It’s important to teach our daughters how to navigate healthy friendships.
I’ve searched, my whole life, for my best friend. Now, as I witness my daughter transitioning into a new school, and embracing her latest social circle, I can see that she is in search of the same thing:
THE best friend. The when-you-think-of-me-you-see-her friend.
Monica & Rachel. Thelma & Louis. In my daughter’s case, T. Swift & Selena.
The friend that is your everything. The friend who makes you laugh, and takes over for you when you’re having a shitty day. She cheers you on. She comes to your house with wine and picks nits out of your kid’s tangled hair. She guards all of your secrets (and you, hers). You share clothes, you parent each other’s children, you’re incomplete without her there. That one special person.
As a child, I had many friends. I went to scores of sleepovers and parties. I never sat alone at lunch. I was never left wondering where everyone was on a Saturday night (unless, of course, I was grounded). Yet it felt as though I’d missed the day when everyone paired off. I had friends–but not one BEST friend.
My search continued into adulthood. I still felt lonely and incomplete, even while surrounded by so many friends. My notion of one perfect best friend, tailor-made for me, led to disappointment. Over the years there were a few friends I would have given my soul to in order to secure that title to her, too. I’d think, I’ve found her! I’d be crushed when reality set in–that nobody had yet given their entire self to me. (Imagine the mountain my husband had to climb!)
I’d invented a perfect (impossible) vision of my one best friend, an angel on high who would fulfill the role of everything I ever wished in another human and the title before her name would say it all: BEST.
She had to be THE BEST.
How’s that for an impossible standard?
Over the years I had collected this valuable collection of friends–good, dependable, fun, creative, funny, smart, fantastic, wild, beautiful, talented friends. It took me a lifetime to truly see the gift I’ve been given. They collectively possess all of the qualities I was searching for in the one best friend– I don’t just get one, I get many! THEY are my best friends.
A gaggle. A gang! I have a band of besties!
They are my best friends for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes they mix and mingle.
Sometimes they don’t even know or like each other.
Sometimes they friend each other (because they deserve multiple best friends too).
Sometimes we grow apart for a bit because life happens. We’ll loop back around.
I credit my husband for shifting my vision of how best friends should work. He saw all the beautiful people in my life, already giving me everything I need– it just couldn’t all come from one place each time. He helped me see what, in retrospect, was so obvious.
Now, I no longer hold people to an impossible, shifting standard (or at least, I try). I am surrounded by beautiful, kind, smart, funny, wild, creative, dependable people. I am blessed with best friends. Plural!
Now, as new people come into my life, it takes no time at all to notice the qualities in people who can be another best–the more the merrier. New friendships seem to bud with more ease, as they are relieved of the pressure from the start. I recently found another ‘best’ in a friend I’ve never actually met! She gives me something that those physically close to me can’t, and that’s ‘the best!’
Not needing or expecting my friends to be everything to me has lifted the weight of the world–from their shoulders and mine. They each provide me with something that fills me up and makes me feel whole. And like most things that are strong and good…it takes a village to achieve. I’ve got quite the village!
I still wish, sometimes, that there was one magical person filling every attribute of what I would look for in a very best friend. But by any measure of reality, she (or he) likely doesn’t exist. Realizing and accepting this has helped the relationships I have with my (best) friends to bloom, like a beautiful garden.
As my daughter searches for her (one) ‘best,’ I’ll guide her to seek a “garden” variety– an endlessly blooming band of besties.
And hopefully, I’ll continue to be one of them.