Last semester I was taking a literature course on Shakespeare. Although I had read a good handful of Shakespeare’s plays in high school, I didn’t appreciate them until I took this class. Shakespeare is amazing at portraying love, friendship and betrayal in all different types of themes. Whether it’s magical like A Midsummer Night’s Dream or controversial like Macbeth, all his works attempt to share the same messages (bluntly):
What makes a good friend?
How do you know someone is fucking with you?
During one heated discussion about friendship in the class, my professor asked if any of us had had a friend for more than three years, seven years and ten years. I raised my hand for all three.
He looked at me from across the room and asked, “Doesn’t that make you feel ridiculous?”
In response I laughed, but it got me thinking. Everyone I’ve met, whether it’s in a school or work environment, has at least one “best” friend. This “best” friend is someone they’ve known for at least five years. Maybe they’ve known each other since high school or preschool. They know everything about each other. If it weren’t for this “best” friend, they wouldn’t be who they are today.
Isn’t that silly?
I dislike the label “best” friend. It’s not because I am envious of those who have had “best” friends all their life (I have two), but because the label is recyclable. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve met someone new – we hit it off right away – and a month later I am their “best” friend. Of course at this point, I am so flattered to be considered that important to them, I fall into the whole “best” friend routine: hanging out/talking all the time, sharing secrets, developing inside jokes, etc. At the beginning of these new and exciting relationships, I always know it will end badly.
How could it not?
- I just met this person. I can’t say I know everything about them. What are they like under a lot of stress? What if I make a joke and they take offense? What if I don’t hang out with them tomorrow – will they survive? (The list goes on)!
- What did I do within 30 days that made them think I was “best” friend material? We haven’t gone through anything traumatic together. My loyalty hasn’t been tested. Just because I might have listened to her complain about her boyfriend or other friend and didn’t judge her, shouldn’t automatically give me that authority.
- Doesn’t this person already have a “best” friend? Am I replacing him/her?
For those who are reading this, maybe you have been sucked into the “best” friend routine. A few months or years down the road, something will click – it always does. This new friend, who, probably, from the beginning didn’t treat you respectfully, might do something that will push your limit. At this point you’ll start to wonder what was it about this person that attracted you or kept you around for so long. You’ll start to re-evaluate all your other friendships/relationships that have lasted for many years and attempt to figure out why those have been successful.
Here are a number of reasons why those friendships have worked and your newest one is failing:
- Your actual “best” friend became your “best” friend over time! It wasn’t a 30-day trial try-before-you-buy packaged deal like your new friend.
- You and your “best” friend may speak on a weekly or monthly basis, but it will not hurt either of you if you go months or years without speaking. There is an established trust between you two. You always know you can count on one another. With this new “best” friend, the routine shortly turns toxic. You find yourself communicating with this person so much. You two aren’t speaking about making plans but rather about the friendship: “Why did you say this?” “Can we talk?” “Why didn’t you call/text me?” Translation: Waste Of Time
- You can trust your “best” friend won’t judge you. He/she won’t judge you because as this friendship has developed you’ve gone through some tough times. Your friend respects you for who you are and what you have gone through. In the beginning of your new and exciting (slightly toxic) friendship, he/she would listen and try giving great advice. They wanted to give off the impression that they were here for you. Well, now it’s six months down the road and your new “best” friend turns out being selfish and makes you explain yourself when you are simply looking for comfort. Isn’t this fun?
Because I have personally experienced these temporary toxic friendships, I do not initiate the “best” friend labeling. If we meet and hit it off and within that 30-day free trail you think I am your “best” friend, I will not talk you out of it. The first couple years of college I really wanted that huge group of friends that is perfectly depicted in every television show, that I fell into many “best” friend traps. It’s really awesome to think that you are “popular” or “cool,” when in all reality, managing all of those relationships is time consuming and more hurtful than satisfying.