe at Rowe Studio