Groups of three get a bad rep. When a third party enters a romantic relationship, it’s usually doomed (unless you're in a throuple, or polyamorous, of course). When there are three siblings, the middle one often feels forgotten. When three friends hang out, it's common for one to drift away eventually. But for Imy, Jess and I, three isn’t a crowd - it’s a magic number.
We met at university, where we all studied English. Imy and I were in the same seminar group in first year. She came to our first meeting wearing a hoodie, a parka, and lashings of liquid eyeliner - and looked utterly furious the entire time. In truth, I was intimidated, but I’ve since learned that she was intimidated by me, too. I had a habit of running out of seminars to take calls about journalism internships, which I worried made me look like a bit of a dick, but she found it impressive. We bonded over shared stories about our families, similar backgrounds, and a mutual love of brie.
Then, at the beginning of our final year, Imy met Jess in another seminar group. “You look identical from behind,” Imy told me, as if to foster a connection between her new friend and I over our similar-length blonde hair. I was curious (and a little bit envious) about my friend’s new pal, but when we met, it didn’t take me long to understand why Imy liked her so much – Jess was ace.
It sounds cheesy to say we’ve been inseparable since, but it’s true. We handed in our dissertations together, met each other’s families at graduation, and our tripod was firmly cemented when Imy and I joined Jess on her post-university gap year for a fortnight in Zanzibar. We turned up and the accommodation Jess had arranged involved sleeping on the floor of a local fisherman’s house. I was - at best - uneasy, but it cost 10p per night and he turned out to be just as good at cooking fish as he was catching it. For two weeks we got outrageous sunburn, ate barbecued snapper and coconut sambal, drank cheap cocktails, and snuck into a hotel down the road whenever we fancied a dip in their pool. It was a powerful a bonding experience. Now, we go on holiday together every couple of years.
Trios often fall apart: over time, one person might find themselves ostracised from the group when the other two bond more deeply. And if you're the person who introduced two people who go on to prefer hanging out with each other, it can be incredibly painful. Why does our trio work? To my mind, it’s because we’re equal thirds of a whole - there’s no one linchpin who holds the group together, no leader. We love each other equally and there's no dynamic making anyone slightly better friends with one than another. Plus, for every insinuation that threes are a bad idea (nobody wants to be a third wheel, amirite), I find evidence to the contrary. Rows of three on planes are ideal for us (on one flight to Istanbul, the cabin crew ended up just giving us their bottle of gin, so fed up were they of pouring out tiny measures every ten minutes), as are threes in the back of a car. And when one of us is busy, there’s always another there to pick up the phone.
There are times when one of us goes off the boil - we’ll move houses, get engaged, become immersed in family dramas - and the other two see each other more. Imy and Jess bonded when they planned my hen do, while I was kept in the dark completely. If I’m honest, their secrecy left me feeling isolated from our triangle for the first time, and it drove me a bit bonkers, but the epic hen they threw for me (which involved a breakfast-time naked butler with a Mohican) more than made up for it.
Besides, we always come back to each other. The three of us have so much shared history. Imy and I were there when Jess knocked her front tooth out the day before she started her first job. Jess and I painted the walls of Imy’s first flat, but got so drunk we had to stop halfway through. And Imy and Jess held me when I cried after a relative decided to prod for information after I received some bad medical news. While we’re rubbish at ad-hoc mid-week drinks, we’re good at spending quality time together. One summer, we walked the entire 14km Regents Canal in a day, and after hours of restorative conversation, I think we all felt we could take on the world (the next day, after a lie down and a G&T).
I have other friends who think our group of three borders on suspicious because it balances so well (“I really don’t think this triangle is going to last, you know”, said one). I can understand why they feel that way; after all, surely when two of us are together, we bitch about the other? Erm, no. You might even have been in your own 'three's a crowd' situation, but I promise you this: it’s not about how many friends maketh the perfect group, but the people themselves. I’ve been in enough twosomes and bigger friendship groups – all with their own flaws - to know that.
While I was writing this piece, I searched our group WhatsApp for the word ‘love’. There were 662 mentions. I love these girls and if something were to happen to any corner of our tripod, I'd be lost. They walked down the aisle ahead of me when I got married two summers ago, and this year, I’ll get to do the same – for both of them. And while I won't thank them for asking me to organise a hen do for each of them in the space of a single year, I can't wait to return the favour. Let it be known: our crowd of three works just fine for me.
Every day this week, to celebrate International Women's Day, we're sharing another story of the power of female friendship. See below for more.
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