From clubbing to raising kids together.
By Tess Barker
You’ve known it since that day in seventh grade when your BFF saved you from total humiliation after that guy you liked ignored you at the dance: There are few things as important or awesome as a good girlfriend.
Friendships are more than just a mechanism to make sure you always have someone to watch Bridesmaids with for the 8 millionth time—they’re a means of getting through the slew of parking tickets, promotions, and pathetically bad dates also known as life. In fact, one study out of UCLA found that women’s brains are wired to gravitate toward their female friends in times of stress.
There is no doubt, however, that the role friends play in your life changes as you do. Here is a look at the ways friendship evolves in your twenties, thirties, and forties.
In your 20s:
You leave the safe and often ramen-scented bubble that is college life, and not seeing your friends every second of every day feels like having a rug pulled out from under you. You still text and call your girls constantly, but you slowly come to the realization that you can never go back to a time when your biggest worry was choosing your costumes for some themed keg party.
Meanwhile, sometimes it feels like you're enjoying your newfound adulthood by dating as many men as humanly possible. Essentially, you’re figuring out what you don’t want in a mate and then discussing said findings with your girls over cocktails as you guys giggle, compare hilarious texts, and swap stories of men behaving badly. As the revolving door to your studio apartment continues to welcome fresh faces, your girlfriends and their familiar inside jokes are the constants in your life.
As you float from dude to dude, your career goals are also coming into focus. According to Reuters, one survey found that as many as 80 percent of people in their twenties feel they are not in the right career, and your girlfriends are helping you come to that realization for yourself as they commiserate with you about their own condescending bosses and crappy work days. Your friends are just as broke as you, and, unlike your parents, they won’t judge the fact that you had cereal for dinner twice last week.
By your late twenties, wild, short-skirted clubbing nights will gradually become memories reserved for the annals of your Facebook photo albums. Instead of escaping for girls’ trips to Cabo, you begin to spend most of your “fun time” standing up in one another’s weddings.
In your 30s:
You still have the occasional crazy night—but it’s usually at one of your friend's places because the thought of spending even 15 minutes in a loud, crowded bar sounds like a fate worse than hell. Plus, at least one of you has gotten really into artisanal cheeses, and partying at home gives you the chance to indulge in them.
You’ve finally mastered the art of paying your rent and bills, and this brings you all a level of confidence that infiltrates virtually every aspect of your lives (exhibits A and B: You ask for that raise, and you realize you absolutely can rock red lipstick). Coming into financial security also means that when you take girls’ trips out of town, you’re no longer sleeping seven to a room, and you totally splurge on massages.
The surreal nature of seeing your friends become moms begins to fade, and “I can’t, I’m breast feeding” becomes the new “I can’t, I’m too hungover.” You no longer seek advice from your pals on whether you should get a tattoo and instead begin to compare interest rates on mortgages.
Your metabolism has definitely slowed, but luckily, your friends are in the same boat, so you always have someone to drink cold-pressed juice or go to that trendy barre class with.
In your 40s:
You’ve settled into family life and love your kids and husband, but you don’t know what you’d do if you didn’t have girlfriends to vent to about the fact that your 4-year-old insists on turning “Please put on some pants” into a full-blown protest. You’re so busy with work and family that time with your girlfriends is a luxury you savor, but when you do see each other, you make it count—whether it’s by spending an indulgent day at the spa or a having a dinner where you stay at the table catching up long after the check has been paid.
You begin to have a midlife awakening and realize that if you’re ever going to run a half-marathon or learn that new language, the time to do it is now, and your friends are there to dive headfirst into these endeavors with you.
Wedding season becomes divorce season as a handful of your friends go through the heartbreaking experience of learning that men of all ages prefer women in their twenties, but you will be there to crack open a nice bottle of wine, convince her to get that wild new haircut, and laugh hysterically about the fact that her new, age-appropriate boyfriend is reaping the benefits of her being in her sexual prime while her ex is stuck having conversations about selfie sticks and Justin Bieber.
This article was originally published at Women's Health. Reprinted with permission from the author.