The Friend In The Mirror

“You are my best friend.”

Really? Are we best friends? I mean that. We.

People will say one nation or region is more friendly than another. I honestly can say I think that people are pretty much the same all over the world. So if you are an asshole in Baltimore, moving to another country won’t magically transform you into everyone’s hero. It might even exacerbate the situation.

You think of me as your best friend. I outperform your other friendships so therefore I am your best friend. But are you mine?

If you live in a small town and never move, is it the person you fight least with or the person you fight best with? Or if you moved around your whole life is your best friend the one you have known the longest? Is it the one who is the most giving or the least demanding? Personally, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. I moved too much and too far away, growing up and then going off to college as my parents were stationed in Asia and Europe from the Pacific region. Someone else would be a better expert.

I find passive aggressive people the most irritatingly strategic. “Oh, you are my best friend.” So suddenly I will have to do the favor you want, or you hope I won’t be angry at you for some shortcoming of yours that has now inconvenienced me for the umpteenth time. Hmm.

Here is the best part. While I truly admire a passive aggressive person, I simply cannot stand them. I resent the amount of energy they draw off me by doing nothing and I hate myself for expending so much on them - so best not to get involved with them at all. They can sit there like an air fern. Someone who is passive aggressive as my best friend - imposter! Looking into the mirror I see a man who has no passive aggressive friends. I yank them out of my garden of friendships like an unwanted weed or more likely ignore them until they wither away. The man in the mirror smiles back at me with a Grinch who stole Christmas smile.

And a best friend doesn’t smother you with total attention and gifts. There has to be independence in a relationship for it to work. Friendship doesn’t mean you become Siamese twins joined at the earlobes. 'Best friend' shouldn’t equal sugar daddy.

Being best friends doesn’t need to be mutually reciprocal and it doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive either. A purist might qualify the phrase as “one of my best friends” but isn’t friendship more fluid? The title of 'best friend' could be like being crowned a beauty queen: you might be Best Friend 2016, but what about 2017?

Perhaps what makes best friendship so hard to define is that the actual criteria of friendship is fluid. And you have to take the context of what friendship is in each society you’re living in.

There are many people I go out of my way for. They might take the gestures as being signs of friendship. They aren’t. Simple kindnesses are just that - at least that was what my Midwest raised parents taught me - common courtesies I extend until you do something to truly piss me off and then I yank the carpet out from under you and suddenly we aren’t “friends” anymore. Clue in - it’s something you did to me that made me raise the drawbridge and stop the basic niceties. If I haven’t forgotten about the knife you lodged in my back, don’t expect any warm and fuzzy greetings. You might say you deserve another chance and that I am being petty, but I am being cautious. Once done to me shame on you, twice done to me, shame on me.

Conversely, there are those people you interact with enough and at some magic moment, they cross that threshold. They are no longer the person you sit across from on the bus, but the friend you ride to work with. It could be the smallest of niceties routinely extended with a few larger gestures of kindness thrown into the equation. And something tips the scales. You see a genuinely desirable person you would like to be friends with. There you have it.

Of course, we can go one step beyond and progress into the romantic and physical aspect of relationships. When do you classify someone as a lover and no longer as a friend? Society is still uncomfortable with romantic relationships and friendship. We may say they are not exclusive of each other but we are always highly sceptical when they are combined. “Oh, my ex-wife and I are still friends.” Really? Delusional at best, hoodwinked more likely is what most of us think as we smile and nod back.

Being a best friend doesn’t mean you have to read your friend’s mind. It doesn’t require you be able to finish off each other’s sentences. It only takes the simple recognition that the two of you belong together. That you are neither family nor lovers. You might know each other's intimate details or you might not.

Being a best friend? Oh, that is a hard one to define. I can tell you what it’s not.

A best friend doesn’t wait to contact you for five years and then only do so for a $5,000 instantaneous loan so he doesn’t lose his home.

A best friend doesn’t ask you on Christmas day to race to a bank to wire money to Australia because someone couldn’t plan finances properly.

A best friend doesn't ask you for a massive loan a week before you are getting ready to go on vacation because they can’t stand their husband anymore and need to move out.  When did I become the third wheel to this marriage?

So what is the concept of a best friend?

It is someone who doesn’t detract from you. It is someone you work well with.

Who is your best friend?

At times my best friend was someone from Guam, and then Fiji, then someone from the Philippines, then someone from the West Coast and then someone who was raised in Italy and then there is my special best friend in Texas. Time moved on and our lives changed around us. Some of them are still good friends and a precious few are still very close friends. I don’t look at the loss of a best friend, but I choose to focus on the quality of good each relationship generated.

I got news for you. Remember that mirror I mentioned a few paragraphs back? Go look. The “first” best friend should be yourself and then you allow yourself to work outwards.

Good luck.