Women of good characters

It’s the daily chats that keep us connected and our sanity in check
Woman&Home, March 2022

There’s a love letter I write every day. It’s part of an ongoing love letter, written now over almost a decade, in many parts and in many ways: in short phrases, in long tomes, sometimes recorded, sometimes with pictures and gifs, sometimes in rage CAPS, sometimes in a small voice that only the recipients of my letter will recognise because they’ve known me for so long and so well.

I’m not alone in this.

This letter is one that many women write every day in their own way to their own loves; letters that keep them connected, that build intimacy, that provide a safe space when life feels mean.

Tom says these love letters would drive him mad if he were getting them every day, at least once a day, sometimes every hour; wonders at my capacity to listen to a letter and type a response at the same time; marvels at the sheer volume of communication we can get through.

There are those who would call these love letters ‘chats’. Worse: just WhatsApp chats, or Telegram chats. And they’re not wrong, technically. There are those who would call my loves ‘just friends’ and I guess, again, they’re not wrong.

But much like a million million little drops of water will turn a stream into a river, the daily pings between my close friends and I have strengthened our relationship beyond what I thought I was possible for friendship in my adulthood.

It’s in offering the daily trivialities of living, without concern that any thought is too small, any feeling too inconsequential to share, that trust finds a play-space to grow … or be dashed

You get to know someone intimately not through the broad brushstrokes of their life’s creation, but by the tiny details only those who care to look will see.

The dinner parties and sea swims, birthdays and funerals, hangouts and talk-therapy lunches are important, of course. But it’s in offering the daily trivialities of living, without concern that any thought is too small, any feeling too inconsequential to share – the delight at a bargain, the petty bitch about a rival, the boredom of a Home Affairs queue ­– that trust finds a play-space to grow … or be dashed.

Unlike the love letters of old that would take weeks or months to reach their destination, leaving time to carefully construct thoughts and project wild wish-fulfillments, group chats are quick and brutal in cutting through pretenses.

When it comes to texting, there’s no relationship red flag quite as immediately evident as judgement or othering – with or without words. Just ask anyone who’s dropped an awkward photo or story into the wrong chat and you’ll quickly get a feel for what’s definitely not a group love letter with sympatico sister-friends.

It’s a rough, but necessary revelation. The problem with friendly social media groups is that simply being part of one assumes connection between individuals where there is none and sometimes we only come face to face with the real status of a relationship when a conflict online isn’t followed up with a courageous conversation offline. Friendships I’ve had have lived and died on group chats because of this.

To elevate a group chat to a daily love letter, you need good friends to begin with and close friends to compose with. And you need that closeness because relationship depth takes honesty and the intention to stay connected.

Love grows where you tend to it, whether it’s a romance or a vroumance

When kids and work, distance and family commitments get in the way of the couch talks and crochet brunches, it’s the regular love letter check-ins that confirm our interest in each other; that add the detail to the creation of the person you call ‘friend’. It’s the grown-up version of nattering with my high school besties over warm sandwiches and flat Coke every day.

My love letters are to a small handful of women only; I keep my inner circle smaller than most. Between recipe and joke swaps, our daily digital contact has supported us through divorces, identity reckonings, recovery, career changes, health crises, parenting chaos, relationship explosions both happy and devastating, political awareness and Wordle rage. It confirms for me every day that love grows where you tend to it, whether it’s a romance or a vroumance.

So, here’s to the tiny tap tap bloops on phones across the world, sending those love letters, making the magic of living this one life shine bright.

Photo by Liam Truong on Unsplash