I recently made the mistake of rewatching a few episode of Girls. The year was 2014 last time I watched the show, and – thanks to the blissful ignorance of my teenage years – I honestly do not recall it to be so bleak. One specific theme stuck in my mind: the unbearably heavy friendship between Hannah and Marnie, which turns out to be more fatal and defining for both of the girls than all of their romantic flings combined. Inspired by their virtual situation, I started interviewing real people in my life about their friends. And of course, you are here now as well, so I must ask you – do you have a best friend? And if yes – do you have the best friendship?
Our closest friendships often mimic the patterns of a romantic relationship. Hands up if you ever felt seriously committed, if not married, to your friend SO (a term I’ve only recently learned). The continuous flow of texts, heartfelt emojis, memes and lengthy voiceovers. The goodnight texts. The good morning texts. Your mom remembers to ask how they’re doing on a regular basis.
And yet, some milestones are reserved for romance only. Take the privilege of break ups. Even though cringey lifestyle blogs aspire to teach us better, break up conversations amongst friends are painful to orchestrate. What is more, the nuanced shades of a compromise – e.g. taking a break or trying an open relationship – are virtually impossible when ending a friendship. Similarly, you are not likely to refer to your former friend as your EX (way too dramatic) or to actively avoid bumping into them in a bar (way too obsessive). There is no justifiable way of asking your other friends to stop inviting them to events, and you probably won’t block them on social media either. This altogether leads me to a concluding point: best friendships embody the intensity and pressure of romantic relationships while depriving you from a potential closure.
This is perhaps the moment where the concept of best friendship deserves to be revisited. The grammatical logic implies that “best friend” is an exclusive position. After all, how many people can fit at the very top of the pyramid? But the romantic notion of the one and only doesn’t translate so simply into friendships (let’s leave the toxic traits of the romantic fatalism aside for now, shall we). If best refers to quality, are your other friends of a lesser value? Is best friendship a commitment for life – or will you look for a replacement once the infatuation evaporates?
You might or might not be a serial dater, but you’re almost definitely a serial friend. People have their timings that mutually overlap in a strange and unpredictable way, and sometimes cause the friendship to expire. Very few of us steadfastly believe in the same things we did when we were 15, and it would be foolish to assume that friendships don’t reflect on our developments, no matter if they happen over one week or one decade. I personally think that nothing makes a friendship age faster than locking it in a treasure box with the label “best friend” on it. Your understanding of what’s the best might have very well changed since you and them met, and denial will only make the eventual confrontation harder. But of course, admitting that you grew apart is hard too – you’re not only losing the status of the best friend, but a part of your own identity as well.
Maybe if we stopped viewing friends as scarce goods, best friendship would feel less determining. Imagine living with an abundance mindset, which assumes that a new friend is waiting around every corner. That several best friends can be perfectly compatible, and that they can also form friendships with each other, which doesn’t exclude you because it has, in fact, nothing to do with you. That you don’t have to be everything for that one friend, and that they don’t have to embody your whole universe either.
That there’s enough friendship for us all.