How To Be Best Friends

by Cathi

Don’t turn down the help of the tiny, chatty blonde girl who offers to help with the parade poster you’re working on for school. Marvel at how easy she makes approaching strangers seem, and then bond over your shared fear of bees. Carry the sign together in the parade, wave goodbye awkwardly at the end of the route, and exchange telephone numbers in case you want to be real friends. Be unable to read her handwriting (which only gets marginally better over the years—get used to it) and unable to remember her last name, so looking her family up in the phone book becomes impossible. Smile at her in gym class, but don’t talk again until next year when you’re in seventh grade.

Be confused when, one day, she asks to eat lunch with you and your geeky friends. Be grateful every day after that this cool, tiny, chatty girl has chosen you over anyone else in the school (who she seems to be on friendly terms with). Bond over your love of fantasy novels. Start having sleepovers. Watch her fall out of every good climbing tree in your yard and bounce back up, laughing wildly. Gossip about the evil machinations of the other girls in your peer group, and write conspiratorially about it in a “friendship journal” that you pass between classes (much more discrete than folding notes). Accept her offer to share her rain poncho on a class trip and develop a cheesy nickname/metaphor for your friendship. Don’t get mad at her when she hijacks your fourteenth birthday party by crying for forty-five minutes solid after watching Bicentennial Man. Get a little mad at her when, without fail, you tell her about the boy you’re crushing on and she mysteriously develops a crush on him too. Get more mad when, because she is cool and chatty and outgoing, she actually asks those boys to be her boyfriend and they say yes. Be happy for her anyway. Hug her when they break up a couple weeks later. Laugh about it ten years later when half those boys come out of the closet.

Act normal when she starts calling out of the blue, asking if she can sleep over on a school night. Ask your mom to stock up on food your best friend likes since she is very picky. Act normal when those school night sleepovers turn into weeks-long stayovers, and pretend you didn’t see her crying on the phone with her parents when she tries to hide the fact that she was. Find out her dad has cancer, then heart problems, then cancer again, and treat her like a normal teenager. Convince her to audition with you for a community theatre production and make merciless fun of her when she auditions for (and gets on!) the high school cheerleading squad. Stay up very late at night co-authoring fantasy stories where your characters are strong, brave, and fearless. Hug her really tight when her dad goes into remission, again. Brush off her concerned questions about your increasingly morose ramblings in your online journal, but be utterly touched that she noticed, and cared. Call her sobbing in the middle of the night when you’re sixteen, even though you’ve been drifting apart a little bit, and be comforted when she spends an hour telling you that you’re not a bad person for wanting to break up with the very nice guy you were dating, but didn’t like-like anymore.

Be always best friends, even when you don’t talk as much. Always refer to her as your best friend, even when others have been fulfilling that emotional slot for a couple years. Hear her always refer to you as her best friend, even as you guiltily realize you haven’t called in a while. Reconnect in college and promise you’ll be better at being best friends. Watch her blossom from the tiny and chatty, but overly sheltered child you used to know into a strong, brave, and fearless city dweller. Watch her taste buds graduate from Lucky Charms to enchiladas to tikka masala to vindaloo. Enjoy that she’s taking you along for the culinary ride, but draw the line at vindaloo. Start dating amazeballs boys within two weeks of each other, and have careful conversations where you’re both trying to sound practical and cautious but can barely mask the heady perfume of new love. Celebrate each other’s milestones: she’ll draw an elaborate cartoon on her personal calendar to celebrate the first day of your prestigious internship and you’ll run in circles around your living room when she gets into grad school. Be okay with how much time she spends with her not-so-new love.

Decide on a whim to drive through the night to go see your political hero get inaugurated as President of the United States. Teach her that the left highway lane is for passing, not cruising at the exact speed limit (and only remind her of this once or twice a year. Restraint is very important in this sort of thing). Freeze to death beneath the Washington Monument and cry together through his address. Listen to each other when the not-so-new loves aren’t shiny and covered in glitter anymore, and remind each other of how strong, and brave, and fearless you are. Drop everything you’re doing to be at each other’s sides when your loves fall apart. Help pick up the pieces of broken hearts, and drink many margaritas. Be cautiously optimistic for each other when you both get back together with your formerly-new-loves. Have private, threatening conversations with the boys where you outline the horrible things that will befall them if they break your best friend’s heart again. Live in the same city for a while, take up yoga together.

