2. Friends & Foes: The Loop Of Shared History
Just like millions of women all over the world, I too, love my female cousins, sisters-in-laws and girlfriends, many of whom are soul sisters. On some days though it feels like being in a hall of mirrors, when I am in the company of the sweetest, wittiest, and wisest women, who, strangely enough, are all caught in similar traps of men, menopause and other such downers.
Looking back, I can see that I was naively unaware of the dark relationships of the soul shared by women in myth – the relationship of Venus and Psyche, to cite an example. I believed that every relationship with a member of the same sex ought to be positive. Reality bit from time to time.
My earliest ‘friend’ was my female cousin. A single child, who thought it her birthright to take away my toys, she was the bold, bratty, aggressive tomboy, while I was the docile, accommodating and timid younger cousin. I still remember the feeling of missing my kangaroo (brought by my parents from Australia), which she took away. But I was raised in Gandhian mode, to be generous to a fault and trained by my grandmother – she herself was quite a fighter – never to fight or raise my voice. Good girls just didn’t, I was told.
As time went by, the bones of contention changed – we ended up in the same college. The man I dated belonged to my cousin’s friend circle. We found ourselves at the same parties. I can see now that it must have been tough to have a prettier cousin cramp your style. Yet I continued to treat her as a confidant – only to discover that my precious secrets were being casually aired in public. I let it go. Post college, we drifted. Years passed. We lived our separate lives, both traumatic in their own ways.
Years later – we had both divorced by then – and, as fate would have it, I moved to the town where my cousin was based. The extended family there wholeheartedly lent me support, much to her resentment. I realised then that I had stepped, once again, onto what my cousin considered to be her territory.
We continued to share a few stray things about our lives over long and lengthy phone conversations. Till one day she told me about a crush she had on a person in a profession of interest to me. Innocuously, I asked for an introduction. He and I ended up chatting about work possibilities. A month later, on impulse I sent him a message to thank him for some leads. He said he was in town and suggested we meet.
We hit it off and decided to remain friends. Both of us were wary of telling my cousin lest she misconstrue the nature of the meeting or the desire to stay in touch. A few months later I let it slip that I met her friend. That was it. My cousin blew a gasket and became totally irrational. She accused me of lying, cheating and wounding her by hitting on her love interest, who, ironically, wanted to get back to his earlier partner. Flabbergasted, I rang the man in question and asked for advice. He said, “Let it be. There’s nothing you or I can do. She sees it a certain way. We can’t change it.”
The dictate of our mutual grandmother, “You must share your toys and love your sister,” had kept me quiet as a child. To her, possibly, I was the prettier sister who seemingly had it all, and who had taken her ‘toy’ friend later in life. Seen in hindsight, from an eye for an eye perspective, the vindication seemed complete. We’d both played hurt-hurt over four decades.
This situation led me to review all my equations with the women in my life. I began eliminating those with whom I had toxic equations.
As I entered my 50s, my equation with women changed. I began meeting more supportive women, some of whom, turned out to be soul sisters who created a network based on shared ideals, empathy and resonance.
As Maya Angelou once said, ‘I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. Not all friendships between women are what they profess to be. Not all women are friends. Many are foes caught in classical patterns of retribution and vindictiveness.’
Indeed, there comes a time when a nurturing spiritual family must complement a toxic biological family.
Read Volume 1, here.
Read Volume 3, here.
About the author: Born with a silver spoon, golden girl Venus is a bright and witty fifty-something, whose persona matches that of her archetype. A wordsmith by profession, she believes in saying it as it is. Cougar mommy, woman of the world, she is part diva, part agony aunt, who believes that her vulnerability is her strength. Her life’s mantra: Find beauty, purpose shall follow.