Last weekend, my best friend and I celebrated 30 years of friendship. To mark the occasion, we threw ourselves a ‘Friendaversary’ party. We had a cake – with one candle for every decade we’ve known each other – with pastries, pancakes and streamers, and a banner I'd made. We watched Hocus Pocus 2, the sequel to a film we first watched when we were children, in the earliest days of our friendship. It was the perfect throwback day, full of nostalgic treats and childhood memories.
Yet it was also something of a novelty. Several people asked us what we were doing and what a ‘Friendaversary’ was. Naturally, I had to have the banner made as the occasion does not have its own section of Hallmark cards and party accessories. Though we felt delighted with the sweet, quirky uniqueness of our celebration, it made me sad to think that such a commemoration is novel. We mark so many occasions in life, but besides the annual reminder of the day you were born, these are largely dominated by your romantic entanglements: engagements, weddings, anniversaries. We are somehow a society which celebrates commitment – but only of the amorous variety. Why are we not applauding our friendships in the same way?
Friendships are the balustrades of our existence. Our friends form the rich tapestries of our good days and hold our hands through our worst. They plug the deficits in our lives; giving us a love that may be missing, or simply different, from that of our families and romantic partners. They are not expected to expire, the way amorous connections might (although, of course, sometimes they do). They are a family you choose for yourself – and that act of choosing is what makes them so special. A community you build from common interests, shared values and a connecting rod of experience is vital. So many of these friends have been with you for so many chapters in the story of your life that often, they know you better than your family, your partner or even yourself.
Friends are with you in the trenches of life. They remember your stories and your quirks and passions, your best and worst moments. They pick you up from the floor and help you rally. They rejoice with you in your triumphs and accompany you on your greatest adventures. They are companions on a journey; one fortified by as many sad moments as happy ones. These are the people we will turn to when our parents or partners die, if we lose a baby or IVF doesn’t work, if our career stalls, if we hit hard financial times, if we feel our mental health shattering.
Loneliness can be the greatest antagonist of our lives. It was the secondary evil of the pandemic years – an insidious, subsequent epidemic which spread from household to household, particularly among those forced to isolate alone. It caused horrendous spikes in anxiety, addiction and even suicide. We are not built to live alone, but that does not mean that our only solace should be romantic. The value of true friendship should not be sniffed at, because it is so often our greatest weapon against the perils of aloneness – a powerful force which keeps so many demons at bay. A true friend is your greatest asset and yet they are criminally undervalued. They deserve far more nourishment and respect. They at least deserve a section in the card store.
For, friends are not a consolation prize for not marrying or having children, and they are certainly not a second-tier connection; it is time we recognised the under-appreciated value of friends in their own right. I feel enormously lucky to have the friendships I do. They have been my heartbeats in life – my biggest champions and my greatest comfort. At my worst moments they have got me out of bed; in my best, they have made everything brighter. I hope I have done the same for them.
My best friend and I have gone through everything together – from the sandbox to today. For 30 years we have stood side by side. A marriage would be considered enormously successful to reach that milestone, which is why I decided our connection was just as special. So, here’s to friendship; may we respect it, may we cherish it and may we finally deem it just as worthy of celebration.
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