I heard a report on Air 1 radio this morning about how several schools in the U.K. are outlawing “best friends.” They seem to think that terminology is too exclusive and that it leads to heartache. They are concerned that kids without besties (or perhaps without the popular “in” bestie-of-the-moment?) are feeling left out… bullied. An additional concern is that children with a “best” friend could suffer emotional trauma if they happen to have a falling out with said bestie. (see THIS ARTICLE)
To me, this just sounds like one more attempt of the roaming, overprotective helicopter watchdogs of society to negate the value of relationship and the importance of connection. You cannot create healthy adults by insulating children from reality. What would this accomplish?
My best guess? If this sort of policy became widespread and was successfully implemented, eventually, the world would be populated by a bunch of whiny babies who don’t know how to make friends or deal with relational difficulties. In other words: a gray, individualistic future in which people lack any sort of emotional intimacy. If what these primary schools are attempting in Great Britain became the acceptable norm, pretty soon our only “friends” would be the Photoshopped pictures and illustrated avatars of people we only know by Tweet.
And there would be no one to tell you that you really should buy those cute boots, because they make your butt look smaller in those jeans.
Like a lot of girls, I’ve had different BFFs at different times in my life.
When I was 4, I met Jessica (she was 3) when she was coming down the hill and I was going up. She lived 4 houses away. We sang to Helen Reddy, Olivia Newton-John, and ABBA records in our basements (yes, records. As in large black vinyl), we played in the creek behind her house and sat in the playhouse her backyard, eating her mom’s homemade sweet dill pickles wrapped in Kraft American Singles. She was my neighborhood BFF.
Also at age 4, I met Kara at preschool and were instant BFFs. She lived on a farm. We had a lot of sleepovers and playdates. Our cocker spaniels, Friskie & Buffy, even “got married” and had a litter of puppies. Sadly, at age 5, we were scheduled into different kindergarten classes. Our moms still made an effort to get us together regularly, but being at school on different days was hard. I was pretty sad until I got to know Andrea and then, halfway through the year, Jody, a “new girl” came to our class. In first grade, the four of us (Kara, Andrea, Jody, & me) were reunited by the miracle of all-day/every day school and the glory of RECESS! But even though we all hung out, Jody gradually became my new BFF until…
7th Grade: when 2 other small town schools joined us for Junior High and the “gang” was parceled out. Jody, Andrea, & Kara landed in the same class. I felt so alone. And then I got to know… Jane & Sylvia.
The summer before I started 8th grade, my parents moved back to their hometown, an hour away from all my friends. I was pretty upset. But, after settling into my role as “the new girl”, I got to know fellow flutist Jennifer and our love of singing music by The Bangles (no matter where we happened to be), and looking at posters of boy bands like Duran Duran and a-ha! made us fairly instant BFFs until…
The summer before sophomore year when Julie and I started hanging out at the pool and realized that we had a lot more in common than we thought, including a mutual friend, Brandi. The three of us became inseparable for the rest of high school. We went our separate ways in college, of course, but my roommates Debbie, Cristy, & Kari helped to fill the void. But Julie, Brandi, and I never fell out of touch, never released that bond. In fact, Julie & Brandi stood beside me when I got married. A couple of years later, when I was 8 months pregnant, I sang at Julie’s wedding. A few years after that, I stood up with Brandi at hers.
Oh, and remember Jody, the kindergarten “new girl”? We stayed in touch off and on over the years. She even came to my wedding. And eight months later, my husband and I sang at her wedding, where Kara and Andrea were her maids of honor.
Nowadays, Brandi lives literally one block from me. We both have two daughters. Her oldest, Kelli, is in the same class as my youngest, Ellerie. We still hang out. We are still BFFs.
But we both also have other people in our lives who have or could potentially wear or share the coveted title of “bestie”, depending on the day. And we’re cool with that. I think of friends I’ve had the honor of “bestie-ing” over the years (many of whom regain that geographically-difficult-to-maintain title every time we Skype or email or talk on the phone.) Friends like Jodie, Shelley, Manon, Sue, Tracy, the other Tracy, and my ever-constant, always accepting sister-in-law, Heather. I think of those friendships, of the seasons they’ve gone through, and I know one thing:
I am blessed.
I cannot imagine having to grow up without my BFFs. Or having to live without them now. How do you even enforce that sort of rule? It’s laughable, really.
Schools may decide to outlaw the term “Best Friend’ in the interest of self-esteem and anti bullying and all, but as long as there are girls roaming the earth–girls with secrets and books and music and, of course, boys to talk about– no one will never succeed in making the concept of the “bestie” go away.
We were made to relate to one another. To lean on one another. To learn from one another. We were made for the intimacy of close, best, friendship. And when we find it, we should latch on to the opportunity with both hands . . . keeping in mind that we don’t hold our friendship so tightly that we smother it, of course.
Very few of us will have the same BFF through all our life (but some will!) Sometimes, life changes our geography. Sometimes, it’s the people who change and we grow apart. Sometimes, friends break your heart and things get a little awkward for a couple of years. But if your bond is sure, if it is built on being the real, authentic YOU, you can be assured that, even if time changes “best friendship” to something not quite as deep, you will still be “old friends”, and you will have learned something from that relationship. In my humble opinion, that lesson is worth the risk and worth the hurt that comes from feeling “left out” when our bestie starts hanging with someone else.
Real friendship is worth celebrating, no matter how long it lasts. Perhaps, rather than outlawing the term “best friends” they should, instead, help each student better understand the value of a best friend… and how to be one.
What do you think about it?
Image credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_13785999_girls-laughing-happilly.html’>rosipro / 123RF Stock Photo</a>