Trust, Tattoos, & Time: Female BFFs On Long-Lasting Friendships

Sisters not by blood but by bond

They say that we eventually start losing friends as we hit different stages in our lives. Some factors that lead to this are personal growth, different careers or simply drifting apart.

Women, more so than men, are said to have a higher susceptibility to this because women treat friendships similar to romantic relationships; there’s a high level of care and communication needed to maintain close-knit ties, which requires a lot of work and effort. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to keep up with it, but this isn’t to say it’s impossible.

We decode the key to maintaining long-lasting female friendships and its secrets with the help of these long-time best buds.

First impressions don’t really matter

“Nope, we can never be best friends,” was the first thing Evon thought of when she met Rachel five years ago at a bar in Cyberjaya, Malaysia. They were both attending a mutual friend’s promotion celebration. The vibe Evon got from Rachel was that she’s a “mean and arrogant rich girl.”

Now, Evon says she’s glad she and Rachel hung out again after that. It took only one day spending time one-on-one for her to realise that Rachel is humble and kind and is the kind of friend that she can lean on through the good and bad.

The feelings are mutual for Rachel, who also considers Evon as one of her most trusted friends. They both hold each other in high regard, saying that nobody is perfect, but to each other, they are because they can’t picture changing anything about the other person.

Jacey and Xinli were in a similar spot. Xinli thought Jacey was “arrogant and unapproachable” when they met in a pole dancing class nine years ago. “I remember thinking back then that she seems flexible but a really dao (unfriendly) girl,” Xinli shared. “And apparently, her first impression of me was the same.”

After their first dance practice together — which they fondly described as their “first date” — their initial impression of each other immediately changed. They wanted to talk to each other more and more at each meeting and that led to the friendship they have now.

For Flor and Jiezl, being friends for almost 15 years — more than half their lives considering they’re now in their mid-20s — is a whirlwind of an experience. They belonged in the same homeroom class in the first year of high school, but they were not immediate friends.

Jiezl, who is a lot more reserved, said Flor easily made friends even if they were both newbies in school at the time. Flor mirrored this first impression, saying that she immediately thought Jiezl was her complete opposite. They ran in different circles during their freshman year and were totally detached from each other in their second year. They only became friends during their third year when they earned a mutual friend.

They shared that their impressions of each other never really changed much even after all these years. However, they’ve grown to appreciate these differences and see them as the biggest foundation of their friendship instead of coming from a place of comparison and curiosity.

Friendship love language

Giving gifts and commemorating big milestones by ‘twinning’ is Evon and Rachel’s friendship love language. Their Instagram accounts reflect their similar tastes and items that are deliberately chosen to match — from casual outfits, Halloween costumes, bags, and more, t. They also shared that they immediately think of getting a matching set whenever they see something cute even when they’re not together when it happens.

Aside from matching style and accessories, they also started celebrating their friendship through body modifications. They got matching belly piercings during International Friendship Day in 2019 and, in 2020, they got matching tattoos.

“Why sun and moon [tattoos]? I got ‘sun’ because I’m the bad-tempered one and [Rachel’s] the moon ‘cause she always calms me down. This is our friendship, balanced,” Evon said in one of her Instagram posts.

They’re also very vocal when it comes to their affections for each other. Rachel has always referred to Evon as “family”, while Evon makes it a point to celebrate all of Rachel’s achievements, big or small.

The same goes for Jiezl and Flor. At this point in their lives, it feels like they’re “actual sisters” than best friends. At present, Flor is working in Dubai while Jiezl is in the Philippines. Because of this, their friendship love languages are words of affirmation and quality time. Communicating constantly proved to be comforting amidst the distance, especially since Flor’s short vacations happen only every after a couple of years.

That said, “Zoom calls, sharing memes, and sharing compliments that usually end in teasing” have become close to a daily habit. Through these, they “never feel the distance at all” despite not being able to meet physically for years.

Flor shared that it’s like a present-day version of a practice they had in high school, where they constantly gave each other handwritten letters during “friendship monthsaries (anniversaries but celebrated monthly)” or simply because they felt like it. As for Xinli and Jacey, meeting physically no matter how busy they get is a must. It’s their tradition to celebrate each other’s birthdays by having afternoon tea dates.

“You know how most girls do not finish their high tea sets? We typically finish everything! I guess our dancer metabolism rate helps,” Xinli said.

They say that their love languages of “quality time” and “acts of service” are manifested through these get-togethers because it is an affirmation that they are taking the other person with them as they start a new year in their life.

