In Defence Of Not Having A BFF Or A Best Gal Pal
The Debrief: Why it's totally fine not to have best mate necklaces, giggle in bed together and have that sort of BFF friendship you see on screen (and spoken about by other girls)
When I started writing this piece in defense of not having a BFF I went back into my inbox to dig out the email from Debrief staff writer Stevie Martin. The email said I should write the article, and then ended with this sentence, ‘Also are you okay and well again? Beb just wonderin hun xoxoxo.’
We’ve been friends for almost eight years, and see each other most days either socially or ‘professionally’, but I know an ironic ‘hun’ when I see one.
Our text messages are a running pisstake of what it would be like if we were those sort of gal pals – ‘babe see you later, I miss u.’ Once when I was heavily single, a bit plump and quite spotty I told her quite sincerely, ‘I just don’t feel pretty at the moment’ and we laughed for 10 minutes because it was the most personal thing I’ve ever said aloud.
Despite all of our shared interests, the man-hours we’ve put in, the fact that we’ve essentially gone into business together I wouldn’t describe her as my Best Friend. She won’t be offended by this because a) she knows this about me through years of observation and b) she has a Best Friend who isn’t me.
I tend to think of a Best Friend as something that touchy feely girls have – the ones who hug a lot and go into the same toilet cubicle just for funsies. There just isn’t room in my personality for a bosom buddie figure.
I’m not a total lone ranger – I have a boyfriend who I sometimes hug – and I’m not the sort of girl who says ‘I just don’t get along with girls as well as guys’. I love girls, or ‘women’ if we’re being pedantic. I’ve always had a gaggle of girls in my life, and one of my favourite things about living in London has been getting to introduce girl friends (friends who are girls) that you just know are destined get along.
The last few years have been about collecting ‘good eggs’ and then getting to share them with your other ‘good eggs’, like a big friendly omelette. Long gone are the days of that adolescent pang: ‘But she was my friend first’. It’s a numbers game and if we can increase the amount of mutual connections between great gals it’s going to cut down on social admin.
But I’ve been noticing recently how female friendship is depicted on screen. Even in the post-Girls-world, where we’re all for frank sex scenes and realistic body proportions, our messy twentysomething heroines always, always have a BFF. Cher from Clueless and Francis Ha aren’t so dissimilar after all.
Of course, films require this sort of simplicity. It might be pushing the budget to have the female lead unload problems to her 12 closest friends over two months’ worth of sporadic social engagements. It’s much easier to have the Best Friend (who is either played by a Joan Cusack or Gaby Hoffmann), climb under a duvet of the recently dumped Hero and say something really honest like ‘your hair is greasy’ or ‘you have snot on your boob’. I don’t know because I’ve never been in this situation.
And sure, I’ve probably been asked, ‘Do you have a Best Friend?’ the same amount of times as I’ve been asked ‘What did you get in your degree?’ (once; my mother), but it does crop up on enough in pop/internet culture for me to wonder if there is something horribly wrong with me for not having one. I guess I’m just a bit cynical of anything that inspires a buzzfeed gif explosion as cheesy as this.
But then I’ve always been a cynic for the way friendship is depicted in fiction – I’m sorry but I’d like to see the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants IRL because no four girls could comfortably wear the same jeans and get anything done apart from worry if the jeans are flattering.
Despite not having a BFF, I do see the appeal. It’s a bond that you both enter into together, mutually – hence those broken heart necklaces that I never had and didn’t want anyway, so don’t even worry about it. In a world in which Facebook has commodified the word Friend, having a bessie is the humblebrag of the friendship world. Saying you have a best friend is saying that another human likes, trusts, respects you enough to claim you as the best of all of their friends. It’s actually very sweet. But not at all practical for some of us.
I live on the other side of the world from the girls I went to school with – a tremendous group of Australians with whom I had the honour of sunbaking topless and discovering bikini waxing during our turbulent adolescence. I also don’t see enough of the girls I went to university with – a tremendous group of British girls with whom I had the honour of queuing in Boots for the morning after pill during those fragile years. And now I’m 27 and I’d rather just do all that stuff alone.
You’d be getting a dud deal if you chose to be my BFF. Firstly, I’m fiercely private. There is no bodily embarrassment so bad that I would rather tell another human, when I could just spend an hour on Yahoo answers finding out what it is and how to bleach it.
You wouldn’t even be getting first dibs on talking me through my insecurities – that role would go to my Twitter followers, because insecurities that we used to keep bottled up for sleepovers are now worn like a badge of honour on the internet. Women like Caitlin Moran and Sara Pascoe are leading the vanguard of women de-stigmatising issues that women have traditionally stored up for their Best Friends. Being hilariously open about our flaws is a staple of this new breed of feminism, so I might as well just tweet it while alone, rather than telling the girlie pals I don’t have at a sleepover I don’t want to go to.
Plus, I don’t share clothes (because I’m quite a sweaty person) and I was born with a rare condition where I can’t be sincere.
Crucially, though, I have different friends for different things – experts if you will. In the same way I wouldn’t get my hair cut by my dentist because they have specific skillsets, and my dentist is a weirdo. Some friends are really fun to go out with, some are great at thrashing out career woes, some genuinely enjoy car boot sales.
If you have truly found one person that you can live with, holiday with, cry on, wing man for, trust with your secrets,and hang out with (without it all getting a bit Heavenly Creatures), you are very lucky. Both emotionally and logistically. I salute you, but I’ll be over here choosing which friends to see on Friday, while reading a self-help book and composing a tweet about an embarrassing thing that happened to me.
Like this? You might also be interested in...
Follow Liz on Twitter: @LizKingsman
Picture: Matilda Hill-Jenkins
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating