As a kid, having one super-close, joined-at-the-hip best friend was my top priority. Now? Eh. Not so much.
Before you assume that I'm some sort of misanthropic recluse, let me explain. I'm not anti-friend, by any means. I've just kinda farmed out "best friend" duties to about eight different women.
It's like Taylor Swift's girl squad, but we don't, you know, get together and do videos.
The idea of one true platonic soul mate is seductive. Growing up, I wanted nothing more than a Tacy to my Betsy. But there are problems when you harness yourself to just one person. Problems that are small -- like, she's home sick from school one day, so who are you going to sit with at lunch?
And problems that are big -- um, like she no longer wants to be best friends with you.
After a particularly devastating breakup with my BFF in fifth grade -- that involved my teacher stopping class and taking me out into the hall because I was crying so hard -- I slowly started to see the value of diversifying my friendships.
It started out as sheer self-preservation: Okay, if this goes south, it doesn't matter. I have a backup!
But as I grew older and moved from the Midwest to the Southwest to the East Coast to the west, I happened to meet women along the way who became close friends. And stayed close friends as I moved on and met other close friends.
At some point, I started to realize how unfair it probably was for me to have ever expected just one friend to help me learn how to can tomatoes and do a handstand and school me on what-the-heck-is-neem-oil? while also dissecting Joyce Carol Oates's career.
I would never expect all that from my husband, after all. That's a bunch of time-consuming s**t.
My friends are a diverse bunch; they have strengths I wish for myself, and talents I can only dream of. (See above.) And getting just a little bit of their time and attention is enough to help me learn and grow and basically become a much better person. (Also see above.)
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K. is my fearless friend, who isn't afraid to move across the country because it feels right or divorce her husband because her marriage feels wrong.
E. is my emotional cornerstone, who listens to my self-pitying rants and knows pretty much every worry or neuroses I have, but who still somehow wants to be friends with me anyway.
R. is my "mom" friend -- not just because our kids are close in age and have known each other since they were babies, but also because she parents me, too, be it giving it to me straight when I'm about to make a bad decision, or cooking me an amazing meal.
T. and I connect because we're alike in how we grew up and how we move through the world. She's a gentle, generous soul, and being around her reminds me that these aren't weak qualities for a woman to have, but valuable ones.
And then I have my fiercely clever friend whose energy encourages me to Go Big. There's also my kindhearted girlfriend whom I can always count on to say "Yes!" and mean it, even if that means taking a dozen first graders camping in the middle of a rainstorm. M., who makes me laugh at my anxiety because that's what she does with hers. And G., a talented artist whose exquisite view of the world makes me want to create my own.
They're my own posse of golden girls. Not like the raunchy seniors from the TV show, although we all do tell lots of dirty sex jokes, but friends that help me shine a little brighter.
I only hope that I can toss even a little bit of that heartfelt light back at 'em. And that they have other best friends who do the same.