Here is a little article I wrote about friendship in your 30s. It’s appearing this week in Standard Issue magazine:
I have a mate I call my “grown up” friend. She owns a Dustbuster, buys travel insurance before holidays and goes to the dentist when she needs to, sometimes even just for a check-up. Recently I was talking to her about a close friend who appears to have disappeared off the face of the planet. When we’re together, this disappeared friend and me, it’s amazing. It’s like we were separated at birth. But when she goes back to the country she lives in, pooooof! I wondered if I’d done something wrong.
Rather than ask about the situation, Grown Up Friend asked me if this woman was in my “A-Team”.
I paused. “She ‘pities the fool’, if that’s what you’re asking?”
It was not what she was asking. She wanted to know what kind of friends I was surrounding myself with. It was a good question. I’m 34. Shouldn’t I be more concerned about who’s in my inner circle?
In your twenties, most platonic behaviour is acceptable. We all had those fabulous friends who’d cancel 14 minutes before you were supposed to meet up, and would only text the next day to tell you she’d met some Dutch yoga instructor at a pedestrian crossing and they’d ended up at an all-night chakra party. You had friends who always forgot the guacamole for the party, when all they had to do was remember to bring the guacamole for the party. You were even going to pay for the guacamole! Then they’d drink all the booze for the party instead. But you got along so well and life wouldn’t be the same without them. Hell, who else would turn up to your fancy dress do and rap all the lyrics to the Beastie Boys’ Shake Your Rump while dressed as a steak? Exactly. For most of your twenties, that stuff is adorable and only slightly irritating and definitely worth the trade-off.
In my experience, however, the charm wears off in your thirties.
I have friends who are brilliant, addictive, smart, spontaneous and informed. Can-can friends. They are hilarious and empathetic. They are generous and goofy. When you’re with them they make you feel like the double rainbow you are. Then, like a science-defying magician, they vanish. All traces erased. You go into small-scale cardiac arrest. You’re a child lost in a shopping centre. But rather than accept the truth, you make excuses for them.
They’ve probably got a lot going on right now.
I must have got the dates mixed up.
Their phone’s run out of battery. Or they’ve lost their phone! And their email address! And the internet!
You find yourself in a cycle of disappointment. It happens infrequently enough for you to forgive them, but often enough for you to wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”
Instead of giving me advice or criticising my friend for her absence, Grown Up Friend outlined her own A-Team. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t include the friends covered in glitter.
Instead, she explained, it’s that group of people who love you and show you they love you through their actions. It’s those friends who give you space when you need it and have the balls to tell you when they need the same. They don’t give you the sad fade out, like an unfinished song: drifting into the distance before you notice they’re out of reach. They’re the consistent friend. The kind friend. The person who turns up when they say they will.
Sometimes they’re not the most exciting friends. Sometimes they’re not the friends you’re platonically in love with. Sometimes they are just…available. Reliable. They’re the people who have your back, no matter what.
Now go and get a pen and paper. We’re going to make a list of your current friends. Ask yourself the big questions. At this stage of life, we need to know who’s on the inside circle of awesome and start investing our time and gratitude accordingly. Use the following as a base, then add your own. Be brutal in your answers. Pretend you’re throwing out your ex’s clothes.
• Does this person call me as much as I call them?
• Will this person help me make healthy choices?
• Will this person tell me to have a shower so they can take me somewhere I can eat miso soup because I’ve been wallowing in self-pity for three days and everyone has a limit?
• Does this person go to the dentist more than me?
Done it? You’ve got yourself an A-Team. Welcome to your sensible years. Prepare to be less disappointed.