I am just a few months over 40 and recently did some self reflection while stoned in my sister’s pool. I realized that in my 40 years, I have been blessed with a long list of friends whom I always referred to as my BFFs (best friends forever). There were ones from my childhood that I kept in touch with, my high school BFFs that were still in my day-to-day life, and my former bosses and colleagues that I had bonded so deeply with while working in shitty situations and remained close even after moving onto different jobs. And yet, during this self reflection, I realized that while I consider these folks my BFFs, they may not consider me to be theirs.
The epiphany came to me while I was floating on a raft under the 114 degree sun. I was investing too much in my own made up notion of what a best friend was or was not. I always felt that the folks that I labeled as my best friends were the ones that I could share every damn thing with, all of my secrets. Now that I am 40, I realize that I don’t have any secrets because I fucking share them with everyone. I am an open book. I have a personal story or anecdote to share in almost any situation, and so if I really believe in my definition of a best friend, every person I know is my best friend. And lol, that’s not true, but it also made me think about my history of BFFs.
I was four years old when I made my first best friend. We lived a few doors down from each other and we played together every day. She was a few years older, but we were young enough that it didn’t matter. When we moved about 30 miles away, I cried and flipped out because she was my best friend. My folks arranged a plan with her parents: my father would pick her up on his way home from work every other weekend and drop her off the following Monday morning. It was like a dang custody arrangement. I don’t remember how long this arrangement lasted, but eventually she entered her preteen years and I was maybe eight or nine and she and her friends bullied me so badly at a sleepover that I called my sister crying and begging for her to come get me. When she arrived, she yelled at them because they had locked me in the bathroom, grabbed me, and I never hung out with my “best friend” again.
The remainder of my childhood relationships were not as devastating. I had a great group of best friends from the very small, private school from elementary through junior high. And I mean really small – there were only 12 of us in our “graduating” 8th grade class. It was inevitable that we were all close. Two of my best friends were going to go to the same high school, and so obviously that meant we would be BFFs. Then when we got to the big, public high school, we almost immediately grew in different directions. I know that we tried to remain BFFs, but we sorta fell into different groups of friends and while we had our nostalgia and memories, it wasn’t the same. Then I made a whole new group of best friends.
The high school BFFs slowly became part of my family. We did a lot of drugs together and that shit bonds you when you are 16. We would get high and find the meaning of life together, or just laugh so hard we could not breathe. I remember one time my mom was angry with me for coming in after curfew and threatened to ground me and I started sobbing. I wanted her to understand that I was late because I was with my BEST FRIENDS and they were the ONLY HUMANS THAT UNDERSTOOD ME. I remember being so upset while trying so hard to make her understand that these friends were not like any others, and while I am sure my teenage hormones were igniting the passion, I still think that I will never feel those strong emotions again for a group of friends. My parents accepted these kids as their own and each of them always had a space in our house for them, even after I moved away.
My move out west started with a high school BFF that turned into more, and then I moved alone to California. I made a new group of best friends. Yes, one was someone that I was completely in love with, but the rest were coworkers, bosses, and neighbors. I remained close with the high school BFFs and would go back to visit often, or they would come stay with me in Los Angeles (LA). The LA and high school BFFs merged because of this – many parties and hangouts took place and all of my friends became close with each other.
When I was 31 and waiting for my health clearance to attend nursing school, I met a future classmate and jokingly told her she was going to be my BFF. Funnily enough, that is exactly what happened. A group of us studied together every day, and we depended on each other during each and every stressful breakdown, but the one that I met in the waiting room became my legit BFF. We spent every waking minute together and ended up moving in together. She literally held my hand through the night when I learned that my mother had died.
It was during nursing school that my priorities started to change. School forced me to stop partying, but after graduation I tried to get back into the drinking lifestyle. Between my unemployed new grad life on a BFF’s living room floor (who happened to be a bartender/sommelier), and the decision to move back to Michigan to be closer to my father (after two years of working as a nurse in LA), I did have some heavy drinking nights. And during those years, I made a new BFF via Twitter and we had a podcast (lol) which meant that sometimes we were drunk with various comedians from around the world while recording our genius selves. My body wasn’t used to it though, and it was much more difficult to recover. Then I discovered when I moved back to MI, that my high school BFFs were still very much capable of drinking every night, and that was their life.
Another thing that happened while I was living in Detroit was that I was becoming more socially aware, and really getting into politics. I was there during the long ass election cycle of 2016. It was before the primaries, but it was during the time that everyone was hating Hillary and it seemed like everyone in Michigan was loving Trump. I saw some gross sides of people that I thought I had known. Sure, this can be said by anyone during this time, but I was also dealing with a culture shock of coming from LA to Michigan.
Petty Alert Here are some of the biggest letdowns from people that I considered my BFF: she told me in high school that it was hard being my friend because I was fat; she tried to fuck the man that I was in love with, but while they made out, he asked her to stop; she threatened to smash my face in with a brick; he voted for a third party candidate in a state where it fucking mattered; he told me to “calm down” when I called out his racist remarks; they kept a big secret from me, but said it wasn’t intentional even though we talked every single day. Okay, this is too petty. BUT HERE IS THE THING: these people let me down because I gave them a title that they did not request, and in my head they were not fulfilling the requirements for a role that they did not accept. I am not sad or bitter. I am not angry. Instead I feel free. I don’t have to worry about letting these people down, feeling like I am an awful best friend when my depression kicks in and I hide. Instead I get to focus on ways to show them that they are my friends.
A few weeks ago I talked to one of the BFFs from elementary school. We realized that we had not seen each other, or talked, in over 20 years. It was one of the best conversations that I have had in a long time. And maybe it is a part of being 40, or maybe it is the fact that we have known each other for so long, but it really felt like we never spent a day apart. And the best thing is, we still have the same values and beliefs. There is a theory that if a friendship lasts longer than seven years, it is forever. I think it is due time I make some FRIENDS FOREVER necklaces.
I recently saw the nursing school BFF and asked her to be my maid of honor, or whatever the term will be for whatever our wedding ceremony is, and that is when I realized that my one and only best friend (please don’t barf) is my partner. I figure even if he doesn’t consider me to be his best friend, eventually we will have a legal piece of paper that basically says, “BFF until death do us part.”