BEST FRIENDS. WHO NEEDS THEM!
Today’s BFF is more likely to be your frenemy than a friend forever. Face it, sisters, we have invented a mythology around female friendship that has damaged our psyches and warped our value systems.
It is time to address what is at the core of female friendship, because underneath the air kisses and the sisterly shoulder to cry on is a viper’s nest of seething resentments, envy and cold-blooded hate.
I raise this because the other day, apropos of nothing, my youngest daughter says to me with a tinge of sadness in her voice, “Mummy, I don’t have a best friend”.
Let me paint a picture for you. Matilda is in kindergarten. She will speak to anyone, and I mean anyone. To the point where old people sitting on park benches turn off their hearing aids and single 50-somethings shuffle in discomfort in the supermarket queue under the relentless interrogation of Frau Tilda.
From the very first week of school all the Year 6 girls knew her by name. Children I have never met wave cheery hellos when she passes, as if she were some minor royal. By term two the headmaster was having coffee in our kitchen because Tilda was going to accompany him on Walk to School Day. I kid you not. This child is seriously friendly.
So whilst my heart lurched maternally, my voice rang with confidence as I said: “Best friends are overrated.”
She looked up at me, mild with surprise, her curiosity piqued. “Why?”
“Because, darling, it’s better to have lots of friends to play with, not just one.”
On which note, Matilda skipped off to play with her brother. I, on the other hand, had got to thinking.
I don’t have a best friend. I used to, but the truth is I don’t even believe in them anymore.
In the same way that I used to believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, now I am all grown up, I’ve realised they are not real.
Remember the school playground? It had all the politics of the West Bank and just as many factions. One week I was basking in the love of my best friend only to turn up the next day to find I’d been squeezed out by busty Joanne and forced to eat my devon and tomato sauce sandwich with the class nerd. Ring any bells?
Then there’s the torture that is the school reunion. What drugs are we on that we want to catch up on with our old school mates and see what they’ve done with their lives 30 years down the track?
C’mon, get real. If they meant that much to us we’d be having coffee catch ups, but the truth is we are not even Facebook friends. And surely if anyone from the class of ’82 had done anything remotely interesting we would have read about it.
Friendships are like yoghurt. They have a use-by date. In fact it would be much handier if you could lift up a girl’s ponytail and check for the digitally printed Best By date and plan around it. Oh, this friendship will expire in March 2013; well, in that case I won’t waste too much money on a birthday present.
I marvel when grown women tell me they still hang out with the same bunch of girls from school.
The word co-dependent immediately springs to mind but when I put this too them they swear they just really like each other.
The experts say we are supposed to grow out of friendships. Then how come so many of us cling to friendships like a life raft? We make friends at school, uni, work, mother’s group and then we don’t let go.
Or if we do, we go all passive-aggressive and ‘phase out’ the friendship by returning phone calls a day or two late, always being busy, not inviting their daughter to our daughter’s birthday party. Hoping the other woman has enough EQ or at least personal pride to get the bloody message.
What about those who say their daughter is their best friend? Yuck! Please.
I don’t want to be any of my daughters’ best friend. In fact, why would a perfectly sane functional 20-something want a 46-year-old frump as their best friend? I don’t shop, go to nightclubs or know how to use predictive text. She can’t borrow my clothes because I’m two sizes larger and even if we did wear the same dress size I will never, repeat never, wear stockings under shorts. (What is that about? They look like they’re dressing for a casting call for The Boyfriend.)
There are too many twisted variations on the theme of female friendship for me to list here.
I haven’t even touched on Second Tier Best Friends; friends who are generous to a fault (Oh? You like my new Mercedes convertible? Here, have it!); friends who use you as a stepping stone to get into a circle and women who think friendship is ringing each other six times a day.
Yes, Oprah, I’m talking about you!
And those awful needy friends that make your scalp contract when you answer the phone and hear them say the words, “Can you talk?” and you know what they really mean is can you listen to me whinge about my life for the umpteenth time.
The question in my mind is this: is this really how a grown up should conduct her life? What message does it send our children? Parenting is supposed to be about setting a good example so let’s do that.
Let’s not care whether we are included in the group of Queen Bees who rule the roost at school.
The Canteen Clique can bitch all they like as they butter the sandwich bread, plotting and scheming who will make this year’s school netball team. Let’s encourage our children to find friendships with people of diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds as they travel through life. Spread the love. Treat people how you would like to be treated and all that sort of good stuff.
To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, you cannot be somebody’s bestie forever but you can certainly be everybody’s friend for a while.
Not having a best friend has been the best thing that has happened to me.
I have a group of friends I adore. Each and every one of them is a fine woman. Smart, funny, busy, generous of heart and all with their heads screwed on straight.
Some are single, some are married with kids. They are housewives, doctors, fund managers and consultants. And yes, we argue about the important issues of the day; refugee policy, carbon tax and who is dishier – Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Life would be dull without differences and we spend time together because that is what we want to do.
But should those friendships fade or drift away I shall be grateful for the time it lasted. Life is too short to drink cheap wine or waste valuable time with people you don’t like that much. Every now and again it doesn’t hurt to de-clutter and that includes our emotional life. It’s true, isn’t it?
*Meredith Jaffe is a book reviewer and blogger. She lives in Sydney with her husband and four children.