Being A Good Friend Means Showing Up And Being There

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 

We don’t show up for much anymore. There’s a great John Mulaney bit where he says, “It’s so much easier not to do things than to do them, that you would do anything is totally remarkable.” He’s right. We just don’t want to do things.

We have really valid excuses. We’re tired (more like exhausted). We’re busy (try words like harried or overworked). We’re overscheduled (actually, we’re slammed). We have other things to do (like a million other things which all demand our attention now now now). We haven’t had a break to just sit down and watch that Netflix show everyone’s talking about, and can’t we just sit down and watch that fucking Netflix show everyone’s talking about? Like, seriously?

But then we turn around and bitch about our own isolation.

Here’s the hard truth: You want a bestie? You gotta be a bestie. And being a BFF means showing up.

Want a BFF? Act like a BFF.

That means that the other night, my own BFF was in the middle of a pretty bad crisis. I was in the middle of a work thing. I shouldn’t have been distracted. I shouldn’t have been on the phone. I should have, in fact, been using said phone to do my work. But just before I was about to do that, my phone rang. My BFF needed me.

Normally, you put work before your friends. But when you know your friend is melting down, you drop work. I picked up the phone and talked to her. Being a BFF means that you show up, even if you know it’s going to cost you.

You want to have a BFF? You act like a BFF.

When they have a baby, you get your ass over there and cook. You clean. I always joke that if I lived closer to my BFF, I’d come over and clean her bathroom when her MIL was on her way. I’m not kidding. I used to do it for another bestie before she moved away. She needed her bathroom scrubbed. So I scrubbed the goddamn bathroom. I did her dishes, picked up her living room, and I think I may have helped her scrub her baseboards once? I showed up when she needed me.

This wasn’t necessarily convenient. Cleaning the bathroom never is.

It’s easy to say, “too busy, sorry.” Or “I have an appointment.” Or “I can’t watch your kids that day, I’m …” We all do it. Mostly because we don’t want to give up whatever meager freedom we have — more kids might mean we’re stuck home because we don’t have enough car seats. We don’t want to give up a precious Saturday with our spouse. We’re already tired. The reasons stretch on until infinity.

But if you want a BFF, you get your ass out there and help. You take the kids when they need some time off. You give up that Saturday alone with your own family. If you care about someone, act like you care.

But being a BFF also means not bringing the drama when they can’t show up for you. Because there are times when you just can’t make it. I couldn’t make it up to see my BFF this summer. It broke my heart, but we couldn’t do it. She didn’t hold it against me. Sometimes you just can’t come through. And just because you managed to pull out something last time doesn’t mean you have the right to get your panties in a wad because she can’t show up for you this time around. Kids get sick; in-laws show up unexpectedly. Give your BFF some grace. The same way you give her some damn grace when she doesn’t return your phone call right away.

You do that, right? Because you should.

A BFF means being there for big stuff.

You really wanna be a BFF? You have to be ready for the big stuff — and you have to mean it. If your friend’s mom is dying, you can’t skulk off somewhere. You have to take her kids. You have to cook for her. You have to help in any way you can, because she needs you. Pregnancy’s another one of the big ones. So is childbirth, divorce, moving — any major life transition. You have to be there. Your ass has to show up.

Acting like you care also means giving up time for milestones. Yeah, they suck. Birthday parties and First Communions and Christmas parties and alllllll the rest of it. It’s so much easier not to go, to find an excuse at the last minute. But if you want a BFF — if you want to be a BFF — your ass should be there. Don’t flake out on them at the last minute with a fake stomach flu so you can watch that thing on Netflix.


You can’t bitch about not having a village, or not having friends, when you aren’t willing to show up and be a friend. If there are no moms you have stuff in common with, then that’s another story. But if there are, and you skip events, you miss hang-out time, you play sick for birthday parties — what can you expect? You won’t have a BFF. And if you do have a BFF now, and you stop showing up for them, you won’t have a BFF for long.

For me, being a BFF might mean a 700 mile drive one day. But I’ll do it if she makes the call. That’s a hell of a lot of showing up, I know. Ten hours’ worth, up I-95, possibly with three very irate children. She knows how hard it would be — so hard it scares me that she’d never ask.

But showing up for your BFF isn’t a bitch.

But that’s the thing about showing up. It’s not an obligation. It’s not something to bitch and moan about, something you have to do.

Showing up is a gift. It’s a privilege.

The chance to show up for someone is the chance to weave them into the fabric of your life. It’s a chance for you to give the greatest gift you can to someone: the gift of yourself, the gift of your time. We don’t have that privilege much anymore. People don’t ask it of us. They know we’re busy (overworked). They know we’re overscheduled (slammed). They know we’re tired (exhausted). They don’t want to hear us say no. So while we might get voluntold plenty, while we might get stacks of birthday party invites from kids in little Johnny’s class, we don’t get calls to borrow the lawn mower. Or watch someone’s kids. Or bring over some dinner. No one wants to bother us.

A BFF is never a bother. You show up because you’re grateful for the chance to love on them, even when it’s a pain in the ass.

That’s why, if my BFF needs me, I’ll be driving up I-95. It won’t be a particularly awesome drive. But I’ll be so grateful she called. She’ll have given me a special grace: the chance to show up.

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