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how to make sure you're taking care of your friendships

Make the most of your BFFs while the world burns around us.

by Bertie Brandes
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13 September 2017, 10:19am

Friendships are supposed to be easy. They're meant to be a refuge, a counter to the chaos of romantic relationships, family and work. Friendships are honest, never forced, never twisted to fill another agenda, and not a popularity contest. Truthfully, because we don't need to scrutinise the interactions we have almost constantly with people who we share virtually everything except bodily fluids with, we take our most valuable relationships for granted. I've written a lot about loneliness in these guides, particularly about loneliness online, but never about loneliness in friendships. The sixth-form common room atmosphere social media has perpetrated among social groups means it's pretty likely that a couple of times a day a little voice in your head wonders "Why wasn't I invited to that?"

Female friends posing in front of a sunset
Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

My closest friends know I've had to delete Instagram because I found it too all-consuming, too constantly overwhelming. What they don't know is that quite a lot of that was because of them. It would take a stronger person than me to engage in incredibly intimate relationships with people I'm not having sex with and not at times experience jealousy, hurt or frustration. Friends fall out all the time, sure, but not only in the "You're not real friends if you don't fight like this "#420blazeit69" kind of way. The people we feel we can be the most emotionally honest with are also often the source of much of that emotional anxiety.

A guide to friendship is hard to write -- the chemistry which exists between two people who love each other for no reason other than love is difficult to quantify. A guide to making sure you take care of yourself and the people around you is simpler. And I reckon probably more important.

Sometimes friendships need space too
After the age of 19, falling out with friends stops meaning you might genuinely never do bumps of coke with them on the floor of Cuckoo Club again, and more that you probably just need a spot of T.O. from each other. Situations change so drastically in your twenties it's a given that at some points you'll be speaking different life languages and won't get on quite so swimmingly. Have faith.

Female friends hugging each other

The mythical Best Friend doesn't really exist
I'm not sure how I made it to 27 still buying into the idea of tiered BFFs. Friendships are different, of course; you have closer, older friends; ones who know your parents, who knew that cat you loved, whose ex-boyfriends' you can identity by a brief description of their genitals. And then you have other, less significant but just as present relationships. Friends who sit next to you at work and know more about your day-to-day life than anyone else, but the thought of bumping into them somewhere other than the Nespresso machine is horrifying. Trying to quantify what or who is more important to you is a mistake. I'm sort of over the idea that we should all be able to name one person (reciprocal, of course!) that holds more meaning over the other people in our lives at any one time. If you feel like the guy who makes your coffee in the morning is your favourite person in the entire world right now, embrace it.

Don't be a flake
That said, just because you're only interested in what Sergio makes of your star sign this week doesn't mean you should mute your group chats and forget about all the people who show you love and support the rest of the time. It's way too easy to ignore friends going through something when they keep on posting their Facebook statuses and Instagram stories like nothing's up. But it's kind of your responsibility to not ignore them, if only because karma is real and situations switch up quicker than you can say "Omg I haven't seen you for a MONTH."

"OK I'm just going to say it and then we can pretend it never happened" is literally what friendships are for
Recently one of my friends locked me in the bathroom cubicle with her and made me "read" her sanitary pad like it was tealeaves. She was on pills but honestly I don't think that made much of a difference. There is literally no one else you can request that level of appallingly unhygienic intimacy from so unless you want to be best friends with Yahoo Answers, make the most of it.

People can be friends without wanting to fuck each other
Being able to have close friendships with people of the demographic you generally want to bang is pretty important. In terms of advice and perspective it's ideal, but equally remembering that you don't need to fancy everyone you get along with that's a good sex height for you (obviously that's a thing) is also useful. Also, you can use them to make your exes parents think you've happily moved on, which I'll be honest is quite a tenuous and tricky encounter to engineer but oh wow so very, deeply worth the effort.

Always bring the birthday cake
And finally, one weird trick which can save any friendship. Bringing the cake means you can swerve the present, and probably the card too TBH, yet still be in all the photos and at the centre of the action. Also, be a good friend all year round and support them and be kind and sensitive. But also, bring the cake.