I took advantage of the wait time at today's gymnastics meet to start Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin. I had seen it at the book store several times but picked it up last time I was in because I wanted something fun to distract me from all the end-of-semester and holiday stress.
It would be an understatement to say that this is a fast read. The plot sucked me in, and I finished the book this evening. The basics: Rachel White, a nice, rule-following single attorney, falls in love with her best friend's fiance. Will Dex leave the beautiful but shallow Darcy for Rachel? And, if so, what will happen when Darcy discovers Rachel's betrayal?
Sound soap-operaish enough? The strength of this book is that Giffin actually makes Rachel and Dex sympathetic characters who have multidimensional personalities and motivations.
Beyond being a fun and distracting read, the book made me think about the nature of friendships, particularly friendships among women. Rachel and Darcy have a friendship that is based in many ways on competition and works primarily because Rachel is nice enough to be sure that Darcy always gets what she wants. It takes most of the book for Rachel to figure out that what Darcy wants is whatever she can take away from Rachel, whether that's admission to the college of their choice or a guy Rachel is interested in dating.
I wonder if most friendships between women involve some sort of competition. Several of my key relationships have. In high school, I competed with my best friend academically. In most ways I'd say this competition was beneficial because it challenged me to do my best. I'd also say, looking back, that she was competing with me socially. Our relationship essentially ended when I married and "won" so to speak in the social arena. It took me a long time to realize that was what was at the root of her unwillingness to continue our friendship.
There is definitely a component of competition in my closest adult friendship as well. Both Best Friend and I tend to be perfectionists and want everything to be done just so. She's been my best friend for 20 years and often felt free to comment on my marriage, child-rearing, and housekeeping strengths, or more likely my weaknesses. That is until she recently had children of her own and somehow became a lot more accepting! It's amazing how one's perspective can change when one has several small children and realizes that being the perfect mother and homemaker can be a bit daunting. In many ways I think we've grown closer and our friendship has evolved because of this.
My friend MLL over at Are We There Yet discussed the "reality" of Internet friends today on her blog. I've been fortunate enough to be a part of an online community for eleven years now. Many of these women are more supportive toward me than my local friends, and certainly more in tune with what's going on in my life than any of my other friends who live out-of-town. Sure, over the years there have been some disagreements and flat-out arguments among members of our online group. But in the long-run, I've seen these women pull together to support each other during marital, financial, and family difficulties. If that's not "real" friendship, I don't know what is.
For all the ups and downs of my friendships with women, I know that my friends have enriched my life in so many ways. They've broadened my horizons, made me think, and sometimes given me the kick in the butt I needed to break out of a rut or move in a new direction. Right now Swim Chick and her BFF are upstairs giggling and trying on each others' clothes. It reminds me of how innocent friendship can be and how much we need that outlet in our lives. My hope for her and for Gym Girl is that they continue to find friends who love them, encourage them and challenge them. And my hope for all of us is that laughter and friendship are things for which we never grow too old.