I can remember what the term Best Friend meant when my age was still a single digit or long into the doubles. It was whoever you liked the best at the time. I’m not sure when that superficial notion dissipates, and I know that there are people older than me that still believe that. I can’t really pinpoint when I realized what having a “best” friend really meant but I guess to me it means no amount of distance or disagreement can change how I feel about that person. It’s like having a spouse, that’s not my spouse (but who would grow old with me and my 30 cats if for some reason we both became spouse-less). It’s unconditional.
Something else that I’ve realized is that best friendships are not necessarily exclusive. My definition of best friendness allows for more than one person to fill the role. While there will always be that one person that survived me during my most moody and awkward teen years, and vice versa, that doesn’t mean that new friendships can’t become just as bonded. When you find someone you can trust, someone who makes you better and tears the duct tape from the mouth of the voice in your heart, you cherish them and hold on tight.
But this isn’t about somebody’s traveling pants or divine secrets. It’s about how if I’m not careful, all that will remain of that solid pact of mutual adoration, is a thumbs-up on a newly posted Facebook photo. The internet has given opportunities, where there were next to zero, insights I may never have had otherwise, and the choice to be the best, or worst, version of myself behind the comments I wield. It’s allowed me to stay in touch with people I might’ve otherwise lost contact with, and to find again, the ones I lost years ago.
But a side effect of all this digital interaction is that what was once a tangible human being becomes a series of “lol’s” and emoticons. The constant connection I feel with the web and my smart phone give a false sense of friendship. It sets me up to go months without actually seeing someone and to somehow be okay with that.
Well, until this morning. I had another one of those face-slapping epiphanies while I stared at the chat window on my computer screen. Messages from ol’ Trixie (from Silhouetted In The Background), making me laugh mostly because I could hear the exact way she’d say the words. I’d “lol’d” and that got me thinking about how our friendship had been relegated to interactions of the electronic kind. While it hasn’t happened yet, I started to worry about forgetting the way her laugh sounded. In the years passed, we may not have always had time for each other but we still talked on the phone semi-regularly. There’s something about hearing someone’s voice that all the texting and messaging and commenting and poking will never be able to replace. I almost typed, “I miss you.” Instead, I took my turn in Words With Friends.
I will never let her go. Of that, I’m sure. What seems unclear is if it will only be her cleverly typed responses on social media and an occasional email that will be the friend that I cling to.
Life is hard right now. I’m diving into my new career and she’s excelling at hers, all while raising a family. But when will it get easy? It seems like I was citing the hardships of existing several years ago and for totally different reasons. I don’t think life ever gets un-hard.
I can’t rely on the hope that she too has had this epiphany, that all the people I’m close to in the physical world as well as the virtual understand how important it is to keep ourselves tangible. If we dissolve into electronic hearts and smileys, I want to know that I did my part to reach out, to touch—to literally laugh out loud alongside someone who knows exactly how to make me giggle.