In stories and movies, in our own lives too, we make a big deal of romance. And of course, romantic love IS a big deal in most of our lives. But romantic love is not the only kind, and -- let's face it -- it can be hit-and-miss for many of us a lot of the time. But while romance can ebb and flow, friendship is constant. Often cast as a secondary character in the rom-com, best friends are there for the "before" and the "after" and, when it works out, the "happily ever after" too.
"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow." - Anonymous
But a friend is really so much more than a secondary character in our real-life stories. Very often we confide and trust our friends in a way it's difficult to trust a romantic partner. While we think we have to be the "best" version of ourselves in order to be lovable to a romantic partner, we know we can be the "real" version of ourselves in a friendship.
Of course, the very best romances combine both friendship and love, in that When Harry Met Sally vein. After those early love jitters have faded, it's friendship that holds a relationship together. So often, we overlook a person because they don't necessarily scream romance!, but over time prove themselves to be the most lasting and loving of relationships! As such, friendship is an important aspect of ALL relationships. But, I've really been thinking more about my platonic friends lately.
I think as we get older we really grow to appreciate the qualities of good friends as something truly special. Life takes all of us in different ways, serves up many demands and distractions. And yet there's something constant and unflinching about the very best friendships. While we worry about relationships weathering storms and change, we trust certain friends to be by our side no matter what.
And yet, how often do we pause to really appreciate our friendships? When I'm deeply in love, I send loving and thoughtful text messages, write cards, buy gifts and make photo albums of all of our adventures. I make a conscious effort to let the one I love know how loved he is, how he's in my thoughts throughout the day, even if we're apart. I'm not suggesting that we should treat our friends that way (that might be a bit much!) But, I DO feel like I want to do a better job letting my friends know how much I love and appreciate them. And what better time of year to do that than in these weeks approaching the holidays!
Last month, I received an actual love letter from a friend. In it, she had taken the time to express what she most appreciates about me, to reminisce about moments when she really remembers how I was there for her, when our friendship felt especially strong and something we both could lean on. Reading it moved me to tears -- I was proud to be seen as a good friend -- it's something we all want to be, and yet I'm sure we all feel we're not always doing the best job at it!
But it was also moving because her gesture was such a loving one, a profound and sweetly old-fashioned act to send me a hand-written letter. The things she wrote were private between us; moments we had shared, but never really discussed. It was a moving and beautiful tribute to our friendship and one that I instantly wanted to "pay forward" in the same spirit.
Of course, the number of friends who you feel that deep connection with are few. Most of us can count on one hand the friends who we most dearly trust and count as truly close. And it takes a lifetime to build those kinds of friendships. Friendships evolve too, and depending what's going on in your life, you may find yourself drawn to new people. It's part of the wonder of life that you never really know when you're going to make that connection... it can be as instant and magical as its romantic equivalent; love at first sight.
The best kinds of friends manage to be both uplifting and honest. They'll tell you the (sometimes difficult-to-hear) truth, but they're doing it because they're 100 per cent on your side and want you to be happy. Those friends are there when you need a "crisis download" and a cry. But, as well as all that, the best friendships are fun. You can be your silliest self. You can talk for hours about that must-have handbag and the latest diet trend -- AND you can split that entire sinful Loblaws vanilla cake between the two of you and diet after of course!
As Anais Nin said, "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive."
Sometimes, it's about the friend who reveals a whole other world to you, who you have nothing in common with on paper; and yet somehow a bond forms and all those differences reveal lessons and alternatives and understanding.
Whoever your friends are, I think it's important to let them know precisely how much they mean to you, how deeply you appreciate who they are as a person and what they've meant to you. For the upcoming holidays, I'm committing to reaching out and doing exactly that... sending heartfelt cards and emails, spending time with my friends and expressing just how much they mean to me. We're always saying you shouldn't regret not saying things to romantic partners... why should the same not apply to our friendships? After all, I can't eat this entire Loblaws vanilla cake on my own!
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog mistakenly attributed the quote about friendship to William Shakespeare. The quote is an anonymous one.
Things happen. Lives are complex. Of course, your life is particularly so (everyone's is), which is why it's difficult to get to brunch on time (every time), which is not your fault, exactly, because there was nowhere to park, and then before that, there was a line at the drugstore, and before that, there was the argument with your 5-year-old about whether you could take your purse he was using as LEGO storage and... she knows. Your friend has too much on her plate too, which is why she would never say anything about your tardiness. But perpetually making her wait sends the message that other things are more important than she is. That, in fact, almost everything is more important than her. No one wants to feel that way. Isn't that part of why we maintain friendships, to matter to someone, to have someone matter to us? Your friend matters to someone. She matters to you. So show your love: Leave 15 minutes earlier.
