Does anybody know you like your childhood friends? I would venture to say that’s a big negative. If you have friends from childhood who remain your close friends today, then you likely know, understand, and relate to each other on a level that other folks simply can’t understand.
Not even your mom. Not even your spouse.
When you grow up with someone, and share all your secrets, and your awkward phases, and your heartbreaks and triumphs, you become acutely aware of who that person is. Those experiences are the building blocks for growing together and continuing to understand each other even when life takes you in different directions.
I am lucky to have a handful of childhood friends whom I remain close to. We share countless inside jokes, we know the dynamics of each other’s families, and we know when it’s time to call for a “huddle” and run off together for a weekend of debauchery. Or wine, appetizers, and gossip. Same thing.
One of these friends, my best friend, my soul sister, is getting married this fall. She’s met a wonderful man, who has an amazing son, and it’s a beautiful time in their lives. And here’s the thing, because she means so much to me, I am intensely happy for her. Like, sometimes I think about how she’s been waiting for “the one” and how she has (literally) done everything “right” (subjective, I know) to get to this point, and I just bubble over with happy tears while I’m driving to the donut shop on a Sunday morning.
And while I can absolutely feel happy for other people, this is different. Because I’ve known her since we were playing handball during elementary school recess. Because I’ve known her since we were barely old enough to drive — loading up my shitty, old car and heading to the beach just because we could. Because I’ve known her since we were in college, and she had to teach me how to do a load of laundry. Because I’ve known her since we both suffered college heartbreak and thought we may never find genuine happiness again.
We’ve gone through some shit together, and we’ve gone through some shit apart, but we’ve always been there for each other along the way. The good times, and the bad, and the boring in-between. That’s what true friendship is. You just keep showing up for each other. No one-sided bullshit, just mutual respect, love, and understanding that your souls are connected, and you want to be part of each other’s lives, however they may evolve.
Friendship with your childhood friends leaves no room for bullshit. I can’t fake it. They know my dysfunction, my upbringing, my weaknesses, and the face I make when shit is about to hit the fan. I can’t brush them off. I can’t say, “Oh, nothing…” when they ask what is wrong. They won’t buy it, and they will call me out. It can be frustrating in the moment, but damn, if it isn’t the best feeling to know that someone wants to know your truth, to hear you out, to lift you up, and refuses to be shut out by your fear of vulnerability.
Friendship with childhood friends comes with a fierce sense of loyalty. Don’t you fucking dare come for my friends because you will regret it with a quickness. Hell hath no fury like a woman who is trying to avenge the sadness of her childhood BFF. You will regret it. I can certainly tell them that their new boyfriend is giving me bad vibes, or that their kid is acting like a jerk, or that they have some food in their teeth. We value honesty between each other because there is a relationship of love and support there, but you, you stranger who doesn’t know a damn thing? You better be nice to my friend. Or I will curse you with roaches. Or pubic lice. Or both.
Friendship with your childhood friends also means that no matter how much time you’ve spent apart, that seeing each other again simply means picking up where you’ve left off. No ice breakers needed, and not one second of uncomfortable silence. You just dive right back in because you know each other, and you love each other, and you can’t wait to catch up and laugh your ass off. (Because nobody makes you laugh like your childhood friends either. They know too much, after all.)
Of course, I’ve made other friends along the way, who didn’t play tetherball with me in third grade, but still play a valuable role in my life today. I cherish them. I support them. I will show up for them,and defend them too. But that doesn’t change the fact that they don’t know me, or understand me, in the same way my childhood friends do.
And that’s okay, of course, because I really don’t need everyone to remember my boy band obsession that was so far off the rails that I waited outside, overnight, in the freezing cold for NSYNC tickets (more than once).
But my childhood friends? They will forever have a special place in my heart. (And they will never let me forget anything embarrassing.)
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