As you get older, friendships become so important. It’s ironic really, as often friends are the first thing to go in our big, busy lives. We get partners and kids and houses and suddenly we’re stressed, stressed, stressed and we’ve got no time and the babysitter just cancelled and why the fuck are my car keys in the dishwasher? and we let our friendships thin just at the time we need them most.
That’s why when you find a new friend, it’s important to hold on tight. When you’re young it’s so easy to make friends. You have so much choice – at school or university – that you can round up the good ones like sheep. You don’t imagine you’ll ever feel lonely. Look at them all! you think with pride.
Over time though, people fall out of our lives. Change whistles through – a new job or home or baby – and friendships get inadvertently swept away with the detritus. It’s only later, as the dust settles and we’re sorting through the scraps of our memories that we realise we misplaced something precious along the way.
Friends that you thought were for life splutter out at half time. After months of missed calls and dinners you finally meet, only to realise with a start you don’t know them anymore. Who is this stranger? You think, blinking at each other like goldfish over empty coffee cups. You each took a path and when you looked up again, found you were miles away.
If old friends are cherished because they remind us of who we used to be, then new friends reflect and celebrate who we are today. You’re more ‘you’ when you’re older; you’ve shimmied out of your younger years like a babydoll dress and can bare your true self with pride.
Some of the friends with whom I have the greatest affinity are new additions to my life. We met, sparked and marched straight into one another’s lives: I’ll just set my things up here, I babbled happily. There’s nothing better than poking excitedly around in someone’s head, realising they’re just like you.
The Thai asked me to tell the Friend to move out. I think about it, rehearse the words in my head, wait to hear the patter of her feet on the stairs but in the end, I can’t. Instead, on a cold January night, I ask the Thai to move out instead; kissing her hand across the dinner table, whispering sorry into my cutlery.
The truth is, I know the Friend will be in my life for a lot longer than the Thai because we are of apiece; our interests knit together beautifully, our outlooks doze happily on the same page. She’s slipped into my life, and I into hers, like buttercream marbling through jam. She’s my emotional doppelganger, a new friend who feels old. She’s one of the lifers.
When you find a friendship like that, you keep it. You keep it and nurture it and thank your lucky stars you found it. Because when I’m old and tired and fishing my keys out of the dishwasher, swearing like a sailor, I’m going to need her, just like I’m going to need all my friends.
The love of a good woman isn’t enough; but the love of 10 good women (and a gay man)? Now you’re talking.