We all need friends in our lives and it is my very great pleasure to introduce a guest post by Eva Jordan who writes here about her novel ‘183 Times a Year’ and about the importance of strong female relationships.
Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.
Strong, female friendships – hopefully we’ve all got some. And you know the type of friend I mean – the one that would pick up the phone at 3am in the morning to listen to your sobbing voice should the need ever arise, the sort that doesn’t judge you by your mistakes and the kind that accepts you for being you – including all your flaws. And yet, sometimes these unique pairings stem from the unlikeliest of alliances. The history books are littered with them. By way of example take a look at these: Elizabeth I and Mary Dudley, Mary Todd Lincoln (wife of Abraham) and Elizabeth Keckley (an ex-slave), the Russian poets Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva, and Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, to name but a few.
All these relationships have been inspirational and edifying. Mary Todd Lincoln wrote to Elizabeth in 1867 declaring that Keckley was her “best living friend.” Others have changed the course of history. When Ella Fitzgerald tried to book a gig at the Mocambo in Hollywood in 1955 the manager was unsure she’d draw the crowds needed because of segregation and racism problems at the time. Marilyn Monroe stepped in – she promised to book a table in the front row every night if they gave Fitzgerald the job. Needless to say, thanks to the media interest in Marilyn, the gig was packed and the rest, as they say, is history. Ella Fitzgerald never had to play a small jazz club again.
Strong, female friendships are, I believe, important for women. Good friends, along with family and loved ones often support us through the bad times and laugh with us during the good times. This is one of the themes I chose to include in my debut novel 183 TIMES A YEAR. Friends since childhood, one of the main protagonists – Lizzie – and her best friend Ruby, have known each other forever. Nonetheless, although privy to one another’s innermost thoughts and secrets – or so they believe – as events unfold, their friendship is pushed to the absolute limits. Does their friendship survive or sadly, as the history books reveal, does it crumble as Lincoln and Keckley’s did? Apparently Mary felt betrayed by Elizabeth after she disclosed “behind the scenes” information in her biography about her time in the Whitehouse whilst working at the First Lady’s favourite seamstress.
However, when it comes to strong, female friendships there is one particular relationship that is extremely important and that is the relationship between a woman and her mother. Notable mother-daughter relationships include: Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn, Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, Marie Curie and Iréne Joliot-Curie, Sharman MacDonald and Keira Knightley. Arguably some of these mother-daughter relationships are less formidable than others but all of them are important and influential in their own right.
It has been suggested that the mother-daughter relationship is so powerful it affects everything from a woman’s health to her self-esteem. Dr Christiane Northrup, author of the book Mother-Daughter Wisdom (Hay House), says: “The mother-daughter relationship is the most powerful bond in the world, for better or for worse. It sets the stage for all other relationships.”
That’s all fine and dandy when your daughter is small – in the eyes of their infant daughter a mother can rarely do no wrong – but what happens when puberty calls. While most five-year-old girls love their mothers with an unshakeable conviction, it’s often a different story by the time they reach their teens. The once-adored mother who rarely put a foot wrong is suddenly always doing or saying embarrassing things. Dumbfounded mothers discover their testing teens often feel criticised or judged by their well-meaning actions or advice. Throw in stepparents and stepsiblings to the mixing pot of today’s divided and extended families – “hubble, bubble, toil and trouble” – and the stage is indeed set for a spectacular display of fireworks.
Never fear though, its not all doom and gloom. This finale of fireworks does not mark the beginning of the end of the mother-daughter relationship. Fortunately this wild swing from closeness to remoteness doesn’t last if mother and daughter can hang in there. If, as a mother, you can make it through all the door slamming, the arguments over bedroom tidiness, the answering back and dating problems, the relationship comes full circle and moves to a different level altogether. Often blossoming into a loving, respectful friendship.
In a survey carried out by The Telegraph in May 2013 studying the relationship between teenage girls and their mothers, three quarters of the women taking part in the survey said that, “they felt grateful to their mother for the way they were raised, even if they failed to realise it at the time. And 67 per cent said their mother made them the person they are today – and they owe her a “debt of gratitude” for guiding them through tough times.”
Again, the mother-daughter relationship (partly based on my own experiences) is another theme explored at great length with much humour throughout my debut novel.
Lizzie – exasperated Mother of Cassie, Connor and stepdaughter Maisy – is the frustrated voice of reason to her daughters’ teenage angst. She gets by with good friends, cheap wine and is often found talking to herself – out loud. Whereas 16-year-old Cassie is the Facebook-Tweeting, Selfie-Taking, Music and Mobile Phone obsessed teen that hates everything about her life. She longs for the perfect world of Chelsea Divine and her ‘undivorced’ parents – and Joe, of course.
Although at times the mother-daughter relationship is a road fraught with diverse and complex emotions, it can also be – like many strong, female friendships – very enriching and rewarding. 183 TIMES A YEAR is a poignant, heartfelt look at the complex and diverse relationship between a mother and daughter set amongst the thorny realities of today’s modern family.