She fell on the court, sobs mixed with smiles. As our family watched Serena Williams move toward her 18th grand slam victory, my daughter noticed tears in the corner of my eye. “Momma, are you crying?” she asked. “No, I am not crying. Don’t be silly.” I tried to wave off the sentimentality I felt about Serena winning, but I’ve always admired people who dedicate themselves to one particular endeavor and continue to pursue it despite the obstacles. It takes a special kind of grit to really move through that process.
While watching Serena and her opponent, Caroline Wozniacki, give their respective speeches, I learned a new important fact. Caroline and Serena are good friends. Caroline in her closing remarks, said, “Well, you know who is going to buy drinks tonight?!” The crowd responded with laughter. Serena admitted that she enjoyed her friendship with Caroline and that she often texted her everyday. They obviously admired each other, not only for their tennis skills, but as friends.
I started questioning why, before this point, I did not hear more about their friendship. Why wasn’t this profiled? I am certain if some off-court drama brewed, the portrayal of their relationship might be different or the media might highlight their discord. I learned that both rarely mention tennis when they hang out socially and when they meet on the court, they are competitors. Witnessing their relationship, it brought to mind, the essay by the acclaimed writer, Roxane Gay, “How To Be Friends With Another Woman.” Powerful words from a writer whose first line of her essay states, “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses — pretty but designed to SLOW women down.”
As I watched Serena and Caroline smile, I felt Gay’s words resonate. And I hope to teach this to my daughter. A few weeks ago she said that girls could be hard and that boys never fight. I told her it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to make female friendships thrive as Caroline and Serena demonstrated on Saturday night. Serena, in fact, did buy those drinks for Caroline and they took a photo together at a bar after playing as competitors only a few hours before.
Women can be kind, strong and yes, good friends, too.
Image: “Racket” by Yuichi Tokutomi via Flickr.
love this post, Rudri!!!
Thanks, Rohini. Glad you liked it!
Ah, that’s inspiring. It can be done.
And I would have had tears in my eyes too.
That is the key phrase, Tamara, “It can be done.” There is no reason to think smart, competitive women cannot be kind to one another. That is what is so refreshing about their friendship.
I consider myself fortunate that I attended an all female college and forged strong relationships there with other women. Women friends have seen me through my toughest times, and I hope my closest friends know that I will always be there for them as well.
We need more examples of these strong, competitive, solid women. (And I was delighted to see Serena take the title again!)
I love that you have a tribe full of women that support and uplift you. It is so important to highlight these kind of bonds. So often we want to believe the myth, but in reality there are so many women who are pulled up and out and forward by the ladies in their lives. Thanks for chiming in, Wolf.
I went to the same college as DA did and I can second her thoughts…indeed, DA has been a wonderful support to me now over the internet (as have you).
I love this post as I am quite fascinated by the topic of female friendship. I’ve worked with many businesspeople who were former athletes and realized that there is something unique about athletic competition that fosters mutual respect and teamwork. Of course, as I write this I am recalling the incident between Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan years ago, but for the most part, I’d like to think, sports teaches interpersonal skills and empathy. I love that more and more girls seem to be playing sports now.
I think that I’ve learned about friendship through trial and error. Not having been the “mean girl” growing up also meant that I was victim of a number of mean girls, but as I got older I became wiser about how to choose the women in my life. I think it’s wonderful that you talk to your daughter about all of that now, so she doesn’t have to wait until she’s older to experience these great female friendships.
Your insight into female relationships in the sports arena is an interesting topic. One would assume it would be more competitive and caddy, but I am learning that there is a mutual respect that appears to be a quality of these friendships. It is certainly refreshing and I hope my daughter is lucky enough to foster similar connections in her life.
Love this !
You’re right– I had heard nothing about that! I loved Roxane Gay, and I’m so glad you pointed me towards this particular essay. I may quote it for my column at Herstories!
Nina: Her essay is so powerful. I believe every person should read it. Hope you profile it on Her Stories. So looking forward to your column, Nina.
Meant to also say that I had read that essay in her book of essays that came out this year. I’m sort of shocked she would put in on HuffPost!!
What a lovely post. I have a very complicated view of girlfriends but have recently become friendly with a woman who truly is an unselfish friend. When you find it, it works.
We should all strive to be more like them! Great story!