This Month's Topic:

Best Friends...



Phase one:
by Laura...

She's STILL your best friend???

      I remember people telling me when I was in high school, "You'll never again make friends like you make in high school." You know what? I never have. Not in college, not in the workplace, not anywhere. This is not to say that I haven't made friends, but the nature of those friendships has not been in the same vicinity.

      I met my best friend, Shell, in 9th grade at a time when all of my best friends had moved away or distanced themselves in some other way. I had gone through most of the school year completely devestated and alone. I was the type of girl that would always have a few very close friends instead of being surrounded by hoardes of aquaintances. My relationships with people had never been superficial, so my friendships were particular and very close. I think that Shell had gone through some devestation in her own life, and something just clicked between us when we started talking. We liked the same music, had the same taste in boys, could share wardrobes, and were headed in the same direction. We became friends with Jenny the next year, and Jenny dragged her best friend into the mix. Then there were the boyfriends of friends and the friends of those boyfriends. Before long we had a small clique in school. Not the popular type of clique, just a group of kids with similar interests and similar vices. It was cozy and fun. It was nice to belong somewhere. For a couple of years, I was having the time of my life.

      Then my parents moved me to HELLHOLE, Mississippi. Once again, I was devestated, and my friends as well. We had strongly identified with each other and needed that identification. We were able to visit about once a year, and I managed to keep in touch with both Jenny and Shell over the phone.

      Not long after graduation, I got married and moved again, but not any closer to my friends. Jenny got married the same year and moved a few hours further, and Shell went to college. Shell and I tried to keep the group together, but Jenny would remark nonchalantly, "We will grow apart. That is the way it is." After Jenny moved away, she didn't try to keep in touch. We were hurt and offended, but there wasn't much we could do. My thinking was that growing apart was a choice, not a mandate. Therefore, I assumed that to Jenny, our friendship wasn't worth the effort.

      Meanwhile, I had my own family and my own growing up to take care of. Real life keeps you busy, and priorities wind up changing. My lifestyle was different from Shell's now. She was in college and lived with her parents. I had been on my own for several years, worked, and had a baby. It was hard for Shell to think of me as a wife and a mother. It was hard for her to understand my priorities. When she came to visit me and my family, it was hard for her to sleep late with me cooking breakfast, my husband getting ready for work, and the baby crying and chattering. If she managed to toss and turn past the showers, smoking, clanging pans, and baby feet, she was noticeably annoyed with my washing dishes at 6am. Even while we still could relate in many ways and still felt relief in being able to sit in the same room and talk to someone who understood, I felt a lot of pressure between being with her and taking care of my responsibilities. Not only that, but when she left, I always wound up feeling more alone than I was before she came. It was hard for me to function when I was burdened with grief. It was hard for me to feel like my family was enough when I still depended on my friend. I had worked very hard to find another place to belong other than with those highschool friends and in that city. When she came to visit, I felt like I belonged with her again, and that was a real personal conflict for everyone involved.

      I think about Shell often, and I always feel a vague pang of guilt and sadness about her. We talk every other month for a few minutes. She has gone on to get married, and since the last time I saw her, she's had a new baby. Her baby is almost a year old, and I have never even held this baby. I always feel a strong reluctance to talk to her, and I can't figure out why the wall is going up. Now that she has her own family, bills, and career to consider, I'm sure that we could relate even more strongly. But instead we don't talk much at all. For me I think that some of my hard times and growing pains overshadowed the relationship, made it more of a dread than a joy. All in all, I feel some pressure because, while our priorities and circumstances have changed, our expectations have been slower to change.

      I think about Jenny's point of view now more than ever. Friends growing apart... Why? Is it inevitible? Is it normal? A choice? Is NOT growing apart abnormal?

      My needs have changed as far as friends go. No, I don't make the kinds of friends I made in highschool. I don't want the undecipherable closeness. I don't want telepathy or dependency. I don't want to feel sad when my friends have other things to do. I don't want to be unhappy when I'm not with them.

