What Makes a Good Friend?

I recently came across the photo above in my Facebook feed and when I saw it, I actually whispered, “Ah…yes!” and began trying to do the math in my head, figuring out how long I have known many of my friends.  And to my delight, I realized that I’ve known a good number of them for right around 7 years, and another hand full for a lot longer than that.

Score!,” I thought.  My posse will be with me for life. And that is a good thing, because I really need them.  Everyone single one of them.

And later that night, when I put my head on the pillow, I started to think about what kind of friend I actually am, how I can be a better friend to the people that are simply wonderful to me, and now, my daughter.

Friendships are different than romantic relationships because, in the current construct of our society, it is acceptable to have a plethora of friends.  Lovers…eh, at a certain age (the one at which I am at) it really isn’t cool to be collecting bfs or gfs. Not in my book at least. 

But friends…well you can have an endless amount…which is great, because from everything I have ever read, social circles increase happiness and health, and if you surround yourself with successful and healthy people, you are more likely to be healthy and successful too. Unfortunately, apparently, the reverse is true too. But lucky for me, basically all my friends are more awesome than I can ever be…so I am running with the right crowd.

We devote a ton of mental and written energy to opining about what makes a good romantic relationship, but perhaps we don’t spend enough time pondering what makes a good friendship.  I mean maybe my perspective is a bit skewed because I have been single for…eternity.  But I still couldn’t help but wonder – what makes a really good friend, one that has withstood the test of time?

And here is what I came up with…

They ditch out of work early to come to a doctor’s appointment with you…or to perhaps go to happy hour with you…they keep your secret thoughts and let you believe that you don’t judge people (even if you may, sometimes, tend to be a little judgey)…they call…they call even when they know you are slammed with work and they say things like, “Hey, I know you are super busy with work, but just wanted to say hi and let you know that it would be great to catch up when you come up for air”…they dissect things with you…actions, past, present and future, text messages, emails…they let you tell repeat the same conversation over and over again, juuuuuuust so you can make sure you didn’t miss anything.

They tell you to stop that sh*t when it gets to the point of nonsensical…and then in the next breath they say, “But if it makes you feel better to talk about it…I’m here”…they tell you to put your foot down when they know you aren’t getting what you deserve…and then list alllll of the reasons you deserve more…they listen…oh do they listen…and they share their own highs and lows without reservation…and make yours feel so much more…normal.  They tell you they miss you. 

They let you come undone in front of them and never, ever hold it against you…they let you hide out at their apartment and crash on your couch when you are newly pregnant and single and can’t imagine how you are going to face the world…then they bake you cookies and tell you that everyone loves you and still will, while gently encouraging you to get off the couch.  They make you laugh…about things that at one time weren’t even a little bit funny…when you wax poetic for some old flame they say things like, “Did you really want to be married to someone who ate cereal off of his ironing board?  And then left the bowl there for days. Really?”

They also say things like, “You should have called…why didn’t you call?…Okay, I get it.  You wanted your space….but next time call…”…they pat you on the back, put their hand on your shoulder, they hug you, they hold your hand when you are having an ultrasound or being admitted to the hospital with contractions at 6 months, while you wait for your parents to get to the hospital.  They make plans around your breast feeding schedule and later your daughter’s napping schedule…they babysit for your child and send you texts saying, “Would you and Ellie like to join me for dinner on Wednesday night.”

They include you, even when you don’t feel like being included.  They sit you down and tell you that it’s time to stop punishing yourself and to start dating again, and when you cry and say you hate that idea and it’s not worth your time, they don’t accept that answer.  They introduce you to their friends and then encourage you to “go over and talk to him, please!” They let you talk about him…over and over and over again…the pros, the cons, the wtfs…all of it…they tell you when you are being too harsh, or too weak, with others and with yourself.

They tell you that you never lost it. They tell you that they are proud of you. They tell you that they love you.

All of that is part of what makes an incredible friend.  But…that isn’t all of it.  And as I was laying in bed, about to drift off to sleep it hit me…

The best friends I have are there.  Always.  

They respond to the text when they are doing a million other things, they answer the phone at all hours of the day and night, they rush over to your apartment or ask you to take a walk around the block – and with every single one of those actions they say, I am here. I am here for you, I am here for me, I am here for us.