I don’t want to say I was super popular in high school, but … I was super popular in high school. Of course, it’s easy to have a lot of friends when one doesn’t really care if they’re the type of people who will trick her into dining and dashing (they told me to wait in the car and, after putting my money down, I naively did just that) or offer her a ride home and then run every red light all the way across town with a detour to do donuts on the Polo Fields at Golden Gate Park.
And even though I knew some of my friends exhibited behavior that was both dangerous and wrong, my friends were my life, so there was no way I was speaking up. Like most teenagers, I had a major case of FOMO even before FOMO got its own acronym.
Needless to say, as I got older, I became slightly more discerning about the people with whom I associated. Once sitting at home having a threesome with my couch and my DVR became more appealing than going out to the bars, I realized how many people in my life weren’t even actually my real friends. In fact, I could now count the people I considered my best friends on one hand. With fingers left over.
How do I decide who’s a best friend and who isn’t? Well, it’s pretty lame, but I figure out if I’d ask her to be a bridesmaid if I were getting married and into things like bridesmaids. Right now there are three, maybe four, women in my life who’d get an invite. (And don’t worry, I totally wouldn’t make them throw me a shower for or wear matching dresses to my fictional wedding. I’m a totally low-maintenance pretend bride.)
The Daily Mail recently wrote an article about this and they classified a “true friend” as “those you'd turn to in an emergency, friends you can talk to about anything and those that support and love you regardless of the situation.”
That last part is huge for me. And is one of the reason I don’t have a gaggle of girls to go out with on Friday nights. Well that and the fact that everyone I know is suddenly married and married people are amazing at excluding single gals. Truthfully though, It’s not just married people. The older we all get, the less we are willing to make time for people outside of our inner circles. I truthfully think that’s incredibly fair as time is really the most valuable currency we have. That and our energy. And real friendships require a significant amount of both.
I recently had a friend I thought was in my innermost circle cancel a weekend trip with me because she felt it was too much time to spend together and she’d rather just get dinner. She also added that I had a lot of drama in my life and that wasn’t something she “ever” wanted in hers. I appreciated her honesty -- I would never want a friend to do something she didn’t want -- but I also realized I’d naively thought we were closer than we were. A best friend doesn’t judge or blame; she supports you through all of the craziness. And while I was sad, I was also glad she’d told me the truth because it was somewhat freeing. And because friendship should never feel like a burden for either party.
That being said, truthfully, sometimes having only a few close friends is hard. For starters, only one of mine lives in the same city I do (San Francisco) and she travels constantly for her job. She’s my oldest friend -- we met in fourth grade when we were assigned to sit together -- and despite the fact that she told her mom I was “skinny and weird-looking,” she suffered through my awkwardness (because her mom promised her I’d eventually be pretty) and decades later, I don’t know what I’d do without her in my life. She’s the friend who will drive across the city to bring me food if I’m sick and makes sure I never spend Christmas or my birthday alone.
I always thought it was rare for a woman in her thirties to have a best friend she met in elementary school, but according to the Daily Mail’s survey, 74 percent of women had “a true friend they’d grown up with.” And while I can’t imagine anything ever getting between me and my oldest friend, she’s not always around, which can lead to some lonely weekends.
I know I could easily solve the problem of not having anyone to hang out with by putting myself out there more or being open to finding more close friends, but I’ve found both of those to be very difficult. For one, most women my age aren’t looking for new friends. In addition, I think it would be very hard to find a new person who would be supportive of me or who I’d trust to be that exposed around. That kind of closeness takes time and effort and life and I can’t see a situation in which I’d be able to cultivate a friendship like that. The last time I was able to was in graduate school, which was a very small community in which we all had something in common and were almost forced to hang out until we fell in love with each other.
Mostly though, friendship is a two-way street and I’m not sure that I have it in me to be that kind of friend -- the one who will drop everything in an emergency and be there no matter what -- to more than a few people. And if that means I’m lonely a lot of the time, then I guess that’s just how it has to be. I’d rather be lonely and in my PJs watching “The Real Housewives” than taking someone I don’t truly adore to the ER in the middle of the night.
I guess that is the real testament of a friendship. Sure, I have almost 800 people on Facebook who consider me a “friend,” many of whom I am so glad are in my life in whatever capacity they can be, but it’s those few women who I know I can be my complete self -- inappropriate, vulnerable, honest, uncensored, and real -- around -- and who feel they can be the same way with me... it’s those women who define friendship for me. They're the women that I’d drive 200 miles with a minute’s notice to deliver chicken noodle soup to if they weren’t feeling well without a moment of resentment or annoyance.
Just as long as they didn’t expect me to make the soup from scratch. Which no one who calls me a best friend ever would. Which is just one more reason why I love the ones I have so much.
How many best friends do you have? And how do you define a "true" friendship? Tell me everything about your BFFs in the comments.