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In Defense of Best Friends

4 years ago
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At dinner the other night, when I brought up the New York Times story on educators and other "experts" trying to protect kids from the horrors of having a best friend, my 14-year-old daughter was all over it. "We read that story at breakfast this morning'' at the classmate's house where she'd spent the night at a slumber party, "and we all said that was a stupid story. Every girl needs a biffle'' – a best friend for life, which I am apprised is the preferred term – "someone you can tell anything, someone who, when you call, you know they'll pick up the phone." The story wasn't stupid, her father corrected her, and that was the end of that discussion; bye, honey.

I am also on the BFF bandwagon, and cannot imagine my life without the grace of girlfriends plus – "heart friends" in the phrase favored by my bestie Mary Monnat, the first person I met our freshman year at Notre Dame, and the one who held my hand and made me laugh as they wheeled me in for my mastectomy. (OK, the drugs might also have had something to do with that.) When I saw Mary a couple of weeks ago at our college reunion, I was reminded that 30 years on, a stroll with her is still the emotional equivalent of about 1,000 hours of yoga. There are half a dozen other women I consider sisters – some of whom I might seem to have little in common with, because friendships on that level are as mysterious and spiritual as any romantic connection, and yes, often a lot more durable.

My problem with our Politics Daily colleague Delia Lloyd's argument against best friends for girls is in her definition of terms; anyone who would undermine and hurt you is not your friend at all, let alone the lead dog. (Dog? Woof! Not for the b-word allusion but for the loyalty, the "I am with you all the way home, wagging my tail and growling at any who would threaten you.")

Have I known women who would just as soon cut you as look at you? Who would shiv you in the office and then smile and ask you to lunch? Sure, but they weren't friends, or even friendable; that sort of person is not heart-friend material.

So much in modern life is disposable, transactional, forgettable and then forgotten, but not how Pam TenBarge made me feel less dorky in seventh grade, even when I totally was, or how Kim Harris made everything plus amusant in high school French and ever since, how Lori Bernat and I talked relationships every Friday night when we were single girls in New York, or the Christmas my fellow cub newsie Anne Noble helped me make cop calls ("Anything doin' in Balch Springs?"), or the summer Rose Sterr and I biked around the lake every morning when it was barely light ...

It's good to have lots of friends, of course, but what's a more important or life-giving life skill than the capacity for true intimacy? (Maybe I'm extra suspicious of this new friendship ban because it reminds me of the ixnay on "particular friendships" they used to impose in convents, where the real worry was that friends might fall in love, women being natural temptresses and all.)

With all that schools have to contend with -- drugs and guns and drop-outs -- administrators are going after...kids who really like each other? I'm trying to imagine the important committee meeting at which some misanthrope or other made the case that no good could come of warm personal ties, but I really can't. ("No progress on the gang front, but what say we crack down the besties? They're the worstie!")

My favorite response to the New York Times piece was one of the comments it elicited, pointed out by our PD colleague Donna Trussell: "Let me see . . . I am a teenage girl who lives in the 21st century hook-up culture where few of my girlfriends have steady boyfriends and instead have casual sex. I deal with the expectations of boys who get most their ideas about what is 'normal' intimacy from the hardcore porn they watch. I am a teenage girl of divorced parents whom I move back and forth between every month. I am a teenage girl who is bullied by most the kids I go to school with. My best friend is one of the only people I can talk to and I am not giving her up."

That is one grammatical teenager! But even if the writer is a 44-year-old guy, anybody who would tell a girl otherwise is not her friend.


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32 Comments

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MOMMER01

My best friend and I have been best friends since we were nine years old. We are now both 55. We live within 3 miles of each other and talk almost every day. We see each other at least once a week. Even though we are both busy with our own lives we are always there for each other no matter what. She and I have both seen each other through divorces. She was there for me when my parents died. We love each other as sisters. Her grandchildren are my grandchildren as well as mine are hers. We got really lucky and our husband like each other too. They are both understanding and know that we are big parts of each others lives. We know everything about on another good and bad. I don't know what I would do without her in my life. If you are lucky enough to have a friend like mine you are truly blessed.

June 23 2010 at 3:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave Schimpf

Best friends you can count on one hand, possibly one finger. Acquaintances come and go, mostly go. Fair weather friends are not friends at all, they're someone you know who doesn't really want to know you when they're needed. One "best friend" is always in danger of being taken for granted or clung onto...perils of the territory. Two "best friends" can work if they're team players but two against one is one of the unfortunate outcomes in that situation. Best to know yourself, and use (sparingly) influence of others.