Help her love plan a proposal and be there when he does it; take good pictures even though you can’t see for crying. Tell her you don’t have to be her Maid of Honor because you know her other best friend (since birth! He wins this round) would be great for that Honor position. Be co-honor person with Other Best Friend, and become fast friends with him and marvel about what great taste in friends your co-best friend has. Talk her down from WIC ledges and share a Look when her mom almost faints with shock over her choice of red wedding shoes. Assure her it’s okay to stop caring about the wedding when her dad gets sick again. Jokingly introduce her to what you thought was the worst scotch in the world, only to have to resign yourself to buying her very expensive, subjectively horrible whiskey once a year for her birthday. Move to the suburbs and try to convince her that it’s awesome out there; she’ll dutifully pretend going to the mall and using a coupon at Applebee’s is, indeed, awesome. Call her after you get engaged to the same boy you started dating within two weeks of each other, five years before, and she’ll burst into tears in her office. Have her understand when you ask your only sister (and co-best friend) to be your Maid of Honor and only attendant.

Give ridiculously touching toasts at each other’s weddings, three months apart. Get ridiculously sloshed at each other’s weddings. Help each other move. Text constantly. Make plans and break them. Make more plans anyway, even though they’ll likely get broken again anyway. Call each other for reality checks, and pledge to use each other as an excuse to postpone having kids until the other one does first. Make plans for your children to be best friends and/or get married to each other. Realize you’ve been friends for more of your lives than you haven’t been friends. Decide to be blood-sisters, the kind who tell each other everything, and wonder to yourself what on earth you were before, if not that.

Photo: Gabriel Harber Photography

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  • Sarah McD

    I started reading APW yesterday. I came across Rachel’s amazing post about making friends as an adult on Sunday because it was linked from a baking blog I read, so yesterday I decided to check out the rest of the site.

    I can’t tell you how many posts I read where I sat there going, “These people GET me!” followed by “How did they know this is EXACTLY the kind of wedding information I’m looking for?!” Then I check today and have so many tears in my eyes right now because this is the perfect description of my best friend and I – I already emailed her the link to this post and dared her not to cry while reading it.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this beautiful little piece of the internet. You can expect to start seeing me around here from now on.

    • Welcome to the tribe! We’re happy to have you :-) (And most of us had those exact same thoughts, so you’re in the right place)

    • I did the same in regards to finding APW & emailing this to BFF. Regarding the latter -I made sure to text her technology-averse self to make sure she would actually check her email; I don’t articulate my feelings well but this… well, this should be turned into some sort of Hallmark card.

    • Welcome! You’re in good company!

    • Paranoid Libra

      Welcome to Team Practical. Chances are you will still be here after your wedding like a lot of us. I’ve been married over a year and well here I am still for pieces like this :)

    • Sarah McD

      Thank you, everyone! :) Now that y’all made me feel so welcome, there will be no getting rid of me!

  • Kristen

    This month is breaking my heart. Awesome pieces.

  • Blizalef

    Thank you for sharing this post! The timing is actually perfect for me, mostly because I, frankly, am an ass. To elaborate — I am in the infant stages of wedding planning, I feel like I am (atleast a little bit) losing my mind, and I have spent the last week being annoyed with my best friend/Maid of Honor because she went on vacation & didn’t tell me, just as my hypothetical wedding plans are evolving into *actually happening* wedding plans… And cue total freak out. As I said, I am an ass.
    I realize being annoyed with her for so asinine a reason is completely ridiculous. This post simple brought that point home to me; even when she makes me crazy, (especially because she gets to go have fun, while I have to work, and plan, and be responsible) I would be quite lost without my best friend, which is why I asked her to be my Maid of Honor in the first place.
    So, you know, thanks for the reality check.