Together through thick and thin

Evon and Rachel feel like they wouldn’t be able to survive certain things in their personal lives without the help of each other. They consider each other as their greatest confidants whose judgement they would trust completely. Evon shared that she was absolutely thrilled when Rachel made it to the finals of The Apartment: Passion For Design Season 6 as well as when she helped to design a recently opened cafe bar in Kuala Lumpur.

Xinli and Jacey’s dynamic, meanwhile, is all about balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Jacey described Xinli as someone who is “very positive, stands up for what she believes in, and always wants the best for her best friend.”

However, she also shared that she admires yet wishes for Xinli to learn to manage her lack of resistance when it comes to “everything Hello Kitty” as well as “her strong-headedness when dealing with people who do not know or understand her.”

On the flip side, Xinli loves that Jacey serves as her “frugal adviser” especially when it comes to spending on her hobbies. She also sees Jacey’s determination as admirable and inspiring, which pushes her to be her own best person, too. However, Xinli wishes that in times of need, Jacey would improve on sharing more emotions and struggles rather than being fixated on dealing with themalone. She also hopes that Jacey would be “less of a workaholic.”

Together, they’ve powered through tons of pole dancing performances and won competitions together. They even managed to hustle through their busy schedules to go on a trip to Japan in 2019.

But as with all friendships, moments that call for solitude matter just as much.

“I’m most proud of Jacey’s ‘NutriGirl Singapore 2016’ competition,” said Xinli. “I was impressed by how she challenged herself and pushed boundaries, whilst keeping real. I saw a girl, who was not afraid to stand up against stigmas and stereotypes.”

Meanwhile, Jacey said, “I’m most proud of Xinli’s injury recovery from a car accident in New Zealand back in 2019. Acknowledging her fears and worries and translating all that into motivation to get back to normal life, and back to pole dancing and aerial hammock slowly but surely.”

Meanwhile, seeing each other transition from tweens to teens to young adults continue to solidify Flor and Jiezl’s friendship. There was a short period when they ended up liking the same person, which they thought would put an end to their friendship at the time.

“It caused a gap between us. We didn't communicate with each other for the rest of the school break,” Jiezl recalled.

However, they were able to overcome it when they saw each other again at the start of their senior year in high school. Setting aside feelings of resentment, they were able to talk things through and ended up choosing each other over a “silly crush”.

“High school was an accumulation of having to witness each other’s ups and downs, our ugliest and cringe-worthy experiences, to heartbreaks and achievements,” said Jiezl. “And when you’ve been through a lot with someone like that, it's impossible not to keep the relationship. Maybe that's why it was easier to keep the bond even after we graduated, went to different universities, had different careers. We knew too much about each other and it's a relief to have someone know you like that.”

Jiezl’s tendency to be way into her head sometimes — to the point of compromising her mental health — remains one of Flor’s biggest worries, however.

“There were times when I was afraid that I might say something that will make her shut herself away from me,” Flor said. “It scared me at first, but I realised that sometimes you just need to be there for the people you care about not just physically but also emotionally. Let them feel that their feelings are validated, that they are loved no matter what happens. Sometimes, all it takes is to listen, too.”

Overcoming these big and small trials and wins together make for their proudest friendship moments.

Female friendships decoded

Female friendships tend to be more reliant on well-established trust and emotional connections as compared to male friendships, according to a research study conducted in 2009. Women are also less likely to lose trust or forgive a trust violation as compared to men. However, the longer the relationship lasts and the deeper the understanding becomes, the more sensitive either of them would be if issues of mistrust arise. Feelings of betrayal especially in a well-established friendship, much like in a romantic one, is likely to cause downfall.

That’s why it comes as no surprise that all pairs mentioned the importance of building a “safe space” within their relationships.

Trust and communication is needed to build a “safe space” within female friendships. (Photo from: Melissa Askew via Unsplash)

“Of course, there are times when we disagree about something,” said Evon. “But we talk it out, openly accept each other’s feedback and try to improve on what we can instead of making the situation worse.”

Jiezl, meanwhile, shared, “It takes a lot of courage to be able to open up to someone, but it's worth it once you find your special people. The conscious effort to check in on them and show that you're there also gives comfort and assurance.”

For Xinli: “Giving and respecting each other’s space is also important. We understand and know that our worlds don’t just revolve around each other. We have our family, other friends, and our own lives.”

There is no perfect formula for maintaining female friendships. However, there are many ways to make it happen. For these sets of friends, longevity was an after-effect of tons of hard work, trust, and even silly moments that you grow into and learn from. Their journeys are far from over and no one exactly knows what the future holds, but if they were able to withstand years of ups and downs then they’re doing something right — and we’re taking notes.

From friendships to romantic relationships, here’s how to manage grey areas when it comes to matters of the heart.

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