I took this photo early on Friday morning, as one of my best friends was calmly sipping a peppermint tea on the morning of her wedding. I was pondering upon my role as bridesmaid and just what it means. That golden Autumn light sure is inspirational for pondering!
Making friends as an adult is a strange thing. When you’re young, you’re thrown into situations like school and university where you kind of have to make friends in order to survive. You play the same game on the playground or have the same hobby, and suddenly you’re round at their house for tea and their mum is giving you chicken dippers and waffles whilst you excitedly chat about all the magical games you’re going to play when you’ve finished. Friends forever!
It’s a little different once you’ve left school, and maybe even university. You enter the world of work, and often you make friends there. It can be tough to make the transition from work mate to real life friend – how much do you tell them about your personal life? Are you someone who lets your work life and home life blend together, or someone who keeps them totally separate?
Friendships come and go throughout life. Some friendships are only meant to last during a particular period, I’ve found. Some friends are there for your party years, they’re the ones you dance with and take shopping for weekend outfits. Some you make friends with in a job, but you lose touch with when you move on. Some you meet during a big life change such as getting married and having a baby, and you bond because they GET it. And of course, some friendships last through all of that and carry you through from graduation, to sticky floored nightclubs, through those tentative first steps on the career ladder, the nerves of your wedding day and those sleepless newborn baby nights.
I don’t have a big group of girlfriends that all know each other like all of America’s 90s sitcoms led you to believe was the norm. All of my friendships are ones that I’ve forged individually through my early adult life. I met most of my best friends in my early 20s (bar one who has known me since I was born) and I pretty much thought I was done. I had my ladies, the one who have seen me both at my best and worst. I remember having conversations with my ladies about friendship and how most of us seemed to have closed the door on making new ones. We all were happy with our lot, and we all agreed that there’s a huge emotional investment and trust involved in letting a new person into your life… and all of us had been burned at one point. I think there’s a worry of looking too eager as an adult; if you meet someone you think you’d like to be friends with, how do you start that relationship without looking like a real creep?
At least, I thought I was done. The idea of making a new friend did scare me somewhat… it’s a bit like embarking on a romantic relationship. How much of yourself do you reveal, how do you know when you can trust them? In the first school I worked in, one of the teachers I befriended commented that I was just like his girlfriend. He said we really needed to meet each other. We met on an end of term night out, and it was like looking in a mirror. We were dressed practically the same, had similar hair and even the same jewellery. We both expressed a desire to play netball both as a way to keep fit and delve into some childhood nostalgia, so we swapped numbers and arranged to join a local team.
We were TERRIBLE at netball and both could barely breathe from laughing at how bad we were. The netball didn’t last, but our friendship did. We discovered we had basically been separated at birth… with the same taste in everything, the same clothes, and even the same fears (mainly irrational). The best bit was that it all happened naturally. It wasn’t scary, I didn’t have to worry about seeming eager or creepy, because we clicked.
This was only about 3 years ago, and on Friday I had the great honour of being her bridesmaid. When she asked me I was completely gobsmacked. To be bridesmaid is a huge honour. You’re basically responsible for this person’s mental and physical wellbeing, her wedding dress and smooth running of everything from dress shopping appointments, hen dos, beauty appointments and those super flattering wedding dress toilet trips! They are trusting you to help them make one of the biggest commitments they will ever make. It’s huge. I was also hit with feeling like a bit of a fraud – would everyone at the wedding look at me and think “who is she? Not seen her before!” I’d only been in her life a tiny length of time compared to the other girls in her squad.
I realised throughout the process that it’s not about that. Time isn’t totally irrelevant, as having someone you have a lot of history with and to connect you to your childhood or younger days is lovely. It is, however, not the be all and end all of a relationship, be it a friendship or partner. I’ve learned not to be scared of meeting new people. I am very happy with my small but perfectly formed group of ladies, or my Lady Family (to borrow a phrase from the wonderful Cherry Healey), but I’ve learned that I can make friends as an adult just by being myself. I don’t think I’m going to actively go out and seek new friendships; and I’m definitely not going to forge anything that doesn’t click for the sake of it. That’s something I did a lot of a few years ago, trying to wedge myself into friendships that didn’t fit in order to make things easier for the people around me, and I think it was this issue that prompted my ladies and I to talk about The Fear of adult friendships. I think now I’m in my 30s I’ve come full circle; I’ve gone from trying to please everyone and be everybody’s friend, to not wanting to meet anyone new and keeping myself quite closed off and happy with my lot… to accepting quality friendships. Ones that are full of joy and laughter and poo jokes and GIFs. The best kind.
So, here’s to my newest best friend, for dancing the slow funky chicken with me at the end of your first dance with your husband. For having me as bridesmaid. For being brave enough to reach out as a scared, cynical adult. I really wish I’d met her earlier so I could have had her as my bridesmaid too! I’ve learned that making friends during adulthood is possible… and even though you have to put yourself out there a bit, it can . Have you made friends as an adult? Was it scary? Let me know in the comments!