  • Sarah

    This was amazing and so joy-filled. Love it.

  • I want to say something smart and witty, but all I have is this: awwwwwww. Now I’m going to go see if my best friend is on Skype because you’ve got me missing her even more than I usually do.

  • love.

  • Laura C

    Measure of a good post: the details of your relationship with your best friend are nothing like mine, but it makes me miss her so much. She has twins creeping up on four months old and another creeping up on four years old and recently moved 450 miles away, and it’s totally understandable that I don’t hear from her as much as I’d like, and in fact, for having infant twins, she’s emailing an incredible amount. But, damn, I still miss her. Each email is like a gift, and since they most often come late at night, I find myself checking my email on my phone as the very last thing before I turn out the lights every night, just hoping tonight will be the night.

    One thing about friends is, you can have a lot of them, and they don’t all need to be The One, but when there is someone like that, it’s so wonderful.

    • theemilyann

      ooohhhh…. I completely understand. MY Best Friend has recently discovered the joys of gchat and I randomly get “HAI PRETTY!” messages from her. And it secretly makes me feel totally amazing.

      I’ve already emailed her this, with the snippets that are LITERALLY VERBATIUM our relationship.


  • Kate

    This compelled me to call my best friend RIGHT NOW even though we live in the same city and talk at least once a week. This is how that conversation went:

    Best Friend: Hello? Are you okay?
    Me: Yeah. How are you?
    BF: I’m good. What’s up?
    Me. Not much. Just wanted to call and say hi. And tell you that you’re awesome.
    BF: Oh… really? That’s why you called? At 8:30AM on a Tuesday? From work?
    Me: Yep.
    BF: Oh. You coulda saved that until later. I already knew I was awesome. But it’s fun to be reminded on a Tuesday, eh? Huzzah.

    This is why I love her.

  • Martha

    Does anyone else think the APW staff is secretly holding out on us? I feel like the friendship posts get better and better as the month progresses!!! Can’t wait to see how they end this month.

    • meg

      Awww. It’s actually you guys holding out on us. Often we get more and more complex submissions as the month gets rolling, because one post inspires another writer, etc. This month we definitely ended up with so much good stuff at the end we have been sort of CRAMMING it in, and I still don’t think we’ll get to it all. I’m working on that.


    This was. SO GOOD. And yes, the details are nothing like my best friend and me. But this is us anyway. I just sent it to her. She’s not getting married anytime soon, but I hope she starts reading APW. It’s so much more than wedding stuff! It’s all the stuff!

  • Outfuckingstanding. Thank you!

  • So, I need to call my best friend immediately.

  • Abby Mae

    This makes me cry. So early in my workday too. This was such a beautiful article. So happy that you’ve got that kind of friendship going on in your life Cathi!

  • This post had me reaching out to my BFF who was my MOH after my sister adamently stated she didn’t want the job. We just got our wedding pics and my favs from our photo booth are of me with my two BFFs – all vogueing. Best Friends are awesome.

  • Breck

    “Act normal when she starts calling out of the blue, asking if she can sleep over on a school night. Ask your mom to stock up on food your best friend likes since she is very picky. Act normal when those school night sleepovers turn into weeks-long stayovers, and pretend you didn’t see her crying on the phone with her parents when she tries to hide the fact that she was.”

    This part especially rang true for me. When I moved back to my hometown a couple years ago after my dad passed away, my mom and I had a huge falling out, and my best friend lovingly forced me to move into her parents’ house (I was living at home at the time). She lived about half an hour away, but she drove home almost everyday for a couple of weeks so that I didn’t feel awkward living with her family. I will never, ever forget that.

    • Tamar

      beautiful. <3

  • Tamar

    Crying at work at 8AM on a Tuesday… THANKS, APW.

  • I love this. I’m nurturing a couple new friendships, and missing my college roommate best friend. This is wonder-full.

    • I’m so glad you like it.

