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Jo Stanley: The best lesson we get from our friends

I was recently at a Ladies’ Lunch. It’s my favourite kind of social event. This one was a big old fundraiser, a raucous, joyous gathering of women in lipstick, perfume, heels and Spanx, with a deafening pitch to match – not just volume, but the electrified energy of ladies so damn excited to be out.

Like an itinerary of my life’s journey, the women in my life span decades and versions of me, says Jo Stanley.Credit:iStock

Gatherings like this are powered by two things. First, there’s the release from the drudgery of life. Two hours earlier I’d been unblocking the dishwasher and now here I was in this fantasy world. It’s scintillating. The second is the unique connection between women that is both unspoken and very much spoken at a thousand words a minute. Whether it’s this day, spent with a thousand of my closest friends, or in a cosy corner of a cafe with three girlfriends, lunching with ladies is life-affirming.

Women are really good at friendships; like our use of colour and fascination with true crime, it seems to come with the female experience. And the older I get, the more I cherish that. As I looked around the room full of tables of friends at the fundraiser with a heart-swelling gratitude, I did a stock-take of the women I couldn’t live without. Like an itinerary of my life’s journey, they span decades and versions of me. I’m certain you’re no different.

There’s my Best Friend From High School, who knew me before I became me. The history we share – the bad haircuts, bad boyfriends, bad karaoke – is like coming home. Together we pushed boundaries, and pushed each other through adolescence. At 16 we declared ourselves Best Friends Forever and the Forever still stands, galvanised by unconditional acceptance and decades-old jokes only we get.

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There’s the First Friend I Made Outside School, when suddenly the world was huge. She and I were at uni, where we directed over-dramatic plays full of weeping and wailing, and got drunk at cast parties that were just as dramatic. Side by side we learnt to adult, became flatmates, then bridesmaids. We’ve shared wardrobes and secrets, shame and pain. I am stronger for her friendship.

Then there are the Women I Met In Mothers’ Group, brought together by the shared shock and disorientation of having a newborn and the sudden need to share the most intimate details of our suddenly unrecognisable bodies. These friendships meant survival. Because of them I didn’t feel alone.

These friendships meant survival. Because of them I didn’t feel alone.

I’ve also had a precious posse of Primary School Mums, a merry band of car-pooling angels who face the chaos and heartache of life arm in arm. From meal rosters to hand-me-down uniforms, babysitting to spirit-lifting messy nights of cheese and gin – care comes in many forms, but is always buoyed by love and laughter.

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