An Open Letter to: Best Friends
Dear Concept of Best Friends:
During a particularly strange evening not too long ago, someone said to me, “John’s my best friend. And I don’t mean that in the way that people just sort of toss that term around. For me, best friends are my family. They’re the people who understand and accept me without question.” Even though this gentleman went on to buy me about 6 Allagash beers, his words struck me. And I started to reflect on this term “best friend” that we toss out so frequently, about so many people. We use it for awhile. Then we stop using it. And we’re able to continue on as if nothing had ever happened. Like that person who used to be a best, and isn’t anymore, never existed. Like our lives weren’t interwined for a period of time. Because best friend, in today’s world, usually means someone who you spend a lot of time with. It refers to someone who likes the same things you like, who lives a similar lifestyle that you live. Best friend, in a lot of cases, really means convenient friend. Or most-like-me friend. It’s why we can let best friends come in and out of our lives like clothing trends. You’re lucky if you find one that works for a few seasons, let alone finding that classic staple. And like clothing, sometimes we outgrow our best friends. Sometimes we move across the country and a heavy winter jacket just isn’t necessary anymore. But yet, I think we still need it when we’re feeling cold because that winter jacket is sometimes the only thing that can warm us.
For some reason, I decided to track down “Everyone’s Free, To Wear Sunscreen” (not sure how old you readers are, but it was the graduation speech turned Baz Lehrman “song” in 1999) and there’s a line that says “Friends come and go, but with a precious few, you should hold on.” I think I have held on to some. I think I have let go of others. I think others have let go of me. And some more, well, we’ve let go of each other. Maybe because I tend to be a person who obsesses about relationships (all relationships, not just sexual ones), I get caught up thinking about what happened to the girl I was inseparable from freshmen year of college. Why did an instant bond disappear? Did we just need each other like a car needs those doughnut tires after a flat and before you get the real deal wheel put on? Good for a little while, but don’t go too fast. And get rid of that thing as soon as you can before you crash. What about the girl in elementary school whose house I knew better than my own? Did we outgrow that? Did I stop needing that the way I stopped needing my own parents’ house. That old comfort no longer found between those familiar walls.
I think we throw around the term “best friends” too casually, too recklessly. I think when we mean it, we should fight for it. I think when we don’t mean it, we should walk away. I think we should stop to think about whether we mean it or not.