      I wrote it after I got off the phone with my no-longer tiny, chatty (strong, brave, fearless) bff earlier this month and being so, so, so excited we were actually going to see each other. Halfway through writing it I was like “…this is pretty much a rip-off of Manya’s ‘How to be in Love’. Except less well-written. Whoops.” I’m super happy it has your stamp of approval :)

  • Amy

    I love that people have friendships like this, but honestly, posts like this leave me feeling incredibly sad. I’ve always wanted a friendship like this, and from time to time fooled myself into thinking I had one, but it always fell to pieces. I don’t know whether there’s something wrong with me – I put in the time and effort and usually end up with friends who would rather hold me at a distance or take advantage of my efforts rather than return the friendship – or if I’ve just been unlucky.

    Picking bridesmaids was hard and painful and awkward, not because I had too many ladies to pick from, but because I had too few friends who I felt considered me close enough friends to be honored by being picked (instead of weirded out that I thought too much of our friendship). And I never could have picked a maid of honor, because I’m certain no one thinks of me in that role.

    For me, finding a best friend like this has been infinitely harder than finding a good romantic relationship, and it pains me more than I’d care to admit.

    • There is nothing wrong with you. I say that definitively, as there is no “right way” to be.

      Struggles with friends are the hardest. I’ve been there, too. You have all my internet hugs today <3

    • Kristen

      word. I’m having a hard time this month too. But you know what I try to think about? That the kind of friendship I’ve always wanted, does exist. I just haven’t found it yet and neither have you. But its out there, we can read right here how these kinds of bonds are real and available and that makes me feel so much better.

      For a long time I thought these types of friendships didn’t exist and what I wanted was a fantasy just like my fantasies about a life partner who would care for me and love me and a family who would love me. Then I met and fell in love with my husband who disproved everything I thought wasn’t possible in a relationship. So I know that you and I will find that special friendship(s) at some point. I’m sure of it! Keep your chin up!

    • Pippa

      All I can say is, I’m there too. Right there with you, all the way. And this month on APW has been tough. Virtual hugs.

    • Blizalef

      I can understand that. I have a best friend, but only by virtue of the fact that she’s the most patient & tolerant person on the planet. But I find that I am hella awkward trying make friends, generally speaking, and that I end up trying too hard and scaring people off.
      Point being, I’m sure there isn’t anything wrong with you! It’s just really really hard to make and keep friends — especially in a world where so many people don’t actually understand what does or does not qualify as real friendship. Hang in there, chica!

    • MissStumptown

      I’ll offer you something my mother once told me: she always struggled to find true and lasting friendships when she was younger. It wasn’t until she was in her 30’s that she found her best friend when she moved in across the street and they bonded over their shared love of wine. I grew up running across the street to my mother’s best friend’s house to play with her kids and they all became more like my family than just friends.

      So what I’m saying is don’t give up! You’ll find some friend one day who will fill the role of “best”.

      • Amy

        Thanks for the reminder :) It’s all too easy to fall back into thinking that because I haven’t known my best friend since grade school that I missed to boat on ever having one!

        • Other people’s friendships (just like other people’s relationships) can sometimes confuse us into making false comparisons. I’m the author of this post, but I for sure have doubted the depth of this friendship, like when my older sister got married and her best friend since Kindergarten was her MOH. I’ve only known my best friend since 6th grade! Her best friend must be worth WAY more!

          And then you have my mom, like MissStumpTown’s mom, who didn’t find her best friend until she was in her 30’s and joined a bowling league in the new town she just moved to. This is the woman who threw me a bridal shower and pretty much furnished my apartment with couches and tables she wasn’t using anymore. They’re now in their 60’s, and their friendship is the model I’ve used for my own friendship endeavors.

          …point being, it can totally happen at any time. This was a really long way of just saying “Exactly!” to the above comment to you, haha.

