Those Tricky Words — ‘Best Friend’
Written by Tawana Bain
When we’re kids, there’s nothing of greater magnitude than being best friends with someone. Your world is so small as a child, and a best friend makes it feel a little bigger. Looking back on those days, it’s a kaleidoscope of emotions for us. There’s having fun together and learning to share, and all the times you get to have pure, new experiences. But what about the challenges, the doubt, and the times the road gets bumpy? What if the person you thought was your best friend didn’t feel that way about you? Or vice versa, which could actually sometimes be worse. What if they betray you somehow, or you feel like they do because you’re so enmeshed in your emotions?
The emotions of children are a raw nerve. As we get older, for better or worse, we get used to how people can let us down. How common conflicts can add wear and tear to our relationships. The way some friends, maybe even most, are only with us during certain seasons of our lives.
I’d like to discuss how to be a friend in this space this month. It occurs to me that sometimes, we can forget what that word means in big ways. The same concept that meant the world when we were children can get lost in the sauce of life as time keeps on coming at us.
I’m very fortunate to have many friends who care about me and who I rely upon, who know they can count on me, too. But I’m fortunate, here in adulthood, to even have a best friend.
What a concept, right? Assigning this distinction is no small thing. It means showing up for each other even more than the average friend. It wasn’t something that I realized right away, but once it occurred to me that I have this best friend, it led me to consider how to navigate this label in our complex world. What are the mission-critical elements? The ones that immediately occur to me are honesty, working through tough issues, not taking them for granted and not taking advantage of each other. Understanding that sometimes life happens and just because we are not able to be there during a certain season because “duty calls,” that she will get right back.
“She is the mother I never had. She is the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don’t know a better person. It’s making me cry because I’m thinking about how I probably have never told her that.” — Oprah Winfrey on her best friend, Gayle King
Sometimes your best friend might be singular, or maybe it’s a group. Those dynamics can get really tricky, though! It’s one thing to keep things tight and right with a duo, but an ensemble can be tricky. I have to give it up to all those ladies doing it like those on one of my favorite sitcoms – Living Single, even once they’re married and life has gotten so much more complicated. It was one thing to be that tight in a ’90s kind of world, but now well into the 21st century? That is a true accomplishment.
Sometimes, we might have our best friends at different stations of our lives: work, church, social … Maybe there are some you keep from childhood, some newer ones from adulthood … Do they mix well if you have them meet up? Not always. You are a little different with each of them. So, then the question becomes, which ones know the “real you?” My answer to that is they all do. As women, we contain multitudes.
Maybe the most famous best friend duo of our day are Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King. In almost a half-century of friendship, the two have never had a major fight, always keep one another top of mind, and always have each other’s backs. With Oprah as possibly the most famous woman alive, Gayle has been a major part of her support system. Someone she can be real with. The two have plenty of room for levity – once, when Gayle appeared on TV wearing a rather large necklace, Oprah sent Gayle’s assistant a note reading, “Please tell Gayle I’m on the treadmill and it’s hard to focus with that circus around her neck.” Gayle simply responded, “I think she’s WRONG,” and the two laughed about it. I’m sure it sounds crazy to some, but it’s so important to have someone in your life who can say these things to you, and you to them.
In an interview, Oprah once said of Gayle, “She is the mother I never had. She is the sister everybody would want. She is the friend that everybody deserves. I don’t know a better person. It’s making me cry because I’m thinking about how I probably have never told her that.”
If Oprah went years before saying that to Gayle, how many of us are waiting to give our sister her flowers? Let’s take the time, make the effort, stand up, be brave, and tell our best friends about themselves.
Not sure where to start? Coming up this month, we have Best Friends Thunder Brunch. Grab your besties and meet us at Black Jockeys Lounge for an afternoon with mimosas, music, bites, and sisterhood! Learn more and register here.