June 23 2010 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
aeimichelle

At 39 years old, I love my "besties", some of which are just really good friends, and a couple that I truly consider to be soul sisters. Life for me has been challenging to say the least over the last few years, this last year being the worst. I can not imagine having gone through the last year without these ladies. I love them, unconditioanly, and I am thankful every day for their presence in my life. I would be misserable without them. It is true that friends come and go...but some come back again, after life slows down a bit, the ones that you will go for years without seeing, and then, one day, you run into each other and you pick up right were you left off. I am fortunate to have this type of friendship, and I feel bad for those who don't.

June 23 2010 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cindy

IMHO, I really do think that lot's of those who believe in the concept of "no BFF" didn't have any as children, teens, young adults, don't have any now, nor will EVER have any. Why, you may ask? Oh, many reasons, I'm sure. No personality, no manners, cold, hard hearts, selfishness, ect. Feel quite sorry for em, yes I do, if that's the case. Or, it could be that those folk are toooo worried that something tramatic will happen, will take place, like one of them stealing the others fellow, one of them revealing a personal and private secret of the other, or something of that type and nature,and both will end up tramatized and hurt. Ah, it very well could happen, but it could also happen that one of them could develop cancer, could be in a bus, train or plane accident, be devoured by a wild beast, ect. Unless one is Nostradomus, they shouldn't try, shouldn't attempt, to predict the future of anybody. Life comes as it comes, does what it does, with fate in there to always lend a hand. In other words, folks have to work out their own lives within those perimiters, yes they do, or live in a cave deep in the woods, far,far away from all who'd mess with them. Since I'm not advocating hermitry, we all must learn to take life as it is, and deal with it on it's own terms, like normal, intellegent and sane ones do. K?

June 23 2010 at 11:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michele

My Husband and I had some friends when we were working and making money. We used to have barbecues with a band playing, and go out to eat and usually picked up the tab.
We had beach partys, etc.. Now that we are retired and on social security,and have very little money, we haven't heard from those friens for years. None of them have ever invited us anywhere, or even visited us.So I guess they were just 'fair weather friends'.

June 23 2010 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wozney33

I'd hate to imagine a world without best friends, and the supporting cast around them. The true success of our society depends on the "sister hood". I love men and have a wonderful husband, but the support me and my girlfriends give each other can empower us to survive and succeed.

June 23 2010 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joy

Happiness is healthy, best friends make you happy. I didn't have a best friend growing up, and I was and still am extremely jealous of everyone who did. Jealousy is unhealthy, not having a best friend can make you, not only jealous, but also feel lonely and depressed (also unhealthy). So not having a best friend is more unhealthy than having one.

June 23 2010 at 10:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
clintrk2

friends are the people you go to school or work with but do not see outside of that best friends are the ones you hang with whenever you both can for the rest of your life. I have one best friend whom we have been hanging out with for tweny ifve years when we get the chance which is not often as we live four hundred miles away from each other and each have familys to keep us busy but we still call and such and know that we will be there for each other when needed. if you do not have that you have nobody.

June 23 2010 at 10:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nartinalemaliki

Okay...so I really don't know why I'm commenting on this, but it seemed prudent as this topic actually sparked my interest.

For starters, I completely agree. I read the other posting, and it is interesting, to say the least. Unfortunately, as she'd stated, her besties weren't besties after all, as a relationship with a best friend is not, in any way shape or form, a contest. If you are best friends with someone, you will not try to "one up" them, rather, you will be happy for their achievements.

It is sad to think that the image children will have of themselves in the future is steadily growing worse. As if all of the commercials saying, "you aren't pretty unless you look like a Walking Stick," aren't enough, now kids have to worry about whether or not the fact they have a best friend is a bad thing. Every child needs one person to talk to, one person who understands them the best, one person they would share their innermost secrets with-that is a best friend; someone you can trust to keep your secrets, no matter the circumstances.

So now that I have spent all of this time ranting, let me state that I found your post something of a relief. I have many friends, all who have their own lives, and yet, do not take the time to really contact me-of course, it doesn't harm me not to contact them-save for one. We met in high school and have been BFF's ever since. I couldn't imagine my life without her, and I know that I would be a completely different person if she was not around. Besties are the Bee's Knees!

June 23 2010 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
truckmancarr

My best friend(my wife) passed away over a year ago. The closest thing I have to best friends are my adult children, but it's not quite the same. I have thrown myself into work just to maintain my sanity and it works most of the time. I hate days off and holidays. We were married for 29 years and I definitely don't need a realationship. I don't need you to feel sorry for me, this is just a different perspective on life, I guess.

June 23 2010 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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