How The Spice Girls Rift Reveals An Essential Truth About Friendship

As Mel B and Geri's row throws the Spice Girls' comeback into turmoil, Radhika Sanghani says there's a lesson here for us all

Geri Horner Mel B

by Radhika Sanghani |

When the Spice Girls announced their comeback tour last year, it was the news that my entire generation had been waiting for. After spending our teen years modelling ourselves on the group, they were back to remind us about girl power, being true to yourself, and having friendships so strong that any wannabe lover has to ‘get with my friends’.

But, in the same way that their fans’ lives – and friendships – have changed over the last 25 years, so too have those of the Spice Girls. Victoria Beckham has opted out of the comeback, while Mel B and Geri Horner, who were once the two closest friends in the band, are now in a fight so intense they can barely be in the same room together. The problems began, of course, when Mel B announced on television that she’d once had a sexual experience with Geri, saying ‘she’s going to hate me for this because she’s all posh in her country house with her husband’. Geri was furious, and publicly denied her bandmate’s story as ‘simply not true’. In response, Mel B has reportedly said that ‘it’s almost as if [Geri] is trying to erase our history’.

The public fight is just as dramatic as we’d expect from Scary and Ginger, but underneath the headlines, it looks like there is a much deeper issue at play: the two old friends have grown apart – and Mel B at least is struggling with the idea that Geri’s trying to distance herself from her past. It’s something most of us can relate to. When my closest childhood friend became engaged, things started to change. She stopped wanting to go for late-night drinks and dance till 3am; she wanted to have early dinners instead. I felt like she disapproved of my freelance creative life, travelling round the world, and if I ever brought up any of our wilder university anecdotes around her fiancé, she sat in silence.

To me, it seemed as if she’d become a completely different person, and I was hurt. I wanted my old friend back. In the same way, Mel B seems to be fighting against the fact that Geri is no longer the boundary- pushing 20-something she once was. Instead, Ginger Spice is now a 46-year-old mother, married to F1 mogul Christian Horner, and living in the countryside. To Mel B, her account of their experiences together might not have been ‘a big deal in this day and age’, as she put it – but for Geri, it clearly was: she’s said it has ‘been very hurtful to her family’. Mel B’s right – a sexually fluid experience is nothing to be ashamed of. But at the same time, she crossed a line in saying what she did without Geri’s permission.

It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn myself. When I wrote my debut novel Virgin, a comedy about a student trying to lose her virginity, I used a number of my friends’ embarrassing anecdotes about their first sexual experiences. I didn’t think to ask permission because I’d made them all anonymous. But several of them later admitted to me how much it had hurt them – including the best friend I was growing apart from.

I immediately apologised and realised I was going to have to start seeing things from her perspective. So even though I didn’t necessarily like my best friend’s new life or the choices she’d made, I knew that if I wanted to save our friendship, I’d have to accept the new her. After some time apart, and some very honest conversations, we slowly began to carve out a new friendship for ourselves. Today, we don’t spend as much time together as we used to, but we do always show up for each other’s birthdays. And, even though she can’t understand why I’m going o to do a yoga teacher training course in India and I’m unclear why she’s so keen to settle down, we’ve learned to respect each other’s choices. While I’d no longer call her my best friend, she will always be my oldest.

To me, that’s important. Our bonds with the people we’ve known the longest are special, but – as the Spice Girls know to their peril – they’re also complicated. It was never going to be easy for five strong personalities to stay close over the last 25 years, but if Mel B and Geri want to save their friendship, then they both need to make an effort to understand and appreciate each other as the people they are today – not as they used to be. It isn’t about erasing history as Mel B fears, but about accepting their differences and – as Geri says she’s excited to do on their tour – ‘creating new memories’. No, it won’t be easy, but it is essential. Otherwise, contrary to the Spice Girls’ own lyrics, friendship really will end.

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