When I moved out to the country I knew no one where we were moving to, and nothing about the area whatsoever. I had lived in London for five years, and still had the same girlfriends I'd had since school. I still do. Although I knew I was going to have to make new friends.
Being a really young mummy is hard in this respect, as you will undoubtedly notice many girls are leaving family and babies until much later in life. I can safely say that none of the women where I live are less than ten years older than me, despite having children the same age as my own.
It was like starting at a new school. I was nervous and felt awkward. I still do sometimes. What are the rules of engagement when having to make new friends. I found them to be very alike to dating and new relationships. The same etiquette applies. You have to instigate the "chat-up". But naturally you gravitate towards someone you feel you may have something in common with, something that "attracts" you to them. Are they on your wave length? This was hard to tell to begin with, it was a minefield at nursery school, all these frantic mums, battling with little children, in a hurry on their way to the school run, in their mucking out gear from the fields, wellies and Barbour jackets. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I caught on quick.
I decided after a few months that the only way I was going to feel really comfortable meeting people was in my own home. I threw a party. Risky strategy considering I knew no one!!!!
I printed up some basic invites for a 'Girls Soiree', no strings attached and to bring a friend and a bottle and it was an open door policy. I dropped in an invite into every single house I could find within a reasonable distance of my own. I was terrified no one would come. How wrong I was...
Not only did many women come along, and bring their friends, but many left wanting to know when the next one was. I was fortunate enough to find someone who made really beautiful jewellery and so asked her to bring a few things along.
I was surprised, as many of the women there were, how many did not already know each other, despite living very close to one another. It would seem, we are all just a little nervous about reaching out.
People stayed, they chatted, quite a few exchanged phone numbers, it was like a singles party. Everyone felt relaxed at not having children and other halves around to monitor, and gradually possible friendships began to emerge.
By the end of the evening I definitely had a firm friend, we stayed up late, drinking and smoking and swapping life stories. Bliss!
But then what? Well then it reverts to etiquette. Thank you notes with telephone numbers, dinner invitations to introduce husbands, and setting dates for coffee. You want to impress, you want to find out, and you want to always put your best foot forward.
But what about long standing friendships. I recently upset a very old friend. A close friend whom I see very often. I brought up something long in the past, and put it out there like a gauntlet. (Needless to point out that this was after a few too many glasses of wine...)
Following day I felt worse than a row with my husband. There was a dark cloud of silence, and I was being an utter chicken about picking up the phone. Half because I knew whatever she said I would deserve, and half because I had no way of explaining where such a thing that had emerged from in my sub-conscious, which was daunting in itself. She sent me a couple of messages, and through nothing but terror, I just couldn't reply. Which I knew was only making it worse. But its exactly the same sort of feeling to when you've said "I want to finish!" in a fit of rage at your partner, which you may well almost mean at the time, but the next few hours and the next few days you know you may have a been a teeny little bit hasty and subsequently regret.
I found the situation I was in with my friend as tricky as some major hurdles in relationships with men. You're at a trying stage. Where in fact it may well be much easier to walk away and forget all about it, but part of strengthening any good relationship means building the bridges together, somewhere new. Its never easy to co-exist as human beings do, in such close proximity to one another and not upset each other when we roar.
I found out my friend was far easier though to deal with than my husband in the end, and a lot more forgiving too! But I still felt a certain sense of intrepidation upon finally answering her call, knowing all too well that I could not keep ignoring it!
She was mature about it, and actually invited that we went over the same conversation again, instead of sweep it under the carpet and forget it ever happened. This was like therapy!!!
Once addressed and resolved I did feel easier, it was clearly something that I had been harbouring for some time, and thankfully has now passed, with all good reason. I find taking leaps of faith very difficult in any relationships, whether friendly or romantic, despite never failing to be utterly surprised when they are both warmly received and positive, no matter what the subject matter.
I put as much stock into my female relationships as I do with my ones at home, with my husband and children. Most don't. But should we? Should we prioritise the women in our life, our friends with equal weighting to our boyfriends and husbands. Although men have sent me round the bend and to hell and back emotionally, no girlfriends have ever done that, and my girlfriends I have known longer than even my husband. I don't fight with them- well not normally, and live far more harmoniously with them than I do my other half. So really I should give them as much time, effort and priority as I do any male relationship I may have had.
Its a sore and sticking point to get dumped by a girlfriend for their guy, it happens, more infrequently now as i get older and the boyfriends become more stable and long term, but what part of our female heads thinks that our girlfriends deserve that.
They don't. Ever. And at my age I should know better! You know who is going to last longer if push comes to shove...