With the world we live in today, long-distance friendship has taken on a whole new meaning. Anyone not in your immediate home is now a long-distance friend, and we have all moved even further online to stay in touch with everyone near and dear. For Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, this is nothing new. As the hosts of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, and now authors of Big Friendship, these two women have been navigating friendship from afar, in a relatable, enjoyable, and far too bingeable way.
Their podcast is a powerhouse of feminism, current affairs, and, at its heart, an ode to female friendship – even if it is stretched across the country. Now, Big Friendship takes a more in-depth look at one of life’s most intimate relationships, but one that doesn’t often get the same attention or weight as those in the romantic sphere.
Big Friendship looks at how the friendship between Aminatou and Ann has weathered the highs and lows of their personal and professional lives. Having been at one another’s side – whether physically or emotionally – through moments of intense fear and uncertainty amidst health scares and job loss, they are more than familiar with how profound a connection their friendship can be. By speaking with experts and interviewing friends, they learn about the universality of these struggles, and how friendships form an important pillar of support, not just in times of great joy, but also precariousness or loss. As the book’s blurb so wonderfully poses; “the most important part of Big Friendship is making the decision to invest in one another again and again.”
The pair originally met at a Gossip Girl viewing party – which, to me, already points towards a long friendship – in 2009, with ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ first hitting podcast streaming in 2014. On the project, Sow and Friedman worked with audio producer Gina Delvac, and on their podcast’s website, they make it wonderfully clear that she is as much of a key player in their phenomenal success as they are as hosts. This respect and credit across the board plays into their own belief of ‘Shine Theory’ and giving credit where credit is due. This respect is important not only professionally, but personally, with all parties passionate about autonomy, bonds of friendship, and “every facet of women’s humanity”. If their podcast wasn’t evidence enough of their love for their friendship(s), Big Friendship really drives the point home.
At the beginning of their book, they define Big Friendship as the following,
Big friendship is a bond of great strength, force and significance that transcends life phases, geography, and emotional shifts. It is large in dimension, affecting most aspects of each person’s life. It is full of meaning and resonance. A big friendship is reciprocal with both parties feeling worthy of each other and willing to give of themselves in generous ways. A big friendship is active, hardy, and almost always, a big friendship is mature. Its advanced age commands respect and predicts its ability to last far into the future.
What’s refreshing about their take on this as a concept, is that it does away with any childish connotations often associated with terms like “best friend” or “bestie” or even “bff”. These have a vague air of birthday parties with goody bags (which I admittedly do miss from childhood), sleepovers with mom’s permission, etc. Big Friendship, as a term coined by the pair, gives the idea a modern makeover, and while there is always a place for ‘bffs’, and ‘big friend’ might be misconstrued, the concept itself breathes a mature air into one of life’s most precious connections.
One particularly special aspect of the book, is its voice throughout. Sometimes a book that is co-written can feel like two narratives that bleed haphazardly into one. But for Aminatou and Ann, the writing is seamless. Now, a writer and journalist (respectively, and among many other things), this isn’t down to their skill alone. They are undeniably a unit, and their words read as such. The reader gets both perspectives, but in a voice that feels like one, like having one best friend in the form of a book. This voice is an excellent testament to friendship, and how to make it work.
With all of life’s complexities; the work dramas, the family struggles, the boyfriends, girlfriends, flings, and regrets, friendship is one of many facets of life that requires commitment, dedication, and a whole lotta love. Aminatou and Ann elucidate this wonderfully in the pages of Big Friendship, and you’ll be calling your own best (or Big) friend before you even turn that last page.
Alexa, play ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ by Robyn.