When I was a child I had a BF (best friend). In grade school this term of Best Friend went one step further and BFF (Best Friend Forever) was thrown around a lot. Talk about a lot of pressure! As adults, most people have a hard time staying married to one person for the rest of their life, but in GRADE school somehow girls think it’s reasonable to stay close to one person FOREVER!
Like most kids, I had a best friend in childhood. When I was in first grade I moved from one state to another and she was the first friend I made in my new school. I was the awkward new girl with a strong southern accent moving to a mid-west town full of kids with absolutely no southern accent. I’m sure I was desperate for a friend and since we were the same age, had many of the same interest, and she responded, we instantly became good friends. Our close friendship continued until high school when we began to grow apart. At the time I didn’t understand why this occurred, there was no argument or fight, we just slowly stopped calling and hanging out with each other. Near the end of high school, like most kids, I had a lot of things going on, most of which felt very emotionally overwhelming. When I lost that friendship I asked myself what I did wrong. It wasn’t until years past and I looked back on that friendship that I realized it wasn’t anything I did, she simply outgrew the need for a BFF and moved on, but unfortunately I wasn’t ready to.
Losing my BFF during my formative years, when I was trying to figure out who I was, had a very deep impact on me. I questioned my actions, motives and even my self-worth. Losing my BFF probably played a small part in me having an emotional break down and attempting suicide. I didn’t have anyone to talk to when I felt hopeless and worthless because I put all my deep friendship eggs in one basket, and when it came to an end it left me feeling very alone and vulnerable. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming her in the very least for my emotional break down and resulting suicide attempt, that was my fault! I bought into the myth of having a single “BEST FRIEND FOREVER.” I realize now it would have been healthier for me to have 3 or 4 solid, reliable friends that way we could help each other navigate the emotional horror that was high school.
I have not thought about the impact of that friendship for many years until I read a post entitled “Do Our Daughters Really Need A Best Friend?” by Emily Gaines Buchler.
The blog cites a new PBS show called “A Girl’s Life.” It vividly shows how best friends both empower and undermine a girl’s development.
BFF: a modern myth
In a number of ways, BFF-ism is a full-on myth, right up there with Prince Charming and life in the castle. And just as our girls are inundated with Disney princesses from toddlerhood on, they’re surrounded by messages that subtly (and not so subtly) tell them they need a best friend.
“When it comes to the BFF, girls are sold a bill of goods about friendship that looks a lot like the rubbish we’re told about romance,” writes Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence, in an article for PBS. “There’s one person out there who is our match, and we’ll live happily ever after. The relationship with The One is supposed to be blissful, conflict-free, and permanent.”
But what really happens, Simmons explains, is that “girls wind up with wildly unrealistic expectations about themselves and their relationships, [and ultimately] blame themselves when reality bites, and the relationships shift or end.”
What if you grow up having to move from town to town every few years like many military kids? The girls that buy into the BFF myth often end up feeling that something is wrong with them because they can’t maintain that friendship over many years. Even if girls don’t move and this best friendship thing is possible, is it really healthy?
“Psychologists across the board agree that relying on one person to fulfill all of your emotional needs is unhealthy,” writes journalist Alice Robb in an article for New Republic. “Because these relationships are very intense, they are also very fragile,” says Robin Dunbar, an experimental psychologist at Oxford University, as quoted in that same article. “When they bust, they bust forever and acrimoniously.”
I fully believe God had a strong hand in me writing this blog post today. I was in the middle of writing and my girls were in the next room listening to songs they found via their tablet and I heard one, the lyrics went;
“You are my best friend, forever, and we won’t ever let that end, no never!”
I instantly stopped writing and went to my girls. I asked what they were listening to, listened to it again with them and then read them some of what I wrote here. I challenged the myth of having a single BFF and explained the importance of having a group of close friends to lean on. Talk about timing!
I get it, most of us have that “one special friend,” I know I do. However, when it gets to the point that they are the only support you have and your world would crumble if something were to happen to that friendship, that is when it crosses into the unhealthy. I don’t believe God intended for us to do that. Instead, I believe He intended for us, and even our children, to surround ourselves with like-minded Christians in order to support each other during this journey called life.
And so my challenge is this, not only for you but myself as well, to break the BFF myth and encourage our daughters (and sons too) to instead seek strong, meaningful relationships with a group of close friends.