      Many friends I did choose to let go. I saw Jenny at Shell's wedding three years ago. After 7 years in Atlanta, she was flakier than ever. She had had affairs, been pregnant and had an abortion, and when she met us before the wedding was high on Crystal Meth, something that she said she did regularly. She was talking a mile a minute and was pretty entertaining, but you could tell she was a fake and sort of empty on the inside. Shell saw another of our best friends on a "Most Wanted" show. I'm not sure what became of the rest of them.

      I think that growing apart is both normal and inevitable to a degree. It just wouldn't look normal for me to be 30 years old with a family and still partying with Shell on the weekends. Individuals have to grow and change, and as we grow up, we make choices toward our individual, family, interests. My best friend didn't make the same choices that I did, and that's okay. Maybe we do not relate as well when we talk about our day. She's a biologist, and I'm an accountant. Of course we don't relate! Naturally, our priorities have to change. My best friend should NOT be priority over my family, but we don't have to harbor resentments because I can't drive down to see her. I think that a strong friendship can bend and change as the individuals change. This flexibility is how I choose not to grow apart from her. We allow differences and separation. We allow the ourselves to be a small part of the other's life instead of being their second half.



Phase two:
by Remo...

The times... they are a'changin'...

      Is there anyone more important in your life when you're growing up than your best friend? Even though this title is bestowed on many individuals, on a revolving basis, as we grow up and our interests change, it's generally not taken lightly. Historically our most important best friend is the one that's there when we graduate from high school.

      My best friend, at that time, was still a Junior in high school when I moved on. I got married, at 19, the year he graduated and that changed our relationship quite a bit, to say the least. Within a year, my wife and I also had a baby to contend with as well as our own apartment and the beginning of a very long journey through life. Paul, my friend, graduated and began a series of jobs and relationships that looked like they'd go on forever. He did find the time to be my best man and Godfather to my only son, though.

      He was a mechanic, a carpenter, a chicken plucker, a set builder for college theater, a summer camp counselor, a dishwasher, a wharf rat, an EMT and a paramedic. His taste in women was nearly as eclectic. He had itchy feet. He moved to New Hampshire and lived in various towns in the state. He moved to Newport, Rhode Island for a year or two and wound up living in Boston for a bit as well. I remember that when he lived in Boston, the street people would steal his battery and sell it for drugs. He wound up bringing the battery up to his third floor apartment every night. One morning, as he was putting the battery back in place, he noticed that his radiator was missing.

      In that short span between my graduation from high school and my marriage, I'd occasionally spend a weekend on Block Island, Rhode Island where he worked for a restaurant during the summers. I'd camp out on the beaches and he'd sneak me food. It was a great way to spend a weekend. He always had rich female friends, whose parents had expensive boats, close at hand and it was party time. When he was living at home, we'd go out and terrorize the local populace on area pool tables. The man can shoot a wicked game of 8 ball.

      About 15 years ago Paul moved to San Francisco to go to school. It took him over 6 years to become a Registered Nurse. Not bad for a kid with dyslexia, huh? With his history of moving around we all thought his time in San Francisco would eventually draw to a close, but it never has. Every three or four years he comes back for a week or so and it's always good to see him. We play a little golf, shoot a little pool and drink copious amounts of alcoholic beverages. He always tells me that being a straight male in San Francisco has some distinct advantages. There aren't many of that type left, it seems. He recently turned 45 and has never married.

      I've had a number of good friends come and go since he's been out West. But I've never had another best friend. I guess they just don't grow on trees. More to the point, I don't think I've spent a lot of time cultivating one. I've been through so many phases in my life that I find it hard to do all the things that I enjoy doing when I DO have the free time. Which isn't often. This type of relationship is like any other. If you ignore it, it fades. Is it even normal to still have a "best friend" 30 years after high school? This would mean that you've both grown in the same direction over all those years. Or that neither of you has grown at all.

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Everything expressed in The Rant & Rave is most definitely the opinions of the two authors. Anyone taking exception to any edition of The Rant & Rave is cordially invited to sprout wings and utilize round rolling pastry as their next sexual conquest.

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