The cover of Lily Pebbles’ soon to be released (8th of March) tome on friendship, The F Word , depicts three friends clinking three cups of tea, at different strengths, because we’re all our own women, but nothing is more heartwarming than congregating over a cuppa. Lily considered prosecco, but tea won out, which is as it should be. Some of the best friendships in life require no more nourishment than sitting down with a brew before suddenly realising that five hours have gone by, it’s dark and you’ve missed the train home, but you’re floating on a friend cloud and couldn’t care less.
Female friendships aren’t just cosy, however, as Lily acknowledges, and her book is an exploration of all of the complexities of our relationships with the women around us, from assessing the balance of give and take amongst friends to conducting a friendship ‘audit’ and getting over the cringe worthiness of making ‘the first move’ when seeking new friends as adults. Also, knowing when to “break up” with a friend if they cause you heartbreak. Tough stuff. We also talk beauty, because some of our most seminal bathroom cabinet staples come recommended by friends, and whether working out with buddies can ever deliver more than belly laughs. For Lily, that’s a no. Here’s her take on all things friendship, with a glimpse into her daily life too. Just because we’re nosy like that.
On writing about friendship
“This book process alone has been a year and half in the making, but female friendship has always been something I’m so passionate about- I’ve always thought that people should be talking about it more! So for me it’s great that it seems so timely at the moment- there are lots of books being published on the subject.
“I think that a lot of it has to do with the #TimesUp movement. People are now talking openly about friendships, about the love we have for other women and making people understand that it’s just as important, if not more so, than romantic relationships. Female friendship is often portrayed badly in films and on TV- my book discusses the realities of female friendship. For many of us, our relationships with women are the most important that we’ll have. For me, my friendships are such a high priority, and have always been.”
On being the blunt one in the Whatsapp group
“I discuss different friend ‘profiles’ in the book. I think that most people are a mix of all of them rather than a stereotype, but in general I lean towards the ‘older sister’ type friend. I like to be there to give advice to my friends. My friend Hannah is my older sister friend, and as I’ve grown up and become more confident I feel that I can give my friends advice in that way too. I’m also definitely the ‘realist’ friend. I’m very honest, I say it as it is, plus I’m an awful lier so there’s never any point pretending! I’m the one on the Whatsapp group trying not to be the one who says something blunt while everyone else is being polite.”
On being a newly hatched extrovert
“I’m an extrovert, but I was definitely more of an introvert at secondary school and when growing up. I was painfully shy as a child. I’ve always been an extrovert in front of people I’m comfortable with- my friends and family. With people I didn’t know I always found it so difficult to make conversation. Now at 30 I’m very self-aware and confident with who I am. I’m not perfect, but I’ve accepted it.”
On glass half empty vs. half full
“I’m half empty. I think that comes with my realist tendencies. I think sometimes I’m in danger of coming across as really negative, which I try hard not to be. When I’m around certain people that side can be brought out more. I don’t put rainbows and ponies on things, but I do try to reign the realist in a bit.”
Texts vs. thank you cards
“Thank you cards, without a doubt. That’s something I’ve come to appreciate particularly now- those little gestures are so important in the age of social media and especially considering the job that I do. Everything can become a bit meaningless if we’re online all the time. I also love it when you see a card and it reminds you of a friend, or making a card for no reason, finding an old photo and writing on the back and sending it to them. It’s really special.”
On getting what you need from friends
“I haven’t got a huge group of friends. I’ve got friends I’ve known since the start of school- the ones who’ve been around since I was four that I’m really close with. There’s a group of four of us, then I have individual friendships with some people. I had about ten people on my hen do. They were all my best friends so that’s probably how many close friends I have.
“I talk about doing a ‘friend edit’ in the book and I think that’s vital- having different types of friends that you go to for different things. It can be good to figure out how your friendships function and what you need. Maybe you’re the ‘older sister’ figure for someone else but you need to find a friend who fulfils that role for you as well. You can’t be that for everyone, sometimes you need to sit down with someone who gives you great advice.”
“Making friends in adulthood can be difficult, but social media has opened us up to many more women who we might have things in common with. It’s quite likely that the people you’re following on Twitter, who also follow you, can relate to each other, but turning that connection into a real life friendship is difficult. I talk a lot about that, about how to direct message someone and then go on a ‘friend date’, plus the ‘dos and don’ts’ of friend dating. These include ‘don’t spend all your time talking about your other friends’ and ‘don’t take a selfie on the first date’. As for ‘dos’, opening up and being honest and raw can go far.
“Making friends as an adult is hard, but it’s also really exciting. I don’t think you’re ever at the stage where you can’t make new friends. There’s so many different phases of life, for instance if you have kids you’ll probably meet a new group of women through that, and other life changes can open up great friendship opportunities if you’re open to them. Make the first move, and if there’s no chemistry, that’s fine.
