‘Girl talk’ is defined in the dictionary (who knew) as ‘conversation between women or girls, typically about subjects considered to be uninteresting to or inappropriate for men’. This is understandable – pre-drinks on a pre-lockdown girls night out would often include a rundown of the latest Bumble dates, work dramas too elaborate for a lunch break catch-up and other subjects perhaps noted by those on the outside of this precious female circle as ‘trivial’. Yet girl talk as a hobby, a routine, in any form is so far from being trivial – it is a sacred concept, a bond igniting act that develops alongside us as we grow and as our lifestyles continue to change, pandemic or otherwise.
Girl talk is first born into our world when we are children in the playground. Adorned in a paint-stained pinafore and ultra-thick red tights number, two young girls are often brought together when somebody else is mean to them or their friend. Our survival instincts set in – any girl who steals my friend’s blue-tack pile from their desk draw is no friend of mine, we say to ourselves. And then we say it to the friend in question, our bond is strengthened and we waltz around the playground perimeter arm in arm discussing our newly found best-friendship, the bracelets we will make for each other and the military-like plan to persuade mum to agree to an immediate playdate after school.
Puberty graces the stage and girl talk transforms like a caterpillar into a red (naturally) butterfly with a sprinkle of puppy-fat on its wings. First bras, first periods, first crushes, first tastes in music (hello Olly Murs circa 2012) – so many firsts and so many opportunities for us to bond with our fellow females. I am grateful for those early friendships that emerged from situations we were all a part of, often not by choice. We conversed about who would brave the newsagents to buy the booze aged sixteen, end of year exams that meant everything (and now I know meant absolutely nothing) or the best YouTube tutorial for a fishtail braid. Girl talk is home to the little things that were the big things, the nothings that were everything in a world scented with Charlie body spray.
As time and hormones alike continued to rage on, friendships would often come crushing down like our peace of mind when P.E in the winter rain (awful, just awful) was forced upon us. Groups are formed and re-formed, your best friend may follow one trend and you another. When boys become a subject of girl talk, friendships are likely to change yet again.
New bonds, superficial or otherwise, are made while others break. Sometimes there are feuds where girl talk becomes girl scream. Other times there is no animosity, no bad feeling – you wouldn’t feel guilty about finishing a book that you had enjoyed reading: you are thankful for the journey and the memories and you know it is time to put the book back on the shelf, likely to never be read again. Conversations have a natural end, as do some friendships and it is the closure of one that may often lead to another, to a superior bond and a new era of girl talk. Perhaps a sign of maturity is letting sleeping dogs lie; perhaps an even greater sign is realising that this is okay.
Since starting full-time work at eighteen, I can confirm that the office is just another playground but with coffee and emails instead of juice and hopscotch. Momentary conversations with colleagues are the buffer, the respite to the all-consuming seriousness that comes with making a living. Small-talk is a breather which both parties can appreciate and sometimes, if we are lucky, small-talk blossoms into conversation and a bond – just like in school – is made. Childhood never truly leaves us; how could it when it is the time where we learn and absorb the most. The drastic effects of puberty may decelerate but we never truly stop trying to figure out who we are and that is why girl talk is so special: it breaks down the masks that we paint on each day and reminds us that there is always a common ground, always a shared anecdote and always someone to help carry the weight.
The fact that I can say, hand on heart, that there is more than one person outside of my family who I adore and deeply care for is a privilege. My circle of forever friends is tiny, so very tiny and the perfect size to hold all the love, support and female empowerment I will ever need. As with most things, friendship is about quality not quantity.
If life is indeed a journey then sometimes we will take a U-turn; we will turn backwards because we left something important at home; we will speed past some road signs without a second thought while taking our time to read and learn from others. There is no smooth path to growing up because growing up never ends. There is also no smooth path to friendship, but a little bit of girl talk always makes it that little easier.