Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How the way we show bestfriendship changes as we get older

When we were kids, showing who was your best friend was easy. You spent every moment possible together. You shared even your favorite lunchtime snacks. You went through the whole ordeal of asking your mom to go to their house on the weekend even though you knew she'd make you clean your room first. When we were kids and some grown-up person would ask us, "Who's your best friend?", there was one clear and decisive answer.

Then we got a little older. Say, middle school and early high school. Suddenly there were these things called telephones and we wanted to be on them all day. It wasn't enough to perhaps be in every class all day with our closest friends--we now had to call them as soon as we got home and again after dinner very little other than hog up the phone line. SH and I used to watch Friends together and take the deepest joy from being able to laugh at the same things at the same time. We used to listen to the radio and sing with each other. We'd do whatever we'd be doing if we were alone, except that we were together (but not really). [I just realized how much of a precursor these activities were to my later/current internet-heavy lifestyle, always talking to someone, yet simultaneously #foreveralone.] By this age, your best friends have become those people whose mere presence comforts you.

This continues through high school. Now you've got a friend group. This is the big leagues--it's three or four or seven people you can count on to hang out with. If you're going to the movies, or the mall, or to play mini-golf when you get out of school early after taking your AP Gov exam, it's with these guys. You do all the same extracurricular activities, so not only do you see each other at school all day, you also see each other afterschool, and then call each other to figure out the Calc homework and your lives. These are the friends you have deep serious important life conversations with for the first times. This has begun the era of seeking advice from friends, advice about that person you're interested in, what class you should take, what schools you're thinking about applying to, how to convince your Mom to let you do X-thing-you-know-she-won't-approve-of, etc. This is when your friends become partially responsible for keeping the pieces of you in order when you're freaking out. This is the era when your friends have started to surpass your family in terms of importance to your daily functioning as a social being. You show this by passing notes and lying to your mom to hang out with them.

In college, friendship begins to revolve around food and proximity. Your closest friends are maybe your roommates or the guys down the hall. They're probably the people you can call on to eat dinner together on a semi-daily (or actually daily) basis. They're the people you'll wait to go to events for even though being late is your biggest pet peeve. They're the people you have impromptu dance parties in your common room with. The people you don't mind overhearing conversations with your parents. The people with whom doing homework together becomes having incredible conversations til 3am and THEN starting the paper you have due tomorrow. They're the people you agree to stay up all night with for moral support when you don't have anything to do. They're the people that you know will come to your peformance. They do all of the advising and pieces-putting-back-together that your high school friends did, except on a higher level because this is real life shit. Your willingness to put pants on and do things with them in person, or let them come over to your hideously dirty room, talk soothingly to them when they're sobbing, let them borrow your shit for indeterminate periods of time, and to act normal in front of their parents are how you show that you care about them.

From what I have gathered so far of post-grad life, you show that you care about people in the real world by making and actually keeping Skype dates with them. By fitting them into your otherwise crazy schedule for dinner and/or happy hour if they live in the same city as you. By gchat and Facebook chat. By occasionally picking up your telephone to do something other than text and hearing their voice, which will inevitably make you realize how much you miss them in one knotty ball of want. By planning to buy plane/train/bus tickets to see them. By actually buying them.

But I have recently been introduced to what feels, to me, like it trumps any and all the myriad ways I have shown friendship for someone in the past (besides, perhaps, the not inexpensive roundtrip ticket to Denver I will be buying sometime before March). At its simplest, it means wearing this dress (without the black sash)

and standing in front of a room full of people who mean either very much to my dear friend and once-roommate, MJP, or her soon-to-be-husband, my friend CW. It means helping to organize the bachelorette party and the bridal shower. It means helping her get dressed, making sure her hair and makeup are perfect, and being there to tell her that she looks absolutely stunning, as do the decorations and the place settings. It is staying-up-to-watch-the-sun-rise-for-moral-support-alone on crack.

These are the things it is tangibly. The things it is practically. The things it will be in terms of real world actions and responsibilities.

Intangibly, impractically, in the amorphous world of my feelings, it may be the highest honor that has ever been bestowed unto me. It is you-are-significant-enough-to-who-I-am-and-how-I-got-here-that-I-want-you-to-be-beside-me-as-I-declare-that-I'll-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-doing-this-new-thing, specific-role-ified. It never occurred to me before that wedding parties are as much about love as are the weddings themselves until she asked those seven words and I started to cry. We all know how I feel about weddings and marriage for me, but that doesn't lessen my desire to want to be part of her wedding at all--she's the happiest I've ever seen her, and to be chosen to be a part of making that official? I think it might be the pinnacle of bestfriendship-expression.    

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