There is a running joke in my family that dates back to 1987. At my brother’s seventh birthday party, I asked the room full of his friends, “Who’s my best friend?” That family of mine hasn’t relented in giving me a hard time about that.
So who is my best friend? Can there be just one? Is my oldest friend my best friend? The sweetest one? The newest one? Is there such a thing as a best friend?
Now a wife, mother, and career woman in my thirties, I’m still asking myself these questions. You know what? Making friends as an adult is tremendously difficult. I long for that friendship where I can boast, “We’ve been friends since we were babies!” But I know that is unrealistic for myself and most.
I’ve had two recent revelations on the subject of creating and maintaining adult friendships:
1) It’s not them, it’s me.
Sometimes I’d rather go home and relax instead of meet for a drink, hit up a live show, or go workout with a friend. Sometimes I don’t feel motherly enough, childless enough, married enough, single enough, or career-driven enough to meet up with someone that I haven’t seen in awhile. I’ve realized that feeling “just enough” isn’t satisfactory for time spent with friends. Basically, it’s tough for me to gauge how close I am with a friend, how much I can trust them, and how mutual the feelings are.
2) I’ve been burned before by friends. Why try to make new friends now?
It’s happened to all of us. Grade school friendships ending with, “I don’t like you anymore. I like Valerie now.” High school and college versions of the same thing that involve boyfriend stealing and other betrayals. Isn’t it easier to hang out with our chosen families, go to work, enjoy independence, and give up on making and or maintaining friendships?
An additional fascinating tidbit: I was voted “Truest Friend” by my high school class. Wasn’t that sweet? I see it slightly differently and a bit more profanely: “Least Likely to Eff You Over In This Vast Wasteland of Hormones and Identity Crises We Call High School.” But I am sure the yearbook had some sort of space and profanity limitations when handing out these accolades. The irony of receiving this honor is I was mostly independent. Definitely likable but without a girl strapped to my hip or a clique that I ran with. I tried many on for size but their incessant gossip the second another groupie was out of earshot was sickening. Unfortunately, it happens even now in many workplaces. It’s the grown-up version of a place similar to high school where you get paid by out-performing your peers.
Recently, I had to put the brakes on a budding friendship. She is in a complicated relationship, I felt like I was being used as leverage in her battle, and I got out. It seemed such a casual thing to do and gave me pause for this written reflection.
Is my inability to make and keep adult friends my fault? Could it be that I am the flawed one? Perhaps. I may need to accept that I’m not the woman that takes ladies weekends or vacations, or has a flock of lady support behind me when things go wrong in life.
Maybe if I could pre-screen future friends? I think the application might look something like this:
Now taking applications for best friend!
1) Be smart and confident. I’ll reassure you if you falter in knowing that. Do the same for me.
2) Be radically honest with me. Tell me when you think I’m being out of line and I’ll do the same for you.
3) Let’s not use each other for personal gain. Dealio?
4) Let’s challenge each other and embrace adventure.
5) My chosen family comes first and they always will. I assume yours does too.
6) If our core belief system is on opposite ends of the spectrum, it probably won’t work out.
7) Bonus points for possessing a well-seasoned sense of humor and exercising well-placed swears freely.
OK, y’all. What have your experiences been with making and keeping friends in adulthood? Is it difficult? I’d love to hear how others handle making and maintaining friendships in their adult lives.