“The myth of the BFF can be difficult to live up to. In film and television, we often see female friendships portrayed in a highly romanticised and unrealistic manner; uncomplicated and lasting forever despite the differences of the women involved. When women’s relationships are at the centre of the narrative – Sex and the City being the most obvious example – it seems that best friendship somehow transcends all else. ”
— The myth of the BFF and the end of female friendships (The Guardian)
Recently, I had the pleasure of engaging in a fabulous chat on Twitter with Trinity, Reynje and Laura prompted by Trinity's tweeting a link to the article quoted above. This piece was written by a contributor to Just Between Us, an anthology of writing by Australian authors on the topic of female friendships. The depiction of female friendships--and particularly the BBF (best friend forever) relationship--is one that I frequently find personally challenging in books, movies and television. Most of the time, those depictions aren't relavent to my own experiences, and in my discussion with Laura, Reynje and Trin, it sounds like I'm not alone.
Thinking back to elementary and high school, I remember the distinct feeling that there was something wrong with me that I didn't have a best friend. That's what we saw on Beverly Hills 90210 (the original show), right? Not to mention my mother and most of the adult women I knew still had the same best friends they'd had when they were twelve, so the inevitable questions from well-meaning adults would often head in that direction I name whatever casual friend was around the most at any given moment, but that overwhelming feeling of being defective because I didn't walk around with half of a friendship charm.
That's not to say I didn't have friends and a reasonably full social life. In high school, I had a group of friends--girls and boys--that I spent time with and had a lot of fun with. A few of those people I'm still in touch with. When I went to college, there were a couple of those high school friends who I thought may be that best friend forever that adults told me I should have, but distance (pre-email and Facebook and even texting--the horror!) made that challenging. Late in my sophomore year of college it hit me that one close high school friend with best friend forever potential had faded into my history, rather than being a part of my present. I was so very sad about that.
In college, I had a similar, loose circle of friends, but that group was largely comprised of couples--it wasn't the Sex and the City fantasy (this was when SATC was popular) full of shoe shopping, gossip-fueled brunches and hangovers. Aside from my now-husband, I'm only in touch with one of those people, though I have wonderful memories of my four years with that group. By that point, I'd pretty much come to terms with the reality that I simply was going to be the anomaly, that person who didn't have a best, lifelong female friend. (This was around the same time I realized that my real best friend forever was my now-husband.)
Now that I'm older (in my 30s), I realize that friendships change, grow and end, and that's part of the cycle of our social relationships as humans. Sometimes people come into our lives for a period of time, and there's value in appreciating those relationships while we have them. I know that I'll never fit in at a "Girls Night Out" (just as I always felt out of place and awkward at slumber parties at twelve), that my enjoyment of solitude and aversion to gossip and large groups will keep me from obtaining the sorts of female friendships depicted in popular culture.