I bumped into an old uni friend the other day and aside from making a mental note that she looked quite good, albeit heavily made-up, our encounter left me a little green and questioning my social skills if not know, certainly back then when I was young and perhaps a little foolish. This self-consciousness came about because I asked after some old mutual friends of ours and was surprised to hear that she was still in touch with all of them. She then asked me if I was in touch with anyone from university which admittedly happened over 10 years ago and my response was a shameful No. In my defence, I added, it was because I had spent 10 years out of this country, working abroad and discovering life. Yet still there was an awkward silence probably brought on by the fact that even I had to admit in my head at least, that the real reason wasn't my absence but my inability to maintain friends from university.
As the premise goes, ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ so I had to admit to myself that I must have been to blame; after all, they can't all be wrong, can they? It was surely my bossy overbearing self that caused the problems? To be fair, the animosity was only felt by these four friends all of whom made it clear that they thought I had grown too big for my own ‘fresher’ boots. Nonetheless, instead of putting it down to a difference of opinion that should not reflect on my self-confidence, I think the experience ended up having far reaching consequences throughout my life.
Fast forward 10 years later and although I've travelled and met my closest friends in the world, I still feel as though there is no one person or two people for that matter that I can refer to as my best friend/s. Although this shouldn't make me feel inadequate as I am now a grown woman, with a husband, children, close family and friends, it somehow does. I love, in fact I adore my girlfriends and cherish the times we spend together but each one of them has someone they refer to as a best friend and for the most part this is someone they have known since childhood or at the very least since their time at university. I, on the other hand have made friends along the way, the closest ones being those I made during my stint in Uganda, yet none that I refer to explicitly as my best friend. This is not to say that I can't pick up the phone and call them when I choose or that we don’t make time for each other, there is nothing aside from the title that I lack in my close friends but I can’t helped but be filled with regrets that there is no one person that I share that extra special bond with. I couldn't say what it is as I haven't experienced it, at least not since primary school and perhaps it is more a figment of my imagination and reflection of my inadequacies than anything else. Yet the more elusive the character of a best friend is, the more compelled I feel to turn back the clocks and find one I can claim as my own.
I imagine this problem may be a purely feminine one or granted a 'me' one - but I think if we're honest with ourselves, we can all identify with the allure of a best friend. I don’t mean the kind you refer to your husband or wife as; rather the kind who knows you inside out and shared all your dreams and aspirations when you were young. The kind of friend that can give a speech at your wedding and talk about what you did when you were children and the promises you made to each other. How can this kind of relationship not be a source of envy to those of us who've forged bonds later in life? Best friends not only act as one's security in life in that they are steadfast but they also remind us that we are good people and capable of being loved. They remind us that we functioned well as children and have grown up to be adults who consider the feeling of others and who others want to be around. In short best friends validate us.
I have no idea what life would have been like had I remained best friends with the four girls from university, I suspect I am not worse off for it, having had a varied and very rich life so far, filled with fun and an array of friends. Rather than lament my lack of a best friend, I perhaps need to celebrate my many many better friends who allow me to be myself, warts and all and without whom my life would be a lot less enjoyable.