Last Best Friend: Living With the Loss
Well, dammit, I’ve done it. I’ve done another adult thing. I've lost the most recent one of that special kind of platonic compatriot that you lean on, rely on and give way more fucks about than your other normal friendships. I think I’ve had my last best friend. Last BFF. Last ride-or-die. The last Vin Diesel to my Paul Walker.
I remember a few months ago I read that, somewhere around the age of 30, you will probably stop having these kinds of friends. That you’ll grow up, and whether or not you yourself follow the normative path, most of your friends will all have started careers they care about, gotten married, and started having babies. That you’ll keep up with each other, but naturally lose the state of having a non-romantic partner in crime, and start having situational friends instead.
You’ll still have people you check in on and care about but it won’t be the same. You’ll have more friends in the future of course, but all you'll do is go get a drink once in a while or play Ultimate or whatever it is that you do. No more will you have that one person that you do everything with, and that you’re still somehow not fucking. (Or at least shouldn’t be.)
I read that article, and I thought it was bullshit. I thought that my most recent bestfriendship would live through anything. We had all the right components: camaraderie, geographical closeness, love of booze and cigarettes, shared gayness, shared singledom, and a lack of romantic interest in each other. But alas, I’ve moved away and she’s distracted by seeing somebody new. We’ve lost two of the essential ingredients—and we all know that while drunken declarations of everlasting brotherhood and sisterhood are easy to make, they’re also easy to break. So here we are. I’ll be 30 in a few months, and I think it’s finally happened: I think things may be fizzling with my last true homeslice.
I suppose that it may be time to wave goodbye to a central tenet of my entire social life on this planet: singularly intense, ridiculously codependent friendships.
I remember having a best friend ever since I was old enough to be tossed out into the social wilderness—no parents, no teachers, just struggling to learn what the hell peers are and how to kick it with them. Sometimes a whole band of you rolls around the neighborhood together. You make prank calls on each others’ houses, you screw around on your bikes or skateboards or rollerblades, somebody will always manage to find someone’s dad’s porn stash, you’ll aggressively whip lunchboxes at trees during recess together or play tetherball or climb trees or whatever the thing was. But even if there’s a whole band of you, you’ll gravitate toward that one other kid who gets you.
One other kid who needs a best friend at the same time as you do, or is kinda nerdy and awkward like you, or just the kid who lives closest to you. I’m Facebook friends with most of mine, all the way back to first grade. Some of them are around for pretty big milestones in your life. I learned how to ride a bike from my first best friend since my dad wasn’t in the country often enough to teach me himself. My latest one coached me through my divorce.
Growing up, I, like many people, have followed an MO of having a few larger nonmixing groups of friends and acquaintances. You have your work friends, hobby friends, drinking friends, family friends. Whatever the configuration, with them you maneuver through all the regular motions of life—school, career, dating, blah blah blah; but through it all, it seems to be accompanied by having one person that’s the Preferred Platonic Person. Some bestfriendships last for decades and over distance, and some for mere months and are locale-specific. But, at least for me, usually there’s one somebody around that ends up having a special status.
Finding a new BFF is almost as thrilling as finding a new potential romantic partner. Actually, I’d say that as an adult, it’s much harder to find a new close friend than it is to find someone to fuck. However you meet them, you meet this new friend and you click. You’re interested in them, but not too interested. You spend lots of time playing it cool, where you spend the first few weeks or months of the friendship trying to not appear as though one of you is more into the other, but secretly knowing that you’ve found someone you’d consider taking a bullet for.
As your friendship grows, you learn each other’s intimate secrets, conversation starts to flow naturally, and you feel just as comfortable bumming around doing nothing together as you are partying through the night. You call or text each other whenever you feel like you’d like to connect with another human being. You watch each other make good or bad decisions, hear out endless fears and insecurities, and work through any number of hangovers together. You’re both in it 50/50. Separate but equal. You can be vulnerable, but without the baggage and high stakes that come with romantic partnership. It’s invaluable during tumultuous times.
But time, distance, romantic partners, unrequited feelings, sexual tension, insecurities, being a shitty communicator—any one of any number of things can break you apart. The breakup of a bestfriendship can be easily just as painful than that of a romantic relationship or even worse. I lost a friendship a couple years ago that I think I mourn more than my marriage. That’s not to say that the deep friendship always goes explosively unto its grave. Maybe you just slide peacefully apart for years, knowing that you’re still close and still connected, but you both know that it’s not in the same way that you once were.
Either way, you’ve grown the fuck up. You learn to eschew codependence and lean on yourself. You drive more of your time and attention into your yourself or your career/marriage/kids/dogs/boat/whatever floats that boat of yours. That might be a good thing. That might be part of becoming a fully-functioning adult human. Or it might be total societal garbage. But as with everything else involved with The Life Transition That Never Ends, it just is what it is.
That brings some existential relief, but I don’t know that I have to like it.