Roxy Bourdillon celebrates the power of female friendships this Galentine’s Day

Strangers have always stared at me. I get it. I like brightly coloured retro clothes and I’m in possession of a pair of comedically massive norks. As a teenager, I would regularly cry myself to sleep over the sniggers, feeling violated, ashamed and just plain wrong. But when I was 16, something happened that shifted my whole perspective and filled me with the determination to be myself to the hilt, gawking bystanders be damned. No, I didn’t have a breast reduction and discover the joys of brown hessian muumuus. I met Lela.

I still remember the first time I saw her. It was day one of sixth form college and she was a flame-haired vision, wearing a sunshine yellow top and strutting with theatrical flair to find a free seat in assembly. In a flock of denim-clad pigeons with identikit highlights, skinny jeans and blank, bored expressions, she appeared like a tropical bird of paradise. I couldn’t help but stare. I really wanted to be her friend.

We met properly, predictably, auditioning for the college play and quickly became close, bonding over our mutual affinity with old Hollywood movie stars and being the most dressed up person in any given classroom. Then one day when we were idling through the city centre, I clocked how much strangers gawped at her. At her striking beauty, unique wardrobe and infectious laugh. I marvelled at the way she didn’t let it shake her. She was still her glorious, gorgeous self to the nth degree. And I realised, in that millisecond outside Topshop, standing out from the herd is something to be cherished.

There’s another group of gal pals I treasure. Let’s call them the Goddesses, because that’s totally what they are, and it also happens to be the name of our WhatsApp group. Whether we’re forensically dissecting our love lives over brunch or warbling at the top of our lungs to Mariah at karaoke, together we are a tribe emanating sorceress level strength. Our goddess collective is a balm for my soul. These ladies bring out the best in me. Like Lela, they encourage me to shine brighter, give fewer shits and have more fun. They know my essence; they are part of that essence. Whenever I worry that I’m not enough, I comfort myself with the thought that the most brilliant women I know reckon I’m pretty awesome.

Throughout my life, more than any partner or family member, it is my female friends who have helped me accept myself for who I am, not who they wish I was. I’m sure lots of women enjoy wonderful friendships with blokes, but the only meaningful one I’ve managed was with my childhood cat (and I was even allergic to him). It’s the platonic relationships I have with extraordinary women that have shaped how I view myself and interact with the world. They’ve seen me at my most vitalised and my most vulnerable. As I’ve wrestled with sexuality, bereavement, break-ups and breakdowns, these women have always been there. My friends are the ones who got me through the demise of my first proper relationship. They’re the ones who didn’t judge when I got so uncharacteristically hammered on vodka Red Bull, I spilled my heart and the contents of my stomach on a nightclub floor. They’re the people who showed me I could survive without a partner. They’ve had front row seats to my personal odyssey – the regrettable romances, unfortunate haircuts, disgusting hangovers – and they still love me.

For queer women, finding friends who accept you exactly as you are is crucial for your emotional survival. My mum loves me, but she also loves to criticise and definitely isn’t cool with her only daughter being a dyke. My dad has barely acknowledged my identity since I came out to him over a decade ago. But that’s ok. I can deal, because however rejected my parents make me feel, I’ve always got my girls. My found family.

Society may view romantic love as superior, but I think we can all agree society is fucked. When I was 11, on the last day of summer camp, the counsellors put on this huge open-air party and we held Friendages, mini ceremonies where we declared our devotion to our pals and exchanged homemade friendship bracelets. The more I think about this, the more convinced I am it’s a genius idea. Just because our BFFships are platonic, that doesn’t mean they can’t be soppy. We should still pour time, effort and affection into them. I love nothing more than a date with my bestie, a candlelit dinner or a night spent dancing. There are few pleasures greater in life than cutting a rug with your best bud.

I’m not the only one who recognises the importance of your mates. Since a 2010 episode of cult sitcom Parks And Rec, 13 February has been unofficially renamed Galentine’s Day. In the words of Deputy Director of the Pawnee City Department of Parks And Recreation Leslie Knope, “What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” If you’re not familiar with this heartwarming feminist phenomenon, it’s basically “ladies celebrating ladies”. With waffles.

There’s a myth perpetuated by gossip rags and the Real Housewives franchise that women can’t co-exist without getting all bitchy. But when it comes to my female friends I always think of us as each other’s loudest, most enthusiastic cheerleaders.

One of the many things Lela and I have in common is how much we fangirl over Sex And The City. This programme has taught me so many life lessons: Manolo Blahnik is a god among shoe designers and should be worshipped accordingly, New York is a magical faraway land of fashion and fabulousness, and there’s always time for a Cosmopolitan. But there’s one line in the show I think of more often than any other. At the start of season four, Carrie is upset about being single at 35 with “no goddamn soulmate”. Then Charlotte – lovey dovey, husband-hunting, The Rules-following Charlotte – says, “Maybe we can be each other’s soulmates.” The truth is you don’t need a romantic relationship for fulfilment. Your gal pals may well be the great loves of your life.

So this February, let’s take the time to honour the incredible women that make everything so much more joyful and bearable. Happy Galentine’s Day, goddess! Now, who’s for waffles?

@Roxy_Vintage

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