As you might have noticed, the growth and evolution of friendships is a topic that obsesses me. I’ve written before about losing a friend, and not really knowing why. I’ve written about the way in which making mom friends online helped me embrace the moms I met locally. I’ve written too about the process of making friends in our new town. So it was with great enthusiasm that I read The HerStories Project, a collection of essays edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger about the joy, pain, and power of female friendship.
In addition to the terrific writing and the contributions from several of my favorite bloggers, what I liked best about the book was its organization into four sections centered around the life cycle of friendships – and the recognition that we seek different types of relationships at different stages in our lives. In “What’s New,” writers examine adult friendships, both online and off. Galit Breen shares her project of writing good, old-fashioned letters to five women in order to celebrate the light they share with others. Liz Aguerre admits that the way her quest for a “One True Best Friend” made her miss out on other friendships along the way; she realizes that she’s not a one Best Friend kind of girl. (Neither am I!)
In “What’s Old,” essayists consider childhood friendships and those born in the family unit. Carinn Jade’s best friend is her mother (I can relate!) and she writes about the intricacies of a friendship where the two parties share little in common other than a shared history. I was intrigued by Shannon Lell’s essay, “Why I Told My Best Friend Not to Have Kids,” in which she reflects on how motherhood has transformed her and what she suspects it will do to one of her oldest friends. It’s a complex piece, unflinching about the way a woman must contort her priorities and her self when she becomes a mother.
In “What’s Changed,” writers examine the way motherhood affects friendship. In the essay, “To My Best Friend On the Occasion of Her First Pregnancy,” Allison Slater Tate celebrates the unflappable persistence of close friendship, even in the wake of the changes of motherhood. As she says, “The best part is, everything is about to change for you, and yet nothing need change at all for us. Best friends can work that kind of magic.” While Allison writes about an old friendship, in her essay, Lindsey Mead reflects on a newer one, “forged in the crucible of bewilderment, fear, and wonder known as postpartum depression.” I suspect that many of us can relate to the singularity of a friend who – by virtue of not only shared interests, but more formidably the dizzying, edifying experience of first-time motherhood – vaults into our hearts and minds.
In the final section of the book, “What’s Lost,” essayists tackle the thorny topic of friendship break-ups and loss. In “My Grief Twin,” collection editor Jessica Smock writes about a brief, but powerful friendship born in the wake of her father’s early death. The two women bond over their shared losses of their fathers (not to mention their shared break-ups with their boyfriends), offer each other an ear specifically attuned to the other’s plights, and then drift apart naturally as each begins to chart the next stage of her life. In “The Case for a Friendship Break,” Nina Badzin writes about her best college friend, Becky. The two women “claimed each other in that unspoken way that girls (and women) do when they become close quickly” (I imagine most of us know exactly what she means?), but then grew apart in a way that “felt like a deep judgment on the people we were each trying to become.” Despite years apart, Nina and her friend find a way back to each other in a story that gives me hope for my own friendships that have eroded with time.
In these essays and others, the writers anthologized in The HerStories Project pull back the curtain on their friendships, offering us an opportunity both to connect to their experiences and to reflect on our own. Looking for the perfect gift for a special friend? The HerStories Project may just be it.
Do you have a best friend? Have you ever lost a close friend? How has the type of friendship you seek changed over time?