I’m good at judging people early on as to whether I really let them in or not
“I tried out some friendship apps for the book- I used Bumble BFF and it was actually a hilarious experience. It’s amazing that there are things out there like this now and why not try them? If you feel like new friends could enrich your life then give it a go- the worst outcome is that you lose an hour of your time.”
On her work wife
“My work wife is Anna (of The Anna Edit ). My job’s quite a bit different to many day jobs out there, and that’s probably part of the reason that Anna and I have such a strong connection. We met early on in our blogging “journeys” and both had full time jobs elsewhere. It was great to go through the progression with someone else- quitting your job to blog full time is really scary, but we’ve come so far since then. We’ve done so much together, it’s become a really intense friendship over the years. We can say anything to each other and it’s so nice to have a support system at work. It means I don’t feel the need to talk about work all the time with my other friends. Sometimes if I talk about work to other friends, they don’t always get it, and why would they? They have totally different jobs and career paths to me. Talking to Anna about the highs and lows of work means that there’s less pressure on my other friendships. They don’t need to feel like they have to be there for me in that way.
“Whatever career you have, it’s always great to have someone who will follow you to the bathroom if you have a crap meeting and feel a bit teary. Having someone that you can look to across the office, who’s “real” and who you can chat to, within or outside of work, can make work life that much better.”
On favourite friendship memories
“I’ve got a lot, but when I got engaged I bought some little cards and I sent them to my best friends- all the women that I love. I’m not sure what the exact purpose was but I was just so excited and I just wanted to show my friends how much I loved them and how much they meant to me as well. I knew I wasn’t going to have traditional bridesmaids but I wanted to show them how important they were to me and how I wanted them to be involved.
“Sometimes when your friends get married it can be a bit of a scary time. You feel that things are going to change and you’re not always sure how involved you’ll be in that change, from bridesmaid doubt to bigger factors. I just wanted them to know ‘hey, I love you, I want you to be part of this and let’s celebrate together’. Basically, I wanted it to be as inclusive as possible. I know my friends loved it, and I have such happy memories of that time.”
“Further back, the group of four of us who went to primary school together have amazing memories, primary school was a special time. From when we were about five we had a band called ‘bad’. We used to do things like steal plasters from the nurse’s office, we used to make up Spice Girls dances and perform them for everyone in the playground, we were on a football team together. Everytime it was someone’s birthday we’d go back to a friend’s house and have a little tea party. I remember very vividly that my friend SJ was obsessed with tea cakes. Niche. We always knew what to buy for her birthday. We didn’t care about the boys or anything else. We just had our ‘bad’ crew. One of the crew is about to get married so the rest of the crew are bridesmaids. Still bad.”
...and the toughest friendship moments
“I think I’ve been quite lucky- I’m good at judging people early on as to whether I really let them in or not. I did really struggle with making friends at secondary school and at university.
“At uni in particular I had a really awkward situation when a group of girls asked me to live with them, but it turned out they only wanted me to live with them because they had a tiny single bedroom free that they needed someone to fill. All of the other bedrooms were massive. It was a horrible feeling. I didn’t really find any women that I connected with throughout that time- there was no one that I made a really solid friendship with. I think what made it worse was the fact that I had these fantastic friendships that I’d grown up with, and I compared every encounter to that.
In general, a friend needs to be giving you as much as you’re giving them
“I didn’t want the book to be all about my friends and experiences. At the beginning I discuss childhood friendship and why female friendships are so important to me, but then bring in lots of other people’s stories and experiences. I interviewed lots of women. For this particular talking point, I interviewed someone I know who was really let down by a close friend. She was going through a bad time and she found a saviour of a friend from university and planned to move in with her. They looked at a flat in London, she was really excited and then at the last minute she ghosted her. She stopped replying at all. My friend felt as though she’d been lifted up really high and then just dropped. Since then she’s really struggled to trust women. I think that when you have that kind of situation, it equates to total heartbreak, and you never want to go through that again. It’s just as painful as romantic heartbreak.
“Because we don’t talk about friendship heartbreak in the way we do in the context of a romantic relationship, you don’t tend to expect it or know how to handle it. Often the issues aren’t addressed. They let you down and you just have to be sad.”
On the best advice given by a friend
“My friend Hannah is without doubt the one I go to for advice, with anything. I’m not sure I can think of anything she’s specifically said, but it’s all golden. She always helps me to see other people’s points of view, which I think is important. You can become a bit self-obsessed and wrapped up in your own problems, but thinking about how another person might feel about the same situation is really helpful. I just think that real honesty is the best thing.”
On long-distance friendship
“I never thought I’d have long distance friends because I’m not one who would ever move away, but then obviously you can’t stop people around you from moving! I’ve got two great friends who live abroad. We’ve learned together over the years what works to maintain the friendships. A lot of it is about making new memories together and not just relying on your old experiences, which is quite tricky to do when you’re not seeing someone.
“One friend is brilliant at Facetiming me wherever she is- not just a planned call in the morning or evening. She’ll be out shopping and she’ll Facetime me to get me to look at a jumper or something. I love that because it makes it feel like more of a real friendship. You don’t always sit in front of your friends at 9pm in the evening for a conference call.
