On Entering The Era of Fewer Better Friends
Like most children of the 90’s I grew up with vibrant, albeit turbulent, depictions of female friendships. With roots in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, the big city dreams of Sex and the City and the shameless girl power of the Spice Girls, by sixteen years old I firmly believed that adult female friendship consisted entirely of three things: love, fashion, a job that’s amazing (but still socially acceptable to complain about) and an impossibly large apartment.
All of which were supported by the widely accepted "fact" that female friendship of any kind was completely and inarguably indestructible.
Now well into my twenties and attempting at all costs to literally inch my way toward thirty, I'm still waiting on my hypothetical Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha to coax out my inner Ms. Bradshaw. I'm still waiting for my best friend and I to live in one city, our spouses to magically bud a best friendship of their own and our bosses to somehow coordinate our schedules so that we always have time to talk oh and attend regular happy hours...with full time jobs...and children (when and/or if they appear).
Bottom line: female friendship is hard. As much as I've loved it over the years, I've hated it with equal intensity at times. And as a result, my feelings—on what it should and shouldn't be, the demands we should and shouldn't have for one another—remain in perpetual flux.
Despite the unbreakable female bond "If You Wanna Be My Lover" so firmly cemented in all of our CD players and hearts, I've noticed that sisterhood, well, is actually quite fragile. The strong bonds are only strong because of the consistent maintenance they receive and the casual friend contenders are easy prey to busy schedules, significant others and distance. In fact, Adult Me feels like the lyrics should've gone a little more like "If you wanna be my frah-ennds, gotta get with my lover, oh and my career goals, and my crazy schedule, oh and my budget, cus' friendship is mad expensive when you ain't on meal plaannns!"
I know, it doesn't have the same ring to it.
Because the truth is, all of those things? Careers, break ups, bills, shitty bosses, grad school? They change people. They change all of us.
Little by little, year after year, the person I grew into started to grow apart from the people many of my old friends grew into. Until one morning I woke up in a sea of "I haven't talked to her in years.." and "I wonder what she's up to now..." and by far the scariest "Wait, oh my gosh, I can't believe this is happening, what's her name? You know? On the frisbee team, the one we used to..."
And sadly, there wasn't any rule book on this. There wasn't a show or chick lit series in the world to prepare me for the gradual decay of friendships. There were 10 year later specials that took out the messy bits and showed me the glamorous other side. But for this? It seemed like everyone just preferred to keep their hands clean.
The recent finale of Girls has come the closest that I’ve seen so far. In many ways, I almost wish the series had started with the final episode. Then at least it could've helped us all navigate the bad shit crazy waters of accepting that sacrificing everything for the sake any one friendship or any relationship for that matter is, at best, a gamble.
Because whoever you are, wherever you are, I'm willing to bet you've lost touch with someone. And not just anyone, but someone you'd envisioned in your bridal party, someone you'd talked about having kids alongside, someone you'd pegged on being there for just about every large event in your life.
But rather than pushing the "girl power, rah rah rah, as a woman, friendship is the most important thing you'll ever have" agenda. I'm here to say, it's kind of okay if re-kindling long lost friendships isn't on your 5 year plan right now. I'm learning that friendships, as we age, play different roles. Not all are suited to be these long drawn out sagas of ups and downs & through and throughs.
There are some friends that fare better at reunion meet ups rather than everyday grocery store walk’n’talks. There are friends who don’t care that your boss is a "petty snake" and others who’ll happily give up their Sunday morning to daydream telling him off in the next team huddle. Friends who will be there on your wedding day and friends who, frankly, won't give a damn if they are or aren't.
Part of becoming an adult, in my own right, has meant accepting a new era of friendship. An era where best friend actually means something. It’s a badge that’s earned through late night phone calls, long distance travel, and putting in the time to actually make it work—not just a public olive branch I extend to everyone in my remote vicinity for fear I might be carved out of the next must-attend social event.
It's also meant accepting that causal friendships are a pretty amazing concept too. They're fun, lighthearted, they introduce me to new things and require minimum upkeep. They've got room to grow and blossom into a deep long lasting friendship, but again, some never will.
And that's okay too.
I've let go of the pressure of counting my self worth by the number of friends I have and have focused on cherishing the few truly deep, special once in a lifetime friendships for what they truly are—just that. I've put in the work where I can and am learning to release when I need to. It isn't a perfect process by any means, but it's one I've given up perfecting.
It's the era of fewer, better friends.
The best I can do is strive to be better for the few people that have stuck around through the ups and downs, the late nights, the quit jobs, the delayed flights, the awkward spouse introductions, the forgotten phone dates and the missed birthday wishes.
So in short, my final friend tally won't make for an average bridal party count, there certainly aren't enough of them to make anyone remotely jealous on my social media feed. In fact, they can all be counted on one hand.
But each one of them is home to me in their own way and that far exceeds anything I could've ever hoped for. Although if we could all fit into the same pants and rotate them around the country on an pre-agreed upon schedule, that'd be pretty cool too.