‘Tis the season to be jolly and so writing has taken a back seat what with decorating the house ready for the festivities, catching up with friends and family and gift shopping for the most wonderful time of the year. We have also impulsively updated our smallest bedroom this last week and made it into a study. So time ran away from me but now, better late than never, here’s my latest blog offering.
Friendship. Simple yes? On the face of it, it should be easy. You like someone, they like you and bingo, you’re friends. Oftentimes it’s more complicated though.
Here in the UK, at about age three or four we are thrust out into the big wide world of play school or nursery and expected, as part of our development to ‘make friends’ and once we have, we continue to be cross-examined with monotonous regularity by parents and other well meaning family members as to whether this friend or that one has been allocated ‘best friend’ status.
From a particularly young age we are given to understand that having friends and being sociable is absolutely essential to our growth as people. Right from the word go, as well as learning valuable new proficiencies in empathy and understanding, kindness, trust, giving, sharing and loyalty we’re also heaping on the pressure to prove that not only can we demonstrate all those qualities ourselves but that we recognise them in others. The trouble is that when we are children, nobody fully explains what being a friend really means (other than being nice and sharing) so it’s hardly any wonder that we don’t always get it right and that we receive and send mixed messages from time to time in friendship as we grow.
So what is a friend? The Collins dictionary defines it as ‘someone you know well and like but who isn’t related to you.’ And it’s that simple in theory although more complicated of late where adding ‘friends’ on social media allows you to assign friendship status to someone you barely know. Sometimes it’s a great move and a terrific choice. Other times, not so much. And as if that isn’t tricky enough to navigate, along came the term BFF. Not only is it essential to have a best friend, now it has to be ‘forever’ eeeek!
And if you google ‘friendship’, there are hundreds and hundreds of definitions, all slightly different depending on the author and the expectations each person puts on what they individually value in friendship.
Friendship is complex. It’s this one all encompassing word that has a myriad of meaning and implication attached to it. From toddlerhood onwards there’s an expectation you should have a best friend. The one. The person on whom absolutely all your expectation hangs and vice versa. The one who comes to your rescue, that you can rely on, confide in and who fights your corner. Wowzers! That’s a massive responsibility. And if you have someone you consider to be your absolute best friend, you want to be pretty sure that the feeling is reciprocated. Holding someone in much higher regard than they hold you can be heart breaking if when tested the other way, the intensity of feeling is not returned.
I learned a long time ago that friendship is not a one size fits all thing. I’m fortunate. I have shopping friends, get together for a chat and lunch friends, watching sports together friends, and one or two especially close friends with whom I will confide my innermost drunken thoughts. I’m also lucky enough to have family who I absolutely choose as friends.
I love the delight of having uncomplicated relationships with people that I see a handful of times a year where the only expectation we have of each other is that we will chatter non stop, stuff our faces, glug back the wine, laugh like hyenas and have a truly lovely time.
Quite rare and precious are close friends and one of mine in particular will totally know who she is when she reads this. I’ve known her for twenty something years and she is the kind of friend we all aspire to be.
I didn’t know her back then but knowing the person she is now I imagine her to be that girl that everyone fought to be best friends with at primary school. The fiercely loyal supportive one who’d give the boys hell, pull faces at you in class, tell you when you were being a div and hold your hand if you were scared.
Mind you, I’m glad I didn’t know her when she was a kid, the competition to be her bestie would have been immense! These days I’m happy to share her with a hundred other people who most likely regard her exactly as I do. She gets all the facets of friendship right and she’s funny (yes doll you ARE) and endlessly optimistic and I’m telling you now, that if the four horsemen of the apocalypse showed up ready to dish out pestilence, war, famine and death … and she’d had a couple of espresso martinis …. she’d 100% whoop their asses and chase them out of town. Mate, it’s true, you’re my favourite. You’re also a spade 😉
Best friend status is however reserved for my husband and that is utterly right for me. Where other girls need a female friend who is their greatest, I never have. Me and him confide in each other and have each other’s back in a way I absolutely would not expect from anyone else. He knows what I’m going to say before I say it. We have absolute trust in one another, we are committed and loyal to a fault and we laugh so much we cry. We accept each other’s quirks with a snigger or a wry, amused smile. I love him unreservedly and unconditionally. So yes, my best friend is my husband, absolutely no two ways about it. I might have had to wait forty years until I met him but boy was it worth the wait.
So finally back to the point in question. What is a friend and what is friendship? It’s everything and it’s everywhere and it touches so much of our journey through life. So whether we are casual friends or close friends, old friends or new friends, Facebook or Twitter friends and whether we have a tonne of things in common or just a few, thank you. Each and every one of you makes life more interesting and in the words of the fabulous Charlie Mackesy (main photo) this thing called friendship truly is ‘a priceless and wonderful thing’.