    • ART

      another one here. i’ve never had this, even though i’ve always wanted it. in fact, in just about every group of girlfriends i’ve ever been in, the others have been closer to each other than to me, making me feel a bit like a third wheel. i had a big breakdown about it, sobbing to my fiance the other night about picking a bridal party. i realized that i don’t need a maid of honor, and that i have other relationships in my life that can take the place of the “best friend” – my brother, my fiance, hell – my mom. there’s nothing wrong with us. hugs :)

    • I think the thing that’s worth remembering when you read posts like this is that they are the celebration of a friendship, so they are written from a warm, rosey perspective. I could write something about my oldest friend that sounded like this, but there’s another side to the coin. There have been times when the friendship felt weak and fragile, extended periods of time where we mostly pissed each other off/disappointed each other, times when we’ve let each other down, or hurt each other.

      I’ve found the wedding planning process has brought all of my insecurities (hellloooo body image) to the forefront with a roar, and I think sometimes, in our vulnerabilities we look at other people’s relationships and see all the good, and then we look at our own lives and see the voids. I don’t say all this to diminish something that has been painful for you, just to attempt to round out the picture a bit. Best of luck. I hope your wedding makes you feel showered by love!

      • Amy

        That’s a really good point. It helps. Thanks :)

    • Kate

      I think we tend to hold up the best friend as the pinnacle of human friendship. In media (especially in movies), depictions of female friendships fall into a certain stereotype just as often as depictions of romantic relationships. Some people have best friends for life, like the author. Some people have serial best friends. Some people don’t have best friends at all. There are a million different forms of friendship out there, don’t worry if you’re lacking one. That said, don’t be ashamed of wanting people in your life who will genuinely care for you, and will help out in tough times. One person probably can’t be All the Things though.

      • Amy

        Yeah, for me it’s less about me not feeling like I’m living up to some cultural standard, but more so just craving the type of friendship that I know exists somewhere – the kind of friendship that at one point I thought I had but was proven so, so wrong, about.

        These days my (brand new!) husband is my best friend though, and I treasure that deeply.

        But it’s not quite the same. And it’s exactly the idea that one person can’t be All the Things that makes me wish I had a best friend like someone from this post, someone who was NOT my husband who I could rely on emotionally.

      • meg

        The perfect place for me to chime in and say that I don’t have a friend like this. Actually, David and I were sort of friends like this, but then it non-platonic, and now he’s my partner, so I’m back to not having a friend like this (though, you know, I have a partner like this, which is pretty rad).

        Anyway, I count myself lucky to have a lot of friends that I love, and different people I can confide in about different things. But, it’s possible I’m just not a best friend kind of girl (possibly because of trust issues from years gone by, and fears of putting a lot of eggs in one basket). What I do have is long time loyal to death friends, who are not best friends. We sometimes have very little in common other than a sense of humor and a shared history, we’re sometimes total jerks to each other, but we’d bail each other out of jail, so there is that. But our friendships look NOTHING like this, and just are not in the classic best friend mold. Your friendships make look nothing like either of these models. Or, you may be in one of those (grueling) working on making friends period. All of that is so so so normal.

        Long story short: there are lot of ways to have friends. This month is mostly about pushing all of us to do the hard and scary work of building community, no matter what it looks like. And celebrating friendship in the variety of forms it comes in. (Including judgy, which we did last week.)

        Posts like this just kind of make me happy that this exists in the world, even if it’s no my model. For you, it might make you aware that you really want this, which is awesome too.

    • Maegan

      I totally agree with you. This article broke my heart.

    • SarahRose

      Just to add another experience: I have had best friendships for most of my life, one from birth through gradeschool, and the other through high school and a little past. Having a best friend can be (and generally was in my experience) wonderful, but since the last one imploded a few years ago, I have purposefully chosen not to label/move towards labeling any of my friendships as “best.”

      The reason why begins with that the person who I became closest to after my second and last best friendship fell apart was one half of our mirror image — our crew in high school was me and my girl, and a pair of guy best friends. But after high school, both of these best friendships went haywire in different ways. And M and I were the ones left standing and bonded over the whole thing. We actually decided together that it would be better to not use the best friend label, even though at that point in time we could have applied it to ourselves.

