FANTASTIC FEMALE FRIENDS

FANTASTIC FEMALE FRIENDS

Girl power and Black Girl Magic these days mean more to me than slogans women chant online to show virtual support for each other. I ride for my girls!

It hasn’t always been like this though, I have had to grow into and intentionally work on maintaining female friendships over the years. I am not your average girl squad girl, in fact, if I brought together the people I consider my closest friends I might be the thing they have in common. Of course, because they have known each other for a minute now they have their own conversations and just like that I have grown a circle of people that can if they need to speak to each other.

See the reason I have not trusted my female friendships from the get-go is that in my formative years they were abusive, manipulative, hurtful friendships. A distant memory from primary school often lingers in my mind whenever I am meeting a group of people for the first time. In this memory, there was a hill, a small hill really not quite big enough to give hurt your glutes after running up and down it five times. This hill lay between the football field and netball court, it was a perfect distance from the classes, assembly ground, gate and the main field. This is where the popular girls from different classes used to gather and gossip at break time. I attended one of those pioneer schools in a budding suburban estate with more and more middle-class families moving to the area from all over Nairobi. It was definitely not Runda where the rich rich lived and some of my neighbours moved to after years and years of hard work or Thome which was just a step up from ours.

Power was directly proportional to brains.

I don’t know about the older pupils but back in the day in class 3 at my school, popularity and influence were determined by one’s performance academically. Other factors such as your parents’ careers and the types of cars or the type of birthday party you threw kept you in good graces.  Certain families were music or academic legacies and the pressure was on for their younger siblings to maintain the family tradition of being enrolled in a National School for their secondary education. Your clout was shaped by your family’s legacy or the privilege of having an older sibling a few classes ahead. With the age difference between my sister and me, we were never at a similar level of school at the same time.  I was a nobody, average student if you ask me, until one day when the class teacher dropped by our house unannounced because she took a unit in Uni with my mother who was pursuing her degree at the time. I went from being confused with two other girls from a Western Kenya tribe to being picked in class to read out loud or for best handwriting. Favouritism was rife.

The number one student also doubled up as class prefect, trendsetter and had remained undefeated over the years.

This particular season our class had been disrupted by a number of new students. We were going through a let’s all shave our hair wave because Number One said to. The first group of exams had slightly skewed this power play and times were tough for Number One. A lot was at stake and the balance needed to be restored socially when this power-wielding child whispered to the ears of a group of students both old and new something about me which made them giggle and disperse when I approached the group. I thought it was just bad-timing but then I was also left out from playing kati, killing rats, rounders or whatever game was in season during that period. I know I was left out because when another new girl came running from class, she was added to Number One’s team and I was told that she had been dealt into the game earlier before the break. My crime, I attended another classmates birthday party or her crush spoke to me, I don’t even remember. Not to worry though I was not the only one that watched rather sadly from the sidelines.

It was my first initiation into company politics.

The last term of Class 3 came as a relief when the primary school tripled the fees to support their entrepreneurial dreams of expanding into a boarding school. It was too much for my middle-class parents so I transferred to another institution within the same estate on the opposite end also beside a river but without a fence because, humble beginnings. There had been a massive exodus from my previous school, most of the faces in my new class were old friends and what a relief. New school, new politics. Here we found and beat another unchampioned number one and secured our legacy as disruptors. Millennials did not start disrupting yesterday. If I say that the move was amazing it reflected in my performance I was able to thrive in my new school and even secure the role of Head Girl in Class 6 going on class 7 (I believe first in the history of the school). The next time I trusted a female after this, I lost a crush and the time after that my coveted Head Girl position right before Class 8 to said, friend. Where the poison wind blows a deadly plague follows. This one is a story for another day.

Toxicity had been the underlying theme for most of my female friendships growing up.

But I have come a really long way from these days when I valued my male friendships over female ones. There’s nothing wrong with being part of the boys club, but then you grow up and recognise that your friendship is as platonic as the relationship between nails and a hammer. The hammer will try to smash! I used to think boys club is just for business, and you definitely learn a lot about the hustle but you will never be equal. It always comes down to the proverbial what is in it for me, unfortunately. There is a big reason why women aren’t as aggressive in their hustle, or when they are there is a negative perception around them. It’s a man’s world and someone is always trying to discredit your hard work and talents by reducing you to a sexual object.

I have come of age and gone back to the table here I leverage on female friends.

See these girls trips are actually meant to be shared between girls. Those long nights you spend on the phone chewing each others’ ears off about bad bosses, the flu, failed relationships, new opportunities are meant for your girls. There is beauty in having friendships you can rely on, a safe space where you can rant without having your issues mansplained or solutions you already have thought of being tabled repeatedly. It has taken years for me to realise that there are women around me that are really cheering from the same side. Women who push you to become better without making it a competition, are genuinely happy to see your progress, accept you when you make mistakes in love and will help you raise your kids. These are the types of friendships I am learning to invest in, the ones I bend over backwards to throw parties for, the ones you don’t talk to every day but when you do it’s like the last time you spoke was yesterday.

The fantastic female friend sounds like another Marvel series about a group of bad-ass women with superpowers that include man-eating break-up cures, fat Friday pig-out sessions, top you up so you buy that thing you’ve been wanting, wipe that lipstick in your teeth heroine, let’s discuss investments planner and girl he too-broke for you seer. There is joy in friendships where you push each other to do better, hold each other accountable for personal and professional goals, make memories and more. I love how we have I have grown into a woman that is able to identify toxicity and limit my exposure to it. Something that modern friendship can learn from though, are those investment groups aka chamas from the age of our moms. While your circle may be small, it could benefit from whatever pool of money or business partnership you are able to bring together. Unravel the next level of these friendships and grow our bank accounts fatter.

More money means more travel, more shopping & more food dates with each other right?

Always yours,

Grace

Ndiege

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