“Spontaneity helps to keep friendships alive. I always have the places that they are on my world clock too- I’m always checking in with Australia and Jamaica. Voice notes are fun too. They feel more personal than texting all of the time. We can hear each other and it’s lovely to wake up to, especially if connecting over time zones is a bit problematic. There’s a whole page of tips in the book for going long-distance with friends.”
On letting go of a toxic friendship
“You’ve got to think about what you want from a friendship. If you’ve decided that you no longer like a certain friend, or that they’re not good for you, then that’s a good reason to face up to that relationship ending. In general, a friend needs to be giving you as much as you’re giving them. If you think something can be fixed, sit down and talk about it but know what you want to get from the conversation. Instead of just stating, “I’m unhappy with this friendship”, think about what would make you happier. For example, “I’m not happy with how we are, but I think that if we called each other once a week I’d be much happier.”
“If you’ve decided that you really don’t want someone in your life anymore, it depends on the person as to how you handle it. In some cases it’s best to let the relationship fizzle out, for others maybe it’s not a good time and you’re struggling for XYZ reason, but as long as you’re honest, things will work out for the best. If the other person is very offended and you never speak again, perhaps it was meant to be. Or, perhaps you just need a bit of a break and you can rekindle and reconnect a year later. Sometimes that happens- you stop speaking so often because you’re at a certain stage of your life and you’re in different places, but you can revive it at a later time.
“There’s a friend that I lost touch with throughout uni. We never had a ‘break up’ conversation but things fizzled out. When we eventually came back together, it was better than ever. It very different if someone’s taking from you, to an extent to which it’s more than you can give and you’re not happy, it’s good to sit down and have a word. It’s scary, but if it were a romantic relationship, you’d have to do the same. If it’s draining positivity from your life, it’s not worth it.”
On friend-inspired beauty products
“My friend Hannah got me into MAC bronzer , £23.50. I literally copied her. I put it all over my face. I’m still a tiny bit obsessed with bronzer, but not as much as I was back then. I love The Body Shop bronzer , £14.50, as a more affordable alternative to MAC.
On eyebrows (not friendship related, but she does have incredible eyebrows)
“I have naturally bushy brows, and I’ve hated them my whole life until recently. Now they’re trendy and mainly I have my dad to thank for mine. I use Benefit Precisely My Brow Pencil , £18.45, and blink brow eyebrow gel in clear , £17, to keep them in place, otherwise they move during the day. I get them threaded at blink brow bar pretty regularly, and I never remove any hair from above my brows. I think it gives a more natural look- a friend’s beauty therapist mum told me that if you meticulously remove hair from the top and bottom your eyebrows can end up looking a bit ‘blocky’, and I’d agree.”
On being a night owl
“I actually find it frustrating- I wish I could wake up early and get all of my work done and then go to bed all zen and peaceful. All of my best ideas come to me in the evening, which is difficult because I’m trying to be more of a “normal” person by going to bed at around 10:30pm. I don’t actually do to sleep until midnight because I faff and read and look at my phone which I know you’re not supposed to do. When I’m asleep I sleep well though- seven hours a night-ish. I love the The Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray , £18, for getting me off to sleep in the first place. I go crazy on this pre-bed and my husband has been known to get very annoyed. We also recently got blackout blinds which helps. I still have trouble talking to anyone before midday though.”
On working out with friends
“In theory I’d exercise with friends rather than alone, but I’m not sure how effective that would be in the long-run. We’d mainly laugh. I’ve tried to do workouts with my sister before and we die laughing rather than actually exercising. I’ll stay solo to get the job done.
“I find working out a struggle in general, even though I played a lot of sport growing up. Tennis , football- I was really competitive. When I became an adult that dropped off, and I didn’t like working out by myself. I never really got into going to the gym, but now I have a personal trainer who comes to my house which solves the issue. We do HIIT training - burpees, star jumps, lots of skipping. I actually enjoy it now. Having someone there makes it more fun, the one-on-one attention clearly works for me. In the summer I play tennis with my dad. I would love to get back into playing more sport- it means you often don’t even realise you’re exercising. It becomes more about winning and being part of a team.”
On having friends round
“Last night I cooked up spaghetti, cherry tomatoes and prawns. That was delicious I have to say. A vegetable curry goes down well too. They’re my ‘go-to’ friend meals.
“I always have cherry tomatoes, ketchup and pickled cucumbers in the house. When people come round they often ask me if I’m pregnant based on the contents of my fridge. I just love pickles. We’re pretty bad when it comes to food shopping but there’s always pasta in the cupboard. My guilty pleasure is probably pasta with ketchup. I add parmesan to keep it classy. I bet you can’t wait to visit…”
The F-Word will be published on 8th March, from £9.99, pre-order here
Follow Lily on Instagram @lilypebbles and Anna @annyhunter