      In fact, when I look back over the past five years, there are several different relationships that reached what I might formerly have called best friendship-heights, where I could have slapped on the best friend label and it probably would have stuck. But I didn’t. And in fact, I think that the reason I had several different friendships flourish like this was in part because I let them each be what they would, when they would, and didn’t burden them with expectations or limit them with my mental hierarchies of 0 to best friend.

      As a result, I let myself fall in love with new friends and be obsessed with them, grow up and apart from old friends (sometimes only to rekindle them when we were both ready again!), and go steady with those friends where it’s just a good thing. In short, I have tried to appreciate all my relationships in the way that we so often talk about them here: as different but wonderful each in its own way. And for me, not having a best friend has actually been a big part of being able to achieve that.

    • Beth

      I feel ya, lady. Ever since my high school best friend and I had a falling out, I haven’t had another best friend in my life and it really hurts at times. I’ve got a number of “good” friends, but nothing like I always thought I would have with my (not-so) BFF.

      I would say that of all the stress of planning my wedding, trying to come to terms with the whole bridesmaid thing was the only part that was truly painful to me. I never did call anyone a bridesmaid – instead we had siblings and a few mutual friends standing guy-girl-guy-girl around us in a sort of semi-circle. Thus the Wedding Horseshoe was born and it was glorious.

      But still, I miss the ease of forming friendships that seems to come with childhood. It feels like we’re all too guarded and busy now…

    • Yeah, me too. I have the belief that any kind of close friendship (not just best friendship) is something for other people, not for me. It is hard.

  • Amy March

    This made me cry. So thankful for my best friend.

  • Kate

    This piece is utterly beautiful. It cracked my heart right open with love for my life-long best friend.

  • C

    I love everything about this, are you sure you didn’t write it about me and my best friend? Although I might add, “make up your own language consisting entirely of movie/TV show quotes, and get weird looks when other people hear you talking in this made up language, and just don’t get it.”

    • Georgina

      My bestie and I were (are?) obsessed by FRIENDS. For years every email subject line related to an episiode. Sad but true!

  • Ooooh….so sad….so true…so timely. Long story short–my BEST friend of 5 years, the person whom I told EVERYTHING to, the person whom I went on vacay with, the person who I thought was going to be my end all be all, never need another friend in the world (with the exception of my husband)–you know, THAT person….yeah, we broke up.

    It was a long time coming and there were a lot of issues that led to this break up, so while I am super sad, I am not surprised really–and honestly it might be for the best…but still….man, reading this post today and thinking about not having that person in my life–I’ll admit it, I’m crying a bit. Thanks Cathi–great post–and makes you remember what is important and how we work so hard to maintain these amazing life changing relationships with our friends. Xoxox to all of you out there–regardless of if you have a best friend right now or not!

  • Sara

    My best friend since grade school got engaged over the weekend. Because we have been working through an argument we had a couple months ago and have both been too busy with our normal lives to sit sus it out, plus I was out of town until Sunday night, I wasn’t able to be a part of the celebration. I wasn’t able to attend the dinner her now-fiance set up for celebration, so she sent a quick text so I got the news before it hit FB. When she sent me a thank you for the flowers I sent her, we ended up getting into an argument because she was way more upset with me than I knew and had a two hour long phone call last night trying to work out the problems. I think we’re going to make it, but it involved a lot of tears.

    This post reminded me how sad I am about how such a stupid argument is derailing our friendship during what should be a happy time for her.This is a beautiful piece and also reminds me that the past was bright and fun, and hopefully the future will be too.

  • Meghan

    love. and tears :).

  • Georgina

    I couldn’t decide which part of the post to quote when I sent the link to my BFF. Every anecdoate seemed so pertinent to our friendship. Sometimes I resent the fact that I met my best friend while I was an exchange student in Canada in 1999, and feel physical pain at our separation. But a long-distance friendship has taught me that while some friendships come and go, the most important friendships stand the test of distance, time and changing lifestyles and priorities. I am so blessed to have her in my life.

    And here she is, beside me every step of the way, at my wedding last year… travelling from Calgary and London to do so:

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