Pam and I are toying with the idea of becoming “best friends”.
Yes, you heard me right: best friends—a social construct that is beloved by five year olds and sorority girls alike.
Except that we’re inching towards our 40s, which makes the idea a bit creepy, if you ask me.
I think that’s why we’re so hesitant to take the plunge. After all, how do you go about becoming someone’s best friend after a certain age? Frankly, it’s not that easy.
Sure, in your 30s and 40s, you might have Happy Hour buddies, casual work friends, bible study friends, or even ‘mommy and me’ friends, but unfortunately, there is a huge divide between those kind of friends and the friends who will come over to your place at the drop of a hat because you suddenly realize that your marriage is over. A huge divide between those kind of friends and the friends who are willing to use their hair as your snot-rag, as you sob and dry-heave on their shoulders because your seventh round of IVF has failed.
It’s too late to make friends like that, right?
Once you hit your 30’s, life takes over and increasingly it becomes more and more challenging to develop new and lasting female friendships. You’re drained from work, you have kids to carpool, and you barely have time to connect with your spouse, much less devote any time for yourself.
I mean, at this point, if you haven’t made any permanent, snot-wiping friendships, you’re certainly not going to make them now, right? When you’re feeling this stretched for time?
Maybe it’s time to revisit that paradigm.
Pam and I, for example, started off as Happy Hour buddies, and we were really good at that for five years. Everything remained at surface-level—good ol’ slap-sticky kind of fun, gossiping about co-workers, dishing about celebrities, trying new hot spots.
Then, her mom dies on the other side of the world, leaving her dad dazed and helpless. She had to leave town for a month to be with her dad, and I agreed to take care of her dogs while she was away. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.
Fast forward a year later and I’m in the throes of post-partum depression. She immediately senses it and encourages me to see her doctor. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.
Her marriage falls apart six months afterwards, and I connect her with names of people who can help her get her life back on track as a single person. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.
Sometime later, my business gets whacked by the economy, and she buys me coffee every week, while providing me with invaluable financial advice to get me through that period of time. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.
Now zoom over to six months ago, when she realizes that she has developed a substance abuse problem. I start going to Al-Anon and Narcotics Anonymous meetings with her. No big deal. That’s what Happy Hour buddies do.
Wait a minute.
Maybe that’s not what Happy Hour buddies do (at least not most of them anyway). Happy Hour buddies wouldn’t do any of the above, because their whole existence is predicated on getting away from all of the Debbie Downers of this world.
You see, Pam and I never had the intention of being anything more than Happy Hour buddies. She had her circle of lifetime good friends, and I had mine. For quite a long time, we kept things very superficial and most of all, convenient. We didn’t burden each other with our sob stories; we didn’t wear out our welcome.
We were happy to swim in the shallow end of the pool for life.
But somewhere along the way, Pam and I crossed the line. It took 10 years for us to realize that we were more than just Happy Hour buddies, but recently, we awkwardly admitted that we were embarking on some “new type of friendship” that we weren’t really expecting from each other. We finally acknowledged that somehow, despite our insanely frenetic schedules, we always managed to be there for one another, and that we would continue to do so for the long haul.
So, maybe you can make new best friends in your 30s and 40s. Yes, it might be easier to do if you spend all night on the phone together in high school, or lie sandwiched on top of each other in a dormitory or a sorority house.
But, maybe, just maybe, it still is possible in your 30s and 40s to find that special friend you either lost, or never had in the first place.
Perhaps if you just open up your heart wide enough to allow someone in to see your vulnerabilities and your shortcomings, you may just be surprised at who shows up on your doorstep with a shoulder for you to cry on…along with your very own pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Of course, not everyone will want to see you through your problems, and you may very well face rejection from people who don’t really want to become invested in your life or your excess baggage.
But, wouldn’t it all be worth it if you could find a new best friend at this age? Maybe your snot-rag of a best friend is somewhere out there, just waiting for someone like you to pull out the Kleenex.
In fact, like Pam, she may be someone sitting right under your nose and you just never realized it.
Put away your pride. Put away the broken heart that has been trampled upon by friends of the past. If only for just a moment.
After all, that moment may be just enough time to let her know that you are there, and that you’re not planning on going anywhere.