Female friendships are so weird and brilliant and perversely intense. A close ~female bond~ feels a bit like you're emotionally skinny-dipping all the time, like you never have to worry about that flake of skin dancing in your nostril or anyone spotting the faint outline of your vulva because there's always someone there – your own personal sentient confessional booth – to quietly let you know.
When your heart has been ripped from your chest, a good friend is around to pick it up for you and help you get the tiny bits of gravel out of it. A good friend is someone who will get the right vibe at the right time and arrive unprompted at your door with the entire M&S mini-bites range. A good friend is someone to whom you can say unthinkably lame things, like, "Be honest, do you think people think I'm trendy?" into the 2AM darkness without fear of recrimination.
Here's how to be one of those kind of mates.
BE A WING WOMAN TO THE BITTER END
You're standing outside a club. You're freaking out about everyone noticing that sweat under your boobs now the sun's coming up. The sound of sparrows waking up and screaming at each other is making you feel really disappointed in yourself. You look at your friend and she's doing her big eyes.
"Tom's got loads of booze back at his," she says, pleadingly, whimperingly. Your flat is so close, but for some reason she really fancies this guy with weird friends and very obviously wants to have sex with him. Problem is, she doesn't want to go to his on her own, because stranger danger and also all those weird friends.
That's how you end up in a new-build flat at 5AM watching a guy in pointy shoes do lines off a Hangover 2 DVD case. KISS TV is on in the background and Weird Friend Craig is taking that new Trey Songz tune as a cue to start touching your back. So you peel yourself off the brown leather sofa and head to the loo, where you find yourself unfolding the instructions on a packet of Night Nurse and absent-mindedly cleaning the taps with a flannel for anywhere up to 45 minutes. You hear a giggle from the hall, followed by a sharp intake of breath as bangles and butt cheeks hit the partition wall.
Tomorrow, as repayment for this, you will make her tell you why the sex will forever haunt her right after she's gone and bought you a Rubicon mango from the shop.
BE CHILL ABOUT HER RIDICULOUS BIRTHDAY PARTY
If it was just you and your proper best friends – the friends who've seen all your moles and remember the time you did a shit on a towel in Zante – all you'd need is five bottles of Casillero Diablo, a packet of Party Rings and a really offensive homemade birthday card. The ones who know you best have the lowest expectations, meaning you can dance sincerely to Paris Hilton songs and hold hands while they tell you that you're the best and that you have the nicest collarbone out of all your friends.
However, involve those from outside your core crew and birthdays can hit rash-inducing levels of stress. Ellen, your birthday girl's friend from work, has read about a five-stage marathon of rip-offs in Stylist, and now you have to spend your lunch breaks participating in a WhatsApp group to make sure it all comes together. Because of the stream of aggressively passive-aggressive messages in this group, you agree to kicking in £40 for a polka dot teapot from Oliver Bonas.
The next stage – the actual party – will be so elaborate and multifaceted that you may wonder if she's actually just terminally ill and this is her bucket list and nobody's told you yet. It will inevitably involve knocking on a "secret door", or learning how to make Cosmos, or – the absolute fucking worst – having to wear a Kigu. And then comes the meal, at which you're dropped next to school friend Vicky and talked at about netball and how her giant house rabbit's been quite ill lately. You've just paid £120 to have the worst night since your mum told you she was divorcing your dad.
But buckle up, because you're in for a lifetime of attending this kind of stuff. No doubt you've already heard the foreboding tales from your elder stateswomen: rumours of £300 hen-dos in Bath, wedding lists where all the gifts are from White Company. In a few years even your closest friends will be asking you to fork out £200 on purple satin bridesmaid shoes, so suck it up and be grateful for the dry run. On that note:
DON'T BE A DICK ABOUT MONEY
As much as splitting the bill at these kind of things makes you want to jump up, hurl a plate at a stranger and scream, "I DIDN'T ORDER THE NUTS AND OLIVES," you must keep your decorum and take the hit. Pay your way, because not doing so is technically stealing from your friends. Do not be the "Hey guys, why don't we get some extra dough balls?" person who's all Beyonce when you're ordering and suddenly all Annie when the bill comes.
ALWAYS SLAG OFF THEIR ENEMIES WITHOUT JUDGMENT OR INQUIRY
You'll need to abandon all forms of rational thought when your friend needs an ally. "Kelly's such a bitch," she's saying. "She told me my hair looks 'pouffy'. Like, who the fuck says that?" she's going, properly enraged. "Oh my god," you're saying, mock-outraged, freezing all cerebral activity. "What a dick."
