Like many people, I seek approval from those I like. And when that approval is mutual, I feel at ease. At a certain level of ease, I start to consider a person to be my best friend.
More often than not, I don’t have a best friend. However, I’ve had a few over the years and that is what this post is going to be about.
All my best friends.
In nursery, my best friend was a little boy who was the son of a parent my mum had made friends with. We were very similar. Both mixed race, both the same height, both with a mop of wild and tangly hair. Our mums would joke about how we were “boyfriend and girlfriend” and they thought it was funny to do our hair in the exact same style. I liked him because he showed me how to play my favourite game on the computer.
After that, my best friend was a girl who I made friends with because she was next to me in the register, and therefore stood next to me in the dinner line. She always wore her hair in two braids and liked to use the chalk to draw pictures on the ground at playtime. I remember having a conversation with her about how weird it is when you say something and then can’t remember who said it a minute later.
Next, a boy in Y2 who had long blonde hair. We would talk in class and sit together at lunch, and two of the girls in my class would whisper that we obviously fancied each other. We didn’t, we were just very good friends. One time he finished his lunch before me and said “See you outside,” and they went “Ooh! See you outside!” I thought he was funny. Most of his jokes were centred around spelling and grammar mistakes. He also went to my secondary school and sixth form, but we drifted apart before then.
I moved schools and cities, to a small village at the seaside. There, my best friend was a girl with short black hair. It was an on-again off-again friendship. She would often pretend to fall out with me for attention. We once kissed in PE “to see what it was like” and confirmed that it was just a “friend kiss”. When I left the village, back to the city, she saw my nan in Tesco and gave her a note for me which said “you’ll always be my best friend.” The next time I went to my nan’s, I tried to call her house, but it rang out three times. I look for her on Facebook every now and then, but I doubt I’d recognise her at this point.
Back in the city, my new best friend was a girl with long black hair and a weird name who had joined the school not long before. She was a Buddhist who used to be home schooled. We made a pact that if we didn’t sleep over at the other’s house at least once a month, we’d die. She and I were friends for a long time. She was my best friend for around six years. But she did a lot of things which annoyed or upset me while we were growing up into teenagers, and continued to do so as we grew apart. I felt sad that we weren’t as close and I begrudged her for a while, but eventually made peace with it when, out of the blue, she messaged me to say she’d found some drawings we did at primary school while she was packing for uni and we had a moment of nostalgia.
After her, for a while, I didn’t have a best friend, but all of my friends did. It was a weird experience. I remember that there was a specific moment at which I realised I didn’t have a best friend anymore. It made me feel left out so I thought about who my closest friend was, which made me feel worse because my closest friends all had someone who was closer to them than I was. And it was probably because things had started to go downhill at home and I’d stopped inviting anyone over very often because I didn’t want them to know about it, much less have to experience it. Over time, I stopped caring about best friendship and just focused of friendship, because I had a lot of good friends.
During my GCSEs, I had a friend with whom I had a strange relationship. I didn’t really consider him to be my best friend until he asked me who was, and I hadn’t thought about it in such a long time that I didn’t know. After a brief moment of consideration, I told him “It’s probably you, actually.” Looking back later on, I realised he’d only asked because he already knew what the answer was going to be. When I first met him, he was the best friend of the guy I liked (and who I went out with for just over a year). He was significantly shorter than me (and I was short for my age at the time) and had long ginger hair. He fancied me, and his best friend encouraged him to ask me out. I rejected him, but this didn’t seem to change how much he liked me at all. Ever. He was really upset about being rejected and I started to wish I hadn’t out of guilt, especially because he was in quite a few of my classes. But I guess he got over it because he chose to sit near me or next to me in all of my science classes at GCSE. While I was dating his best friend, I accidentally broke up their friendship but apparently that still didn’t change his opinion of me. He cut his hair to short back and sides at some point. Then I didn’t have a boyfriend anymore. He sat on my left in all of my science classes, joked about how he’d grown to be an inch or so taller than me, and he thought it was funny that I was extremely bad at Physics. He once invited me over to his house for dinner. While I was there, he tried to kiss me four times, and that put an end to his “best friend” status in my head, although we remained friends. After I left school, I messaged him for something random after a few years of us not speaking and we remembered how close we’d been and tried to arrange a meetup, but it never came to fruition and I haven’t heard from him since.