In the 10th grade, it's cute when you and your BFF agree, between shrieks of laughter, that her crush is hot. Not so when you're a grown women and the both of you are talking about one of your spouses. The thing is, it's good when your friend thinks your husband is hot: She thinks he's hot not necessarily because he's physically attractive, but because of how he treats you. How attentive he is, how he always opens car doors, how she saw him at a party you didn't attend and heard him gushing about you and your greatness. If your partner is bad news, you will hear about it eventually. But in the weird world of polite behavior, it is sometimes impossible to say, "Hey, your husband? He's amazing. You're lucky. I'm uncreepily happy for you."
As anyone who grew up with a younger sibling can attest, imitation is the sincerest form of annoyance. Sure, your heart skipped a beat when you saw your friend's jewel box of an entryway smothered in the most perfect, unique, offbeat-but-not-too, beautiful-but-not-cloying, stylish-yet-not-design-blog-cliché, so-YOU-you-just-never-knew-it wallpaper. But the reason it's so unique and perfect is because your friend spent a year shopping around for it, and the reason she spent so long looking for something nobody had is because she wanted something... nobody had. So even though she would never say anything, at the risk of sounding petty, let her have the wallpaper/haircut/baby names.
We all have things about ourselves that we just can't see. And we all have those baggy-T-shirt-and-yoga-pants stages of life. It just may be that yours is lasting longer than most. When is it the right time to tell this to someone? Never. Which is why you have to tell yourself: "There is a time for yoga pants, and it is called yoga. It is not that time now. Now is the time for a flattering haircut. Now is the time to identify your skin tone and work with it. Now is the time for some clothes that fit properly. Now is the time to feel good about yourself -- the way you would want your friend to feel good about herself."
It's one those mysteries of love that, as infallible as your spouse seems in the first blush of love, a few years later he's working your nerves just as dramatically. So when your husband makes a bad joke at a dinner party and you shush him, the bickering begins. No one likes to watch a couple fight. And, P.S. No one expects you to police your partner. So unless you can make your bickering as entertaining as a Woody Allen movie, just let it go. Truly, the rest of us haven't spent even a minute thinking about the joke that fell flat, so neither should you.
From: Friendina Friendstein To: You Hey, thanks so much for your email. And call. And text and tweet and Facebook message and wall post and comment on my blog and invitation to connect on LinkedIn and Gchat hello. Hello! I'm so glad you're reaching out to me. I know that maintaining friendships as busy adults with families and jobs and social media personas to maintain is no easy task, believe me, and I am genuinely glad you're staying in touch. And I will never send this email because I'm worried you'll think I'm being prickly. But... let's pick maybe one way to communicate and stick to it. How about picking the one I'm using to respond to you? Like my phone doesn't text. Which is why I never respond to your texts. But I always call you back, right? And never tweet you back. So... do you get what I'm saying? Let's talk. Let's always, always talk -- and let's never tweet again. With so much love, Friendina
You know when you're living an envy-making moment. Whatever it is -- you just got a fancy new job, you bought the perfect house, you regularly post awe-inspiring pictures of the gorgeous cocktails your thoughtful new boyfriend makes you -- your friend is happy for your success; of course she is. But unless her first name is Mother and her last name is Teresa, she probably also suffers a quick twinge of "G#%@$%*, WHY ISN'T THAT HAPPENING TO ME?" I mean, when the tables are turned, don't you? Which is why judicious posting and/or tweeting of such moments signals you are among the most thoughtful of 21st-century citizens.
Yes, we all know that money and friends don't mix, but also, how could they not? Maybe your friend brushes you off when she covers your part of the girls' night tab and says you can buy her coffee sometime. Did you, though? Did you ever do that coffee? In the grand scheme of a friendship, it's not worth making a fuss over $5 or $10, so she's not going to send you a bill, but her casual generosity is not something to be forgotten. It's an invitation to buy her the biggest, bestest, most ridiculous triple-shot caramel mocha with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles that has ever existed. Without being reminded.
If only there were a way to say it without sounding corny, a way to make you believe her, then your best friend would tell you this. It does not -- repeat does not -- matter if you agree. It does not matter if society's skewed perceptions of the female body concur. It does not matter what the rest of the world thinks. You know this about your friends, and they know it about you -- it's like crowdsourced good self-esteem! You are beautiful, and your imperfections are, to the people who love you, part of your charm. After all, who knows your true beauty if not the people who love you?
Follow Natasha Koifman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/natashankpr