Why Do They Have to be Your BEST Friend?
I was chatting with a teenage girl the other day and she told me a story about her best friend at school. Midway through her story she switched to talking about her other best friend. I got confused. Granted, it’s easily done when talking to a teenager but this time it wasn’t either of our faults.
I assumed she only had one best friend and so when the story changed I lost track of who we were talking about. In her mind the story made perfect sense.
I have issues with the term “best friend”. Not saying I’m right or others are wrong. Just offering up some food for thought.
In English they teach you that adjectives can have different forms. You take the basic adjective and use a comparative or superlative form to modify the noun. Example:
She is a good friend.
Jill is a better friend than Jane.
My best friend is Joan.
It’s certainly never a bad idea to classify the people in your life. If I see an acquaintance at the grocery store, I’ll shoot the breeze with them over what produce is in season. If I see a good friend in the grocery store, I’ll tell them about how my son is at home sick and feeling a little depressed so I’m making his favorite soup to cheer him up. If I see somebody from my inner circle of friends, I’ll really open up and tell them about the horrible fight I had with my husband over how my son’s disease is affecting all of us and how I just needed to get out of the house so I came to the grocery store.
If I told an acquaintance about my marital issues I’d probably scare them off because they aren’t that invested in me as a person. We have a surface relationship and there is an appropriate level of sharing in that circumstance. We’ve all met that one person who wants to tell you every intimate detail of their life and frankly it’s uncomfortable and weird.
I moved around a lot as a child because my dad was in the military. Every two to three years we’d pack up our life into cardboard boxes and set off on a new adventure. While I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world, moving made finding friends difficult. By the time I’d meet someone, establish common interests, and bond, we’d be ready to move again.
One of the hardest parts was trying to fit into a hierarchy that included already established friendships. I’d meet a girl I thought I could be friends with and then I’d be introduced to her best friend. I’d automatically feel left out and alone. She already had a “best”; I couldn’t compete with that.
Why? Because best means there’s nothing better. Right?
In my early thirties I became very close to another woman, X. She was in the same place I was in raising her young family, so we had a lot in common. We’d spend a lot of time together because our kids were involved in the same activities. While at the park one day we saw somebody we both knew fairly well (Y) and it was somebody I could see eventually developing a deeper friendship with. Somewhere in our conversation there at the park X said something about me being her best friend. Y smiled politely and ended the conversation shortly thereafter.
It was at that moment I saw three women become three little girls who were unsure of their place in this great big world. X was feeling threatened by the bond I was beginning to build with Y. Y now felt left out because X had made it clear that I’d been spoken for and was not on the best friend market. And there I was stuck in the middle, torn between loyalty for X and wanting to cultivate a deeper relationship with Y.
In my ideal world X and Y would have become close, also, and we all could have lived out our days blissfully sharing life together.
I know BFF looks cute on a necklace and fits because it’s conveniently short but isn’t there another term that won’t make people feel excluded?
Growing up, there were a few times I got lucky and was granted the title of “best friend.” In our little foursome of friendship, we all talked about how we were best friends. But it always seemed to cause hurt feelings because inevitably there was the fifth girl who we were all really close to but for various reasons wasn’t with us all the time. Was she not one of our best friends simply because she couldn’t join in every time we got together?
And don’t friendships change?
Right now, I have some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life. But are they better than the other friendships I’ve shared? Does true friendship need a comparative or a superlative to define the relationship?
Think about it like this. Let’s say an amazing restaurant opens up in June and a reviewer calls it the “best restaurant” she’s ever eaten at. The following year another great restaurant debuts and eclipses the other one in our reviewer’s mind. It’s now the “best restaurant” on her list. Is the first restaurant any less amazing? Probably not. The original restaurant still offers the same great menu but because the superlative was used to describe the second restaurant there’s a since that the first has been replaced.
It feels like “best” has become a throw away word. The definition of a superlative is “surpassing all else or others.” When best friends are changed like diapers, especially among teens, we have to ask ourselves if we are using the term correctly.
When in doubt I go to my Bible and look at Jesus’ example because I want to make sure I am following Jesus’ example of friendship. He had his disciples (good friends) and the three who shared with him his transfiguration and agony in the garden. But it is only the book of John that singles out one person, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” Most scholars feel that term refers to John, the author of one of the Gospels.
Interestingly, Jesus Himself never referred to John that way. He never verbally differentiated His relationship with John from the others. Was He closer to John? Peter? James? By His actions we can see who Jesus closely identified with, but a title was never given to the individual friendships.
If I’d been one of Jesus’ disciples, I can’t imagine how it would have felt to hear Jesus say out loud, “Hey guys, John here is my best friend!”
By about now you’re probably saying, “Angela, you really need to see a counselor about your issues.” Thank you very much but I already have.
If saying “best friend” is one of your things, then cool. Exalting a friendship from the mountain tops is never a bad idea. And you may interpret it very differently than I do. Not wrong, only different.
I’d just ask that maybe you can be aware that there are people like me who want to be your friend but feel intimidated when we are facing a bestie we feel we can never compete with. There are words that build barriers and words that build bridges.
I just wish they made necklaces that had room for “you’re an amazing friend”.
Thanks for reading my random thoughts. If you enjoyed the article, even if you don’t agree with all of it, please give it some claps (See the hands? Give those some clicks). Also, I love engaging with readers so feel free to add your thoughts.