Phrases like, "My boss is such an idiot," "My flatmate never feeds the fish," and, "I think my brother's girlfriend's been stealing my hair ties," can all be answered successfully with that same stock response. The other option is to simply rephrase their original statement and repeat it back to them in an ascending pitch so the final word is only audible to bats. "What? Katie never feeds the fish and whatshername has been stealing your hair ties??"
With the pitch technique, you don't even really need to take any sides, you're just validating your friend's feelings by talking like an idiot.
AVOID DILUTING YOUR FRIENDSHIP WITH OTHER SHIT ONES
By now you already know not to make friends with girls who post lots of inspirational quotes on Instagram and sing Mariah Carey harmonies softly under their breath. Or someone who identifies as either a chocaholic or a shopaholic, or says they "really hate drama" when it's clear as all hell that they really bloody love drama.
Since you left school you've probably worked out that these girls are all the ones you used to think were cool. Your grown woman friends are better than this. They have quick wits and loud laughs and understand the news and you've never once had a conversation about nail varnish. That said, every girl has at least one bitchy friend who she technically kind of hates. A girl overflowing with terrible opinions who smells of Coco Mademoiselle and buttery leather and who doesn't feel embarrassed talking sincerely about pilates on public transport. She is someone hot and scary who you would simultaneously like to be and punch. But also someone who speaks so fluently to your year 10 insecurities that you can't bring yourself to resist her brunch invitations.
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It will have been a big night out where she first snared you with her unique brand of forceful overfamiliarity. This wide-eyed, come-to-the-toilet-with-me friend took your wrist with her icy grip and conspiratorially led you away from your male friends into the toilet corridor. "OMG love your dress – it's ah-mazing," she's shouting at your face. "I can't believe we haven't always been friends! Okay, I'll be totally honest; I think it's because I was intimidated by you. Hey, this is so random, but does Jerome ever talk about me?" she says, snaking her arm through yours. Just because you showed each other your tits in the bogs and she told you that really harrowing story about that thing that happened at her first school disco, it doesn't mean you are BFFs. It means you took a lot of drugs.
At this late stage in life, this is not the kind of friend you really need to be making, especially when you've already got a sturdy set of best friends to keep up with. Yes, I know she's asked you to pose for her fashion blog "Milly Loves", and that is exhilarating. But remember: Milly doesn't love you like your real friends do because Milly is not capable of love.
ACCEPT THEIR BIZARRE CRUSH ON KEVIN MCCLOUD
You are duty-bound to keeping your friend's weird crush a semi-secret (by semi, I mean it's fine to blabber once you're halfway up Blossom Hill and into, "Remember that time you did that super embarrassing thing?" territory). I'm not talking the kind of crushes that become acceptable when they start trending on Twitter, like #Milibae. I'm talking about crushes on Kevin McCloud, Nick Nolte or the new accounts manager who furiously sniffs his fingers every time he comes out of the staff toilets.
You will never be able to understand – nor rationalise – the allure of this type of inexplicable crush, no matter how much you mull it over. But you must accept them, because you too will one day be attracted to someone who simultaneously makes your heart sigh and your stomach acid rise rapidly into your throat.
ALWAYS HAVE SNACKS
A snack shared between friends is a beautiful thing. A Milky Way Crispy Roll or, at a push, a lone Smint covered in furry handbag lint will grease the wheels of any friendship, like a squirt of WD40 on a child's slide. Even an old clementine that's been hanging around in your bag for a fortnight will suffice if you've got a friend who's on the verge of getting critically hangry. Or one of those friends who's never not hungry, like my friend Bryony from Leeds who responds to any food-related query with, "I'll 'ave it."
Bryony once ate a bowlful of green bullet chillies and a spoonful of lime pickle as a bet, then spent the whole afternoon throwing up. Before dinner, I said, "Do you want this Curly Wurly?" She said, "I'll 'ave it." She was never not hungry.
MUCK IN WHEN SHE GETS ALL PUKEY
Girls might be all about co-ordinated periods and pissing in front of each other, but for its night-ruining properties, vomit is by far the greatest acid test in a friendship. When the going gets tough, the tough feels rough and then pukes into your handbag.
Ask any group of girls and they can tell you about at least one night they've ended early because they were cleaning up sick, or looking at sick, or getting it out of their mate's hair. If you're the puker, get ready to feel unwanted and unloved. "My phone ran out of battery," your friends say. "I couldn't find you," they lie, even after you've seen them step over you in the entrance to the portaloo. On the other end, spot a puker staggering across the horizon and your impulse to run in the opposite direction is overwhelming.
But it's up to you to climb out of the trenches, because what's the use in having mates if they can't be there to put you in the recovery position? Of course nobody wanted to spend Dave's legendary New Year's Eve party crouched over a toilet bowl clutching a fistful of their prosecco-drenched hair, but this is it. This is true life friendship shit.