Thoughts on friendship

I went to the pool with two of my oldest, dearest friends and their stunningly beautiful daughters this morning. Our kids dripped all over sauce-slathered hot chips while we gazed on, me, in my middle-aged Mum rashie, and my friends looking as gorgeous as they ever did.

I have known these guys for over 20 years. In a life punctuated by constant movement and chaos, this counts as a lifetime. And after all this time, I am still utterly delighted by them.

To stay with me for that long, my friends have had to extend some serious grace and forgiveness. They have known me through episodes of total obnoxiousness and yet still – thankfully – want to hang out with me and my sons on an ordinary Saturday morning.

Richard Glover suggests in his most recent book, Best Wishes, that we choose friends who make us feel clever and kind and beautiful; not dumb and boring and mean.

So simple, really.

I have gotten some friendships, like the ones mentioned above, so very right. Mostly luck but also a mutual spark of electricity that keeps the lights on.

Nevertheless, I have fruitlessly pursued relationships with people who do indeed make me feel miserable.

I’ve been brutally dumped for being too sad, too honest or too needy. I have chased people who, for whatever reason, see me more as a mosquito than a butterfly. I suspect I don’t meet the status requirements of some circles, feckless as I am.

And then, for some inexplicable reason, a bounty of excellent people put up with my potholed personality. I am quite dumb sometimes but they don’t rub it in, and I am definitely boring. Don’t get me started on gardening unless you want to settle in for quite a long soliloquy.

Friendship, like romantic love, takes a certain chemistry. A give/take. An objective balancing combined with a mutual patience, kindness and yes, enchantment.

I could easily write sonnets for my friends; their beauty, intelligence, grace and humour is the stuff of legend. Just ask me.

But so is their forgiveness. This is the key to long relationships. The granting of forgiveness, whether it be for frivolous folly or more serious trespasses.

Forgiveness, laughter and the commitment to keep showing up. Also memes. As one friend said to me recently, sending memes on Instagram is her love language.

And the friends who have rejected, ghosted or simply disappeared? I know it’s easy to be haunted (I know I am. I have composed many unsent emails bravely asking why, why, WHY?). But is it really worth all the wondering? In the same way we take perfectly OK clothes to Vinnies, maybe we just didn’t suit their needs? Or maybe it’s not about us at all?

What do you think? What makes friendship work?

NOTE: I wish to add a note about my sisters. They have been forced to put up with me. Good god, I am sorry for that. And yet, year after year, they continue to supply oxygen to our blood connection. It’s this kind of autonomic friendship that makes life tolerable (during the worst) and drinking-Champagne-with-your-hot-sisters-because-there’s-some-sort-of-occasion-but-who-really-cares-what-it-is (during the best). Thank you x 1000 always.

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