You’ve probably heard of the podcast, you’ve gotten your hands on the book, or maybe you’ve even read our last piece. Regardless, this is unlikely to be the first time you’re hearing about Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, two women who are taking on the world, one step at a time. From airwaves to paperbacks, their core message of the importance of the Big Friendships in your life is made paramount, as it should be. Some of the biggest friendship lessons Aminatou and Ann share in their book, Big Friendship, are about learning to treat the relationship on the same level as your romantic or familial ones. In some studies, friendships have proven to be even more important, though society can often demote them to less than. Their book beautifully explores the complexity of a connection as strong as their own, as well as how best to tend to it, nurture it, and make sure it is one that endures the test of time.
image via CYG
While Friedman and Sow make many aspects of their relationship public, by virtue of the wonderful Call Your Girlfriend podcast, their book dives even deeper, letting the reader in on how they came to be the pair they are today, the problems they have faced in their connection to one another, and the science behind keeping a flame like theirs alight. In the book’s opening chapter, they share their origin story, and the tale of the night that brought them into one another’s life. What Ann and Aminatou love doing, in light of this, is asking other friends how they met, and sharing in the joy, excitement and mutual sense of love this question and its responses elicit.
Another aspect of their relationship, and big friendship as a whole, is how closely intertwined we are with our nearest and dearest friends. Any adult in a friendship of the same nature can understand this. Having met in their 20s, Aminatou and Ann have experienced the most tumultuous parts of their lives together, molding and fitting one another’s opinions, politics, and outlook as they go, “Although we’re self-confident enough to know that we would have been great if our paths had never converged, we cannot imagine what that alternate reality looks like. It’s impossible to untangle us.”
At the end of the day, that’s the beauty of big friendship. Sometimes two best friends, who are unfathomable separate, are taken as one unit, but that unit is still made up of two whole, individual people. Two people who can recognise their worth individually, but would rather have the other person, to highlight their successes, mitigate their losses, and be by their side through either. This support system is highlighted by Sow and Friedman as a huge aspect of big friendship, and one they value greatly. When other pillars of life become strained or challenging, deep friendships are vital in keeping you afloat.
It’s not just about personal lives and relationships though, and Ann and Aminatou jump right into the nitty gritty of friendship’s role in social, political, and even scientific spheres. Friendship’s effect on the body is scientific, and as the book points out; can have a huge, lasting impact on our health. According to researcher William K Rawlins, friendships in adulthood can be categorized as either “active, dormant, or commemorative”, and Big Friendship looks into how each of these operate. When an adult has only dormant or commemorative friendships, loneliness can often lurk in the shadows, as they are less likely to have regular, fulfilling interactions with friends. In looking at the ins and outs of each of these concepts, Ann and Aminatou stipulate that active friendships require active engagement, and constant development or commitment. Having been to couple’s therapy as a unit in the past, they are further proof that an active friendship takes work, and that it is worth every last bit of it.
image via EW
Socially and politically, and perhaps most importantly in light of many of today’s pertinent conversations, Aminatou and Ann’s book looks at how issues of race and racism have bubbled up in their own relationship. What becomes apparent in their account is that they are not exempt from issues of racism, however subtle and unintended, by virtue of their being best friends,
We share many of the same high-level ideas about race and the way it contributes to inequalities and injustices in our world. We are adept at talking about the way racism plays out in the news or culture. We feel comfortable discussing the racism Aminatou has experienced at work or out in the world, and racist incidents Ann has observed with other friends. But when Ann becomes the source of the pain that Aminatou is feeling? We have a much harder time talking about that.
Aminatou and Ann advocate for addressing this issue, when and how it arises, rather than risking it “eroding” their friendship. What this proves even further is that big friendship is so much more than Gossip Girl watch parties and break-up support, it is a lifelong and enriching relationship, but one that requires care, tending, and active maintenance. After all, there is little in life more precious than a big friend.