Around the time of my A Levels, my mental health really began to plummet. I didn’t have a best friend. I barely had the capacity to believe that anyone wanted to be my friend. It was upsetting and annoying because, on the outside, I appeared cheerful and able to connect to people as well as I ever had. But inside, I would look at someone who I was having a laugh with and think that they didn’t actually like me. This happened with most of my friends.
Except one. To be honest, he was someone who I’d never expected to be close to. My first memory with him in it is him in a dress on Red Nose Day in Y8, dramatically stepping over puddles and screeching “Ew, mud!” He was in my friendship group for years but we weren’t really friends ourselves until GCSE, and even then we weren’t actually that close until the first year of Sixth Form. I first thought he was kind of irritating when we were younger. Loud and a bit of an attention seeker. But, I grew to like him a lot and we actually dated for a week at one point. Two of those days were the weekend and he avoided talking to me the other five. We decided it was best to just be friends. And I was glad we did. Out of all my friends – best or otherwise – he’s one of the ones I sought the most approval from. In our first year of Sixth Form, he had his heart broken. And I put everything I could into supporting him. He was my best friend, of course I did. In some serious and genuine ways and some extremely childish and bitter ways, but I regret none of it. We had the same free lessons and we would go up to the very top floor of the STEM centre (a place we probably weren’t supposed to know about) and talk. And at break times, we’d sit surrounded by our friends and he would squeeze my hand when he saw her and use humour feel better about it. And he didn’t really know much about my life while I was finding out about his, until one time when we sat on the grass outside school and I told him everything. I’d never felt closer to a friend. The following year, we didn’t have any free classes together. He made other friends and I didn’t. He was upset when I quit school. And, like with everyone else, we grew apart. I still love him as I did, and I miss it so, so much. I would help him with anything. But it’s different now. And I get annoyed and angry and upset and I blame myself and I blame him and then I blame myself again but it’s no-one’s fault. It’s not his fault that I hardly ever reached out to him and it’s not my fault that he was usually busy when I did. I could go on for hours about all the ways in which things could have been done differently. I have done. Because I miss it, and I always will.
I miss all of those friends.
But friendship is weird. Sometimes, I’m not even sure I like it. I’ve never been the glorified kind of “ideal” friend. I don’t message first, I don’t do long birthday posts on social media, and I’m honest about when I can’t meet up because I’ve had no sleep or I just don’t feel like it.
But I can listen to and comfort and and hold someone for hours. I know when it’s appropriate to say that I disagree and when it’s better to not say anything at all. When I care about someone, I care about them deeply, and I can listen to and help with their troubles without taking them on as my own.
I don’t want another best friend. When I think about it negatively, it’s because whenever I acknowledge that someone is my best friend, we don’t stay that close for very much longer. But, when I think about it positively, it’s because I don’t need one. I mean, yes, I still seek approval. Everyone does. But I don’t need a best friend for that. In my life, I’ve gained approval from lots of people who haven’t been my best friend.
I sought quite a lot of approval in school from one of my other friends who I knew since primary school, but she was never my best friend, and she was another one who did a lot of things which I didn’t like. I still hated it when we weren’t friends anymore.
The friend I’ve been the closest to for the longest is someone I’ve never met, and he’s not my best friend, but I’d still hate to lose him and I’ve looked for his approval from the day we started talking.
Friendship is weird. It’s as difficult as it is rewarding.
Realistically, I don’t think I’ll never have another best friend. But, for the moment, I’m content without one.