Wednesday, April 18, 2012


My BFFs from college - like Sex and the City except we look like normal people,
don't live in New York and don't sleep around
(this is at my wedding - they're all bridesmaids)
So, recently I've gotten some bad family-related news. I don't really want to give too many details, but it's illness-related, not so serious that I have to move home (which is not a realistic option anyway, although if necessary I would make it happen), not anything terminal, but definitely not good. We've been through it once before, but it's stressful no matter what.

If I don't update as often, it's not because I've got no free time - although often, I don't - but when dealing with stress like this, I might feel like leaving writing alone except for the occasional "cool thing I did on the weekend" or restaurant review. Which is too bad, because I'm still working on a post countering a lot of terrible things I hear said in the expat community about Taiwanese men.

So, with this illness in the family to deal with, I've realized something. I'm very happily married and have an active social life that includes both expat and local friends of both genders (not a lot of people can say that, I've found). I always have something social to do, someone I can call, people to invite places or have coffee with. On weekends when I don't do anything social other than hang with my wonderful husband, it's by choice.

And yet, there's something I don't have: a best girlfriend in Taiwan. Someone I can call up for a moment's notice to get coffee or a 3pm margarita - no joke, I've done that, Taiwan and my job in general are great that way - and complain with, cry on the shoulder of, joke with, go nuts with.

I have a lot of good female friends - I meet up and have frank discussions and fun times with other female bloggers, I go to Taiwanese opera and talk about cultural differences with Sasha, I talk frankly about personal matters and make dirty jokes with Cathy, I complain about work with Aliya, and I'm very close to my sister (who also lives in Taipei), but I don't have anyone who I *know* would call me if they needed someone to drop everything to come over in a crisis, or who would be the first person I'd think to call if a crisis were to hit me. I mean, my sister would come, but at other times she runs with her own younger buxiban teaching crowd, being in her mid-twenties and single and all.

You can accuse me of being too girly if you want, but I do think this kind of BFF friendship is an important part of being a woman, even an adult woman, even a married woman. Yes, of course, in any crisis the first person I'd call would be my husband, but there's something about having a BFF who you can also call - like your girl-husband (or, as one very close pair of friends call themselves, "Wife", as in "WIFE! Skype date!") - because sometimes you just need another woman's perspective. I have been blessed with the best husband on Earth - I really mean that, I do not believe it is possible to find a more wonderful, supportive and good-to-the-core man, and this is not hyperbole - so I'm not talking about someone I can call up to whine about Man Problems, Sex and the City style. Maybe 8 years ago, but not now. I'm talking about, well, that female perspective. The unconditional mutual love and support of someone you are not legally bound to, who enjoys things like shopping and crafts (which, awesome as he is, Brendan unsurprisingly does not really relish or, well, do at all).

Someone you can go wedding dress fabric shopping with, get your hair done with, and drink those all-important 3pm margaritas with.

There's just something about that dynamic - mostly drinking caffeine or alcohol, eating delicious, or deliciously awful food - making crude vagina jokes and BSing, but knowing they'd be there for you, no questions asked, if something really bad happened. Having someone who also possesses lady parts and lady hormones and lady hobbies to talk to, who isn't afraid to get personal.

I'm really not joking. It's Margarita O'Clock!

With my Taiwanese girlfriends, they rule, but they don't generally talk as much about very personal matters (like, oh, sex) - with the exception of one I know. They definitely don't drink as much (no margaritas! Waaaah). I have some awesome expat female friends but we're all very busy people with mismatched schedules, and beyond that, well, there just aren't a lot of expat women in Asia. Certainly not in Taipei, and those who are around are often older and married to men here on business - trailing spouses.

I'm not a trailing spouse so I don't do playdates or coffee mornings. I mean, what is this "morning" of which you speak? Is that even a time? Who does that? "Coffee morning" to me is when I roll out of bed at 9:30am and pour myself some coffee from the kitchen. If I don't have work that day I put whiskey in it, although I try to limit that because I'm not a total train wreck. I'm not gonna haul my ass to Starbucks at that godawful hour). In my younger days I might drink that coffee with whoever was crashed out on my couch from the night before, and we'd sort of mumble pleasantries at each other through bleary-eyed light hangovers. Now I'm much more domestic. I have a living room that doesn't have random people sleeping in it. I haven't had a hangover since January - and even then, it was because I was invited to an annual party and getting a bit sloshed is a requirement at those things. Ah, to hit one's thirties...

My point: we younger-but-not-too-young, say early thirties, female expats are thin on the ground. There are millions of great Taiwanese women to befriend, but there are cultural differences to account for as well.

And, as a result, I'm feeling like I could really use a BFF.


Eileen said...

I hope things get better with the situation you're under. I've been there.

I honestly thought about writing a very similar post about female friendships. You nailed it on the head what I've been feeling.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jenna!
I'm headed to taiwan next month and settling down in taipei in september..yeah, yeah, riding the buxiban train. haha. ANYWAY, I just wanted to tell you that your blog has been an invaluable resource so far!! Thank you sooo much for writing such candid and detailed posts. Hope you find a BFF soon. And God, I hope I'll make some pals once I land.