As the presenter navigates midlife, she talks to Yolanthe Fawehinmi about why female friendships are a safe space for her.
On a night out, TV presenter Davina McCall has such a good time in the chaos of the women’s toilet, that on some occasions, she even forgets to use it.
“When I go out, if I go to the loo and it’s a ladies’ loo, I have the best time ever. It’s epic,” she says.
“Everyone is showing their underwear, speaking about their boyfriends, somebody’s chundering and we’re all holding ponytails. Everybody’s helping each other. I f*****g love that. I’m sure men don’t get that experience in their toilets – there’s a sisterhood that cannot be denied.”
McCall – who co-authored the book Menopausing with Dr Naomi Potter – suggests this camaraderie stems from everything women go through in life: “Periods, fibroids, PCOS — that’s polycystic ovaries — endometriosis, all the problems that come with bleeding, fertility, IVF, pregnancy, menopause and post-menopause. It’s a lot. Thank God we’ve got each other. There’s support.”
The 55-year-old, who lives in Kent, believes you either have one best friend and a lot of great friends, or you have a very tight group of six or seven friends that you see all the time. McCall falls into the first camp and her best friend is Sarah, who she met when she was 19.
“We have known each other forever,” she says. “We met at a party and I thought she was hilarious and we stayed in touch.
“[Sarah] has been pivotal in every big occasion in my life and has supported me. We’ve argued sometimes, but arguing with her feels so safe. I know we will always be friends. We’ll talk about it, then come back and go, ‘Should we just forget about that?’ That’s such a comfortable place to be with someone, isn’t it?”
But what about conflicts that can’t be resolved, or when friends naturally grow apart – what happens then?
“That’s such an interesting question, because this is sometimes why relationships split up. Friendships breaking up are so painful. If you ‘divorce’ a best friend, it’s a terrible loss because they are probably the only person you could be 100% honest with,” McCall says.
“My best friend and I are very different people, but our values are aligned. Values are really important. If you change your core values, it’s a bit difficult, but then I think you would grow apart and not speak to each other as much. So you don’t have to ‘divorce’ your friend. But I do think it would be sad to lose a best friend you’ve had for years and years.”
McCall was once close to Australian singer Kylie Minogue – appearing in her 1991 music video for Word Is Out – and says she misses their friendship.
“We both just drifted apart,” McCall admits. “Nothing happened between us. I was a numpty and still using back then. I was just a flibbertigibbet. When I think back, she was working so hard, but we had a brilliant time together. I really, really, really loved Kylie, and sort of miss her a bit.
“I’ve messaged her a couple of times [on Instagram] but she doesn’t follow me back, so she is never going to see it. I’ve got the utmost respect for Kylie because she is absolutely smashing it in midlife, showing us all that it’s going to be OK – she just keeps being reborn. She’s so flipping cool. Like a goddess. Kylie is amazing.”
McCall has partnered with hotel brand TUI Blue, which has revealed in a new study the importance of friendship in midlife. According to 37% of the adults between the ages of 40 and 65 surveyed, their best friend knows them better than their partner, while 63% claimed their friendship group has helped them through the most difficult times. When asked, 75% admitted their friendships have a positive impact on their mental wellbeing, yet 45% of them have never gone on holiday with their friends.
McCall says it’s important to invest in your friendships at this stage in life, “Especially the ones with your girlfriends”.
“I think women keep us sane, and our really good girlfriends can be honest with us in a way that no one else can,” McCall suggests. “It’s easy for people to say they love you, you’re great or you’re so much fun – but you don’t need people to blow smoke up your arse. When you need some home truths or [you’re] at your weakest, it’s your girlfriends you really need to keep you grounded. When other people would just walk away, they are there to pick you up and carry you.”
McCall suggests having children and going through menopause changed her in an enormous way. She says she was anxious about being a good mum and asked a lot of friends for advice.
And she loved the fact that when she was going through menopause she could talk to her female friends about “the most unbelievably graphic and personal experience without any kind of embarrassment”, she says. “I think women have become very good at talking about menopause, it’s why it’s also important to go online and talk about every aspect of it.”
It’s obvious the former Big Brother presenter’s schedule is busy and priorities have changed, including the type of holidays she chooses to go on. McCall prefers to go on holiday with another family now — something she is doing this summer with her best friend.
“What’s brilliant is our partners both really like each other, so we get on like a house on fire. Our kids have grown up together too and love each other. So that’s amazing.”
McCall is highlighting the importance of friendships at midlife with TUI BLUE on their Friends Reconnected campaign and was a guest at the TUI BLUE Aeneas Resort in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. Head to tui-blue.com to find perfect personalised holidays to connect with loved ones.