December 17th, 2007

Bruce, Caroline

LJ Idol, Week 7: TheNegative Side to Best Friends

The concept of "best friend" should be, and usually is, a positive
thing. Your best friend is your confidant; your best friend will use you
as a confidant; your best friend is the one person least likely to let
you down. Your best friend is also the person you're likely to tire of
from too much proximity, thus teaching you the art of tact; he or she
tries your patience more than most, thus building up that patience; he
or she is most likely to say or do something wrong in your eyes, thus
teaching you the art of forgiveness. All these things are positives,
because they shape you into a better person. There is a lot to be said
for the concept of "best friend". But is there a negative aspect to the
concept? I would say yes, especially among children. This very concept
that should be such a wonderful thing can also be very hurtful, very
wounding, very negative.

For children, the role of "best friend" is often seen as an exclusive
one. "Best", to a child, refers to "the best", which implies one
and only one. This can lead to problems in several ways.

Dan [names have been changed] and I were walking outside the school. I
am blind, and had assumed that Dan and I were alone. "Bruce," said Dan
casually, "who's your best friend?"

I genuinely considered both Dan and Mike to be my best friends. "You
are," I said, quite truthfully.

"Aha!" said Mike, who had secretly been beside us all along, "I thought
I was your best friend!"

Because I was a sucker as a kid, I let this situation play itself out
many times over the course of my school years, with both Dan and Mike
alternating in the roles of cornerer and pouncer. It was not pleasant,
since both of these schoolfriends had earned the designation of best
friends, and both had also done some pretty nasty things to me in their
time. It was useless trying to say that they were both my best friend,
they would simply not accept the answer. I believe that seeing me being
made to feel guilty was a source of amusement to both, and I was
astoundingly good at being amusing in this respect.

But despite this and other negative experiences surrounding the concept
of "best friend", I do not look upon the idea as being negative. Once
one grows up and realizes that there's no "best friend club", no
exclusive secret society of best friends, but that a true best
friendship is always earned and there's no shame in sharing the title,
once all that is understood and the competition is dispensed with, it's
always good to have that one person, or those few people, we trust above
all others.