Goodbye girls

With millions at stake, it must have been one hell of a bust-up that split the Spice Girls. But that's female friendships for you, says Lucy O'Brien

LAST SUNDAY Geri Halliwell's shock announcement that she was leaving the Spice Girls ended days of speculation. "This is because of differences between us," she said. With a move that will contractually cost her millions, we can assume this is the understatement of the year. The bust-up, apparently centred around a power struggle between Geri and Scary Spice Mel B, must have been spectacular.

One of the fundamentals of Girl Power, female friendship, has cracked. Geri's friendship with the rest of the Spice Girls was passionate and intense, but now they have fallen out, it appears irretrievable. And it's not just high profile girl friendships like Geri and Mel B or Sandra Bernhardt and Madonna that founder under the weight of their own expectations. Women's friendships often have the intensity of romantic attachment, so if they fall out, it is with all the tears and trauma of jilted lovers.

"When I first met Gina she was extremely good-tempered, joyous, intelligent. We met at a work function and ended up going home, chatting the night away. We were close from then on, but after a while she became very insecure and competitive, and she would bad-mouth me behind my back," recalls Theresa, a 28-year-old health worker. "In the end I phoned her to say we had to part company. She insisted we meet for a last goodbye, and she tried everything, she wept, she clung to me, promised she'd love me forever. That was a year ago, and we haven't spoken since."

Theresa's friendship had all the passion of an affair, even thougn it didn't become sexual. While some gal pals end up sleeping together, even those that don't have an incredible emotional intimacy with their best friend. "Mothers teach their daughters to be like them," suggests psychotherapist Susie Orbach, co-author with Luise Eichenbaum of Between Women: Love, envy and competition in women's friendships. "But at some point, because of having to be heterosexual, girls feel unconsciously pushed out by the mother, and there is part of them longing to connect up again with feminine sensibility. In female friendship a woman feels she has been understood at a very deep level. So if they fall out, it can be devastating."

Girls learn early on to mirror each other's experience, sharing their deepest secrets in a way that leaves them vulnerable. When Jill broke up with her best friend at school, she felt so betrayed, she sought only the company of men for the next four years. "It's much cosier when you're friends with blokes. You can have matey-matey friendships that wax and wane without feeling too traumatised," Jill says. "But after a while I missed having a best friend I could get drunk with and talk to in the small hours. It wasn't until I went to college that I stopped being wary."

People change, and while in sexual relationships partners confront changes with conflict or conciliation, ordinary friendship rarely have recourse to anything so formal. Linda, 32, found it a strain when she shared a flat with her best friend since childhood. "Susan was in control, sensible, organised. I was prettier but more chaotic. A mess. The older I got, the more I sorted out, and the more I realised I didn't want to be that person any more." The change caused painful friction, with a mound of unspoken irritation building up. "The thing is, you're not allowed to row with a best friend. It has all the intimacy of marriage without being able to let off steam." The pair sold up "on chilly terms", and have seen each other intermittently since. "I was very sad about it," says Linda. "We may rescue the friendship, but it'll never be the same."

The challenge for women, it seems, is to openly acknowledge feelings of envy and difference. A friend recently told me how her closest girlfriend had been severely niggling at her on the way home from a holiday. "In the past I would have kept quiet, but that withholding is a form of hostility. So I told her to fuck off. In the end we talked about it and were able to laugh."

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

    £50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

    Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

    £50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

    Primary Teaching Supply

    £130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

    Year 1/2 Teacher

    £130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

    Day In a Page

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories