What the F is up with friendship in 2019?

Photo: HBO

When I originally wrote this, I wrote too much.

I went on and on about friends past and present who have hurt me in various ways. It was so cathartic to finally put it all into words and out of my head. But there was a reason why I didn’t hit “publish” and am now starting from scratch. The reality is, talking about how I’ve been hurt isn’t going to help myself or anyone else reading this.

I’m choosing to take a different angle. I’m choosing to take a hard look at how we’ve always defined friendships and coming to my own conclusions.

Pop culture will tell us that we meet our best friends in childhood and they stay with us forever. Or, we meet three other fabulous women somewhere in our twenties and we all have time to meet for weekly brunches and are super involved in one another’s lives. I’m looking at you Sex and the City.

Best friends forever?

The fact that we have the acronym “bff” or best friends forever shows us that society wants us to believe that such permanence exists in friendships.

But can we really say that what worked for us as children also applies in adulthood?

When we’re young, friendships are mostly superficial. Maybe we bond over a Britney Spears album or find comfort in taking the bus to school together. Whatever it may be, friendships are the equivalent of young puppy love. We obsess over spending time together and having things in common because that’s what’s relevant. We don’t need to get all philosophical or existential because no aspect of your life at the time will require it. And it works because when we’re young, we’re experts at living in the present.

Then high school comes along and shakes things up a bit. Some of our friends move away, some of them go to different schools, and we’re maybe beginning to feel like going against the pack. Or in my case, I was a lone wolf looking for a pack to join. And I did. We bonded over boy bands, tv shows, and celebrity gossip. But then an inevitable shift happens when you start spending less time with friends and a little more time with a boyfriend or girlfriend. What seemed solid on the outside starts to break away. And sometimes, we find our way back and sometimes we don’t.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned about high school. This is when we’re experts at being mean to one other. We ice each other out, we make snarky comments at people we once considered friends, and all we really care about for the most part is, fitting in. And there are casualties along the way. Many, many casualties. But we don’t think about that because that might require us to hold ourselves accountable for someone else’s experience. And at the moment, we’re still trying to wrap our minds around our own. They don’t call it teen angst for nothing.

Then college comes along and maybe we have to find our pack again. Or at least, I had to. I wasn’t comfortable navigating the next four years of my life without companionship and support. I’m human and shared experiences give life meaning. Or something along those lines…

We take classes together, vent about professors over lunch, and maybe even study abroad together. Then we graduate. The next step is one that we each have to take on our own. I mean, what are the odds that what we want to do, our friends also want to do, and at the same place? Very slim odds. We probably have a better shot at winning the lottery. Maybe. But the point is, we lose the one place where we can always find our friends.

Doing the friendship math

We now have to figure out how, when, and where we will be able to see our friends. Friendships can’t exist solely through text messages, no matter how hard the tech world tries. And this gets even more complicated when we add a full time job, trying to do well financially, a relationship, family, hobbies, time to yourself, and all the other things that make life, life.

We now have to take stock of everyone around us and do the math.

At least, that’s what I’ve been doing this year.

The main question I’ve asked myself this year is: what’s a best friend and do I have one?

So after much contemplating and confusion, I decided to take my questions to the people.

Do you have a best friend?

The question I’ve been dying to ask everyone is: do you have a best friend?

This was important to me because I honestly didn’t feel like I did. At least, not in the way that is defined by tv shows and movies.

As it turns out 19% of people responded that they don’t have a “best” friend. Most people shared that they have close friends and felt like they couldn’t relate to society’s portrayal of an all encompassing best friend relationship. And that’s when I had my own a-ha moment. I finally felt a wash of relief that I wasn’t the only one to feel disconnected from this idea that we’re all supposed to have best friends. What is this idea of “best” anyway? And what purpose does it really serve?

What is your definition of a best friend? Is this even a thing?

So then I wanted to know, what’s a best friend anyway?

Here are all the wonderful responses I received:

Everyone seems to agree that a best friend is someone you can trust, count on, and be vulnerable with. Morgan DM’d me and brilliantly said, “it’s about how much you’re willing to let yourself really be seen by the other person that determines where your relationship goes.” I love that because letting your guard down or being vulnerable is truly the only way to move past the superficial beginnings of a friendship and into genuine connection.

Have you ever had to end a friendship with a best friend?

Finally, I wanted to put it to the test. Are best friends really forever?

Initially, I was surprised that 65% of people who responded said they have ended a friendship with a best friend before.  But now, it all makes sense.

Like I said before, what worked for us in our childhood friendships are not going to cut it in our adult friendships. Growth happens, life happens, and our sense of self becomes stronger. These become the things that strengthen friendships or reveal the weak bonds that went unnoticed in the first place.

We grow and move forward. And sometimes we grow and move forward in different directions. And that’s okay.

Final thoughts

I’ve spent so much time lamenting over the fact that I’m approaching 28 without a true best friend. But I’ve come to shift my perspective since contemplating and writing about this. I realized that the label of “best” does not make sense. It was just making me sad that I didn’t have that picture perfect friendship.

It’s not about ranking friends at all. It’s about knowing what I need in a friendship and not settling for anything that doesn’t feel good. It’s about feeling connected to the people in my life who see me for who I am. It’s something as small as sending an occasional text to check in or as big as talking about what’s been hard or what’s ahead that’s scary. I don’t want fluff. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. Now I’m ready for friendship with a capital F.

Photo: HBO

Do you have best friends or close friends? Is there a difference? Have your thoughts about friendship changed over time?

Thank you for stopping by.

See you in my next post!

Sophie 🙂