One night Brandon and I were having dinner together, which usually consists of marathon discussions about video games, with me occasionally trying to divert his attention to other topics. (I'm pretty much over discussions of video games, for the record.) Brandon is a funny little guy whose brain can jump around from topic to topic without warning, or he can fixate on a topic for hours. You can never be certain what you're going to get from him.
At one point, and I can't remember what the topic of the moment was, he asked me who my best friend is. In his mind, a best friend is the person that you spend the most time with. Therefore, he has seen Lara as my best friend for a long time. By that standard, it makes total sense. Apart from Matt, there's not really anyone else I've spent more time with in the past four years. Of course, she's also been a really good friend and we grew very close over the years we worked together. Now that we're not, the dynamic has shifted. It's not a good or a bad thing; it just is.
My answer to him was basically that, yes, Lara is a very good friend, but I don't call anyone my "best friend".
I've written a lot about my thoughts on friendship. I was heavily influenced by my dad in how I think about the people I call "friend". And I've evolved my thinking as I've learned more about people and relationships as an adult.
I see friendship at any level as an ebb and flow. Life circumstances bring people into our lives. Sometimes there is an invisible pull that brings two (or more) people closer together. I've got such a diverse group of friends that I haven't identified any definitive characteristic that I am personally drawn to.
If I had to give you some broad descriptions that fit the people who are my friends, I'd say that they are kind, compassionate, care about the world outside themselves, and are down-to-earth. I sort of think I have that in common with my friends...at least I hope I can be described that way.
But best friends...hmmm.
I'm watching Brandon navigate the childhood version of best friends. He has very clear ideas about what it means to be a good friend. I'm proud of how earnestly he believes in friendship and how important it is to him to be a good friend.
He's starting to understand the give and take that is required in any relationship. He is only seven, after all. He's got selfish tendencies that battle with the selfish tendencies of other children. It's understandable.
The act of being or having a "best friend" in childhood is pretty fickle, but children are still determined to possess or bestow the title. Interest sways with the change of seasons, circumstances, or trends.
Unpleasant as it is to think about, interest also sways with popular opinion of those we come into contact with most in our day-to-day lives. Was anyone totally immune to the in-crowd and out-crowd dynamic back in school days? Are we now?
The woman I called my best friend in high school is someone I still care about deeply. We were reunited a few years ago through Facebook after 10 years of no contact. It was wonderful to catch up with what had happened in her life, even if it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns.
I had a similar experience with the woman I called my best friend in university. We had good times. We had not-so-good times. We knew each other well and called each other out on our considerable BS. At that point in my life, I needed her.
While both of these women, and Lara too, will be important people to me for life, I know that the "best friend" label was a bit of a fallacy other than for a short, concentrated period when our worlds collided regularly. The truth is, they all have very good friendships with other people who likely know who they are today much better than I do just because we aren't in contact regularly.
We've grown apart because of time, distance, and even changing interests and priorities. But it doesn't mean they aren't still good friends, because I also know that we'll just pick right up where we left off when life brings our paths together again.
Friendship is important to me, particularly when the connection feels equal - that's my way of saying both parties have similar affinity for each other. Unequal connections can get awkward and lead to hurt. I don't like being the giver or receiver of such hurt, but it happens to everyone. We can't be friends with every person we meet - that would drain us dry.
I have acquaintances. I have friends. I have good friends.
But I have stopped using "best friends", because it feels like a very high pressure term and I hate the idea of ruining a good friendship by trying to become best friends. Besides, Matt is the first person I call or text when I have news to share or I need someone to vent my spleen to. So, as I told Brandon, he's my true best friend. I just usually shorten his title to husband. :)