Evolution of closeness amongst friends as we get older

When I was much younger, say during my K-12 years, “close” or “best” friends meant something much different than what they have meant in my 30s. Back in those days, close friends were those who spoke pretty much every single day, ate lunch together at school, and would hang out after school and/or during the weekends. I had a number of tumultuous relationships in my middle/high school days, one of which is with a friend who I still consider a friend today. I still remember one day, I came over to her house to hang out, and it had been a couple months since I had seen her outside of school. And she confronted me about it and said, “Do you think we’re actually still close? We’re not. You never hang out with me anymore.” I said I was there at that moment. That did not seem to help her hurt feelings.

Honestly, I can’t remember the reason we didn’t hang out for a few months. Part of it was I just didn’t make the effort. The other part of it was that during that time, I was in a romantic relationship with some idiot guy who didn’t deserve my time, and I was trying to make that work. And the other part of it was that I felt like she was just being overly difficult, and hanging out with her wasn’t as fun as before. But those are complicated teenage times when we had nothing else in our lives going on — no work, no bills to pay, no children to raise, no life goals to really hit. And thus, “closeness” cannot be defined the same anymore.

At most, I will see a friend once a month if they live in New York City. If they live somewhere else, I’m lucky to see them once a year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t close anymore. Because we are still connected via text, calls/Zoom, and social media, we still are looped into what the other is up to. And when we do spend time together, we catch up and are comfortable as though no time has passed. And that’s really how I’ve gauged what “closeness” means at my current stage/age of life. It felt like that when my friend came on a side work trip to see me today. We spend a lot of time hanging out together, and even though she had to leave at 5:45am to catch her flight back home to San Francisco, we still stayed up late just talking about all kinds of random things. Some of those things were deep and sad, like my brother’s childhood and his passing, plus how that all informs how I want to parent now. Some were more frustrating life stage topics, like how my friend has noticed some of her child-free friends have seen her choice to have children as an inconvenience to them. But other things were just silly nothing-topics, like my peeling nails and skin on my fingertips because I was just too cheap and lazy to go to the salon to remove my gel polish. But regardless what the topic was, it just felt free and open and comfortable.

It takes a lot of time and investment to get to a stage with any person where you have this level of comfort. I’m lucky I can say that I have a small handful of friends where this feeling definitely rings true. Sure, we’ve had our good times and our bad, times when we’ve fundamentally disagreed with things we’ve done to each other or the respective person’s life choices. But at the end of the day, we all still love and respect each other regardless of how much time has passed since we last spoke or were in person together, and that’s ultimately what matters.

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