Though there are many moments that construct a friendship over years, through all kinds of shared experiences and emotions, there are 10 in a best friendship that make you realize, whether in the moment or with the perspective of time, how lucky you are to have them.
1. Telling a secret and knowing it’s not going anywhere.
It’s hard telling a secret. We keep all of these ugly, unfit-for-society thoughts and feelings bottled up in us for so long — convinced that telling another soul would be social suicide. After all, what is a juicy secret for many if not the chance to pass a piece of gossip? It’s hard not to feel that telling one person would be telling everyone, no matter how much you emphasize that it’s for their ears only. That is, of course, except with your best friend. With them, you can be honest about your fears, your desires, and even the thoughts you’re afraid might make you… weird. And almost as wonderful as having someone there to listen without judgment is the knowledge that they won’t be running around to everyone and their mother, telling them exactly what’s going on. Confidentiality is an underrated virtue, but a precious one.
2. Staying up all night.
What best friendship is complete without at least one night that doesn’t end until you look around and blearily realize that the birds are up, the mail is being delivered, and somehow the universe has continued to exist and bustle around even without your participation? Whether narrowly avoiding arrest, hitting three parties in one evening (if only for the free food), or simply talking about everything you need to get off your chest, nights spent up with best friends are the emotional equivalent of a spa day.
3. Going to the bathroom in the great outdoors.
Perhaps the Discovery Channel-esque ritual of tandem outdoor urination is not such a glorious feat for two men, but when two women get together while at some mercilessly outdoor party or gathering and have to find a location to answer nature’s call, it’s a moment of love. There’s the standing in the way of each other, looking out for passing drunks, pretending like you can’t hear anything, making each other laugh so it’s not so incredibly awkward, and taking turns, just as Martha Stewart would want it. It’s an act of respect and pure humanity, and no friendship is complete without it.
4. Enjoying the same music.
The thing about a best friend is that, even if your bands of choice aren’t the same — or even in the same genre — you’re able to appreciate and share music like, I don’t know, two people that actually care about and are interested in each other. Let’s be honest, for the most part, people are pretty stingy and guarded about what kind of music they like, listen to, and will approve of. But two best friends are able to actually take each other’s most personal tastes and integrate them into their own collections, finding shared favorites along the way and songs that become anthems for the two of you. Some of my favorite music has come from my best friend showing me a band that, had anyone else showed to me, I might have been skeptical of — and I’m better for having broadened my horizons.
5. Being there for a broken heart.
If there is ever a moment when the love that exists between two friends is clear and necessary, it’s when we’ve had our heart broken by someone we were sure would be around forever. It’s those moments when you might temporarily forget that love exists outside of the kind in relationships, outside of romantic dinners and mornings spent in bed. When you need to be reminded that you are indeed loved, and that someone else out there still sees the worth and beauty in you even when that one person might not, your best friend will be on the other side of the phone, ready to talk.
6. Taking care of each other while drunk.
Going out to have a good time is infinitely more enjoyable when you feel, on top of the anticipation to just let loose for an evening, that you are with someone who will take care of you — and vice versa. Having money for a cab, holding your hair back, calming you down when you’re seriously considering sending a humiliating text message — nights out just wouldn’t be as good if we couldn’t count on someone to help us out when we’ve maybe had a bit too much fun. And knowing that we have someone’s back when they are the ones with a shirt stained in vodka and tears is knowing what it means to really care for someone. If you can love your friend while they’re throwing up on a sidewalk and telling you how much they “Are not even drunk, you have no idea,” you can love them whenever.
7. Surviving a big life change.
Few things instill more fear in us when moving, or taking a new job, or changing schools than the idea that we might lose touch with our best friends. “What will we do,” we think, “when we’re not around each other all the time anymore?” We all get into certain routines with our friends — lunch here, Friday nights there, phone call at this time — that we take for granted how much a part of each other’s lives we are. And when you find the friend who will take the time to reach out to you, to adjust their schedule, to visit — and when you do the same for them — you find that leaving and making changes that you need to make has its difficulties, but it’s something that you have the support system to do.
8. Being honestly happy for each other.
How often do we tell other people that we’re happy through them, through clenched teeth, knowing there’s at least a little part of us that is envious, even bitter? And yes, this part of us does start to abate with age, but it’s still not a pleasant feeling to know you can’t be fully happy for other people sometimes — or feel that they aren’t really happy for you. This sense of competition that pervades society makes almost every step in the right direction feel tampered in some way by jealousy and unfairness. And yet, with our best friends, we mean every word we say when we tell them how much we want for them, and how glad we are to see them succeeding. Knowing that they feel the same way, that you can count on them to be genuinely excited when you tell them your good news without even a second of uncomfortable subtext, makes our highs all that much sweeter.
9. Laughing harder than with anyone else.
At some point, best friendships just become a giant amalgam of inside jokes, moments that have passed between the two of you and have flowered into their own language, a sort of code that allows you to experience life through a shared perspective. Looking at each other and, without speaking a word, cracking up over the same joke — it’s a privilege that not many people have with each other. And yet, when shared with a best friend, laughing into tears over something you can’t even quite articulate is as natural a reaction as a smile.
10. Seeing something and immediately thinking of them.
I suppose the most natural, if sometimes painful, extension of the shared language of friendship is the moment when you see something just so perfect that your immediate reaction is to turn around and laugh with your friend about it, even if they’re nowhere near you. It’s hard not to realize how much of your humor, of your very way of seeing things, has been shaped in a wonderful and complex way by this friendship, and how important it is that they be there, only a phone call away, to tell all about it when it happens.