23. Taylor Swift and my mermaids at sea.

Over these past months, I don’t know how I would have kept my head above water without Saint Luke hoisting me up over his shoulder, and my family inflating lifejackets close by. They’ve blown the whistle when I’ve been drowning not waving, and kept a warm towel on standby. I will be forever grateful for every breath of support they have given me whilst riding these wondrous waves. But today I’m pondering on what could be the greatest romances of my life -the flotilla of females that have helped me find my way.

My first true love came with matching pink poof-ball skirts, pinky-swears, prank phone calls, and games of make-believe. We were young enough for it to be effortlessly uncomplicated and naive enough to believe it would always be that way. But then came boobs and boys and booze in Stoke Park and a complex social hierarchy that repositioned on a whisper. Contributing to the gossip mill had the power to propel you into new heights of popularity. Having an attractive older brother could buy you into elite echelons, and a ‘free house’ made you cooler than the Arctic Ocean. Competition was fierce in the face of delicate egos that took but a breath to bruise. Insecurity ran deep as we all desperately tried to work out who we were and who we wanted to be. We loved passionately with BFFs sworn into the sisterhood with friendship bands that couldn’t be broken, and fought viciously with evil eyes that could tear them apart. Growing up is impossible to navigate unscathed but it’s those battle wounds that mark and make us.

Thank goodness for those uniformed years, during which the greatest lesson learned was how to be a friend (and sometimes, how not to be.) I’m grateful that social media did not exist to exacerbate and document all the mistakes I made en route to adulthood.

At University the waters were deeper, but it didn’t take long to fish out my kindred spirits. Under one roof there was nothing we didn’t know about each other through shared dreams and GHDs. Leaving playground tactics behind, these girls lovingly challenged me and inspired me, shaped me and threw shapes with me on Hooch soaked dance floors until time caught up with us and it was time to grow up and grow on. And although we now live cities apart, there’s no distance that a hilarious joke can’t cover and via the wizardry of Whatssapp we’re able to remind one another daily that we’re there and care. I loved them then and I love them still.

As we venture out in the wider world of unchartered waters, the depths are deeper still, yet fresh friends have risen to the surface like mermaids. They have come to light at work over laptops and lunches; at book clubs and in blogs; in coffee shops and on holidays; through friends of friends and friends of boyfriends and friends of their friend’s wives. Emerging like Poesidon from the sea, these wonder-women have taken shape through common ground that is mutually inclusive, with enough similarities and disparities to make for an interesting chat. True friends want the best for each other, see the best in each other and bring out the best in one another.

The newest recruits to my crew came bearing baby bumps and NCT membership. Seven months ago we were six strangers in a hot room learning about labour. Over warm squash in plastic cups we spoke about perennial tears, peccaries and pethadine; about post-natal depression, miscarriage and meconium in your waters. We whispered with tears about our fears and laughed about them too. We decided we’d meet again once the babes arrived and sheepishly swapped numbers…

I’ve since learned that there’s nothing quite so bonding as pavement sweeping pelvic floors, and that I do not know how I would have coped over the past months without these girls. They’re there with 3am wisdom when it feels like the rest of the world is asleep; always ready with advice, moral support and a calming lack of judgement akin to Buddhist monks. We’ve talked without limitations about what our bodies have endured and the darker places our minds have meandered. We’ve shared in each other’s joy and wonder, bound by an experience that has so profoundly changed us. Where would we be without our girl gang? What a true romance.

Taylor Swift has a Squad, my mum has a Sewing Circle, and there’s probably not much more than crop-tops that differentiate them. With or without babies or books, or tapestries or work, or whatever it is that pops you in the same boat, we all need to keep our friends close so they can breath wind into our sails. So take this post as a little reminder to give your pals a text to say thank you, because without them you might just sink at sea. (And Taylor, give me a call yeah?)

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