Monday, 8 December 2014

Female Friendship is a Very Complex Thing

I told a slightly silly but true story at the launch of Best Friends Forever last week, about how I first heard of the book's editor, Amy Key. It was back in 2013, when I was trying to learn more about modern poets, and my new boyfriend suggested that I might like Amy Key's work and that he could see us being friends. I replied, 'Thank you for this helpful tip and for taking an interest in my work.' Psych! No I didn't say that, I actually said 'You can't possibly assume that I would be friends with someone, because female friendship is a VERY COMPLEX THING. I can't even begin to explain it to you.' Because I am a delight to date.

Best Friends Forever
Of course, I did look up Amy Key's work and I found that I loved it, and I do understand why someone might think we could be friends (Are we now? Maybe?! Give it time! Female friendship is a very complex thing! Jesus!). But I also stand by my original sentiment, and by my general exasperation about how female friendships are often misunderstood or just not considered important enough to try and understand in the first place.

My whole life has been defined by female friendships. I met my first best friend at nursery and I used to cry from missing her if her mum picked her up before mine at the end of the day. In year 5 our teachers put us in different classes so we could learn to be apart, and she discovered football and left me behind. Secondary school, a hothousing all-girls grammar, was fervid with changing allegiances as girls grew out of some friendships and into others, while negotiating exams, our bodies, and sex. The novelties of university put my old friendships on the backburner in the first year, but I eventually came back to them and learned to value them immensely alongside my new ones. My friendships at Orion made my very boring job bearable, and the existence of the Emma Press is a direct result of my old school friendship with Rachel Piercey plus the catastrophic end of my university friendship with my two housemates (which meant I moved home and could save up money) plus the indirect result of the support of my other best friends.

One of my illustrations from the book
And yes, there were dramas with boys, but honestly they were nothing compared to all this. Contrary to what popular rom-coms from the 80s and 90s suggest, best female friendships aren't a sideshow, tacked on to fill in the bits between meeting the love interest – they're the main event. Is Mean Girls about Cady Heron and Regina George fighting over Aaron Samuels? Of course it's not! Because Tina Fey gets it, and knows that the meaty stuff is Cady's friendship with Janis Ian (and Damian) and then the Plastics, and, less in the foreground, the ruins of the friendship of Janis and Regina George.

Infinitely more interesting and frequently more lasting, female friendships strike me as much more worthy of attention than most tedious A+B=Kissing romances, which is why I was so delighted when my possible friend Amy Key emailed me last year with a proposal for an anthology of poems about female friendship. Most definitely yes! All Emma Press anthologies tackle subjects close to the hearts of Rachel and myself, so I'm pleased that our first guest-edited anthology takes a look at one of the foundations of the Emma Press. Amy has collected a truly fantastic collection of poems which celebrate the life-enhancing power of female friendships while not shying away from the darker aspects of such intensity. Her introduction is soul-baring and moving, and I suspect that soon many more women will be asking themselves if Amy Key could be their friend.

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Amy Key has written about her experience of editing the book over on her blog. You can read more about Best Friends Forever on our website and buy the paperback (£10) directly from us as well as in any bookshop (you can order it in if they don't stock it). The ebook (£5.50) is available exclusively on our website.

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