Most of us have had good girlfriends of many varieties: from the secret-keeping, pinky-swearing grade-school bestie to the friend who answers the midnight call with provisions and bubbly. They’re the bricks on which the houses of our lives are built. My girlfriends mean everything to me. They are the family I have chosen for myself. I aim to give back to them, as much as they give me.
There are certain roles each must play in my long-standing tribe of female power, defined by personalities and needs. Sometimes one at a time, sometimes all at once. Here are eight types of BFFs that are crucial to my wellbeing, my sanity and my life.
1. The Sweetheart
I once had a friend stay up with me for two days after surgery. She took my temperature every hour on the hour and refused to leave my side until I could hold down food. She was salve for my wounded body and soul, and I’m so grateful that she’s still in my life, always there with a smile and a shoulder to cry on. This tender soul reminds me that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to give without thought of receiving.
2. The Pragmatist Warrior
I have another long-standing friend that cares deeply, but she’s not as cuddly. She acts as my conscious when mine seems to be napping. She insists that I keep up with my adult duties, such as paying my bills on time, and that I stop kidding myself about keeping those jeans from two decades ago. She screamed at me to get out of an abusive relationship to the point of refusing to speak to me until I cut the ties. I owe her my life for that one. She demands my best from me, and she never lets me stay knocked down, pushing me to get back up again. I can’t live without her.
3. The Comedian
You know your friend who’s always sending you insane YouTube videos that cause you to spit coffee across your desk? I have a few of those and they’re invaluable to me. The quick wit, the ability to laugh at tragedy; these women (and a few fabulous gay men) always leaves me in stitches. They shine a light into the darkest corners of life; they’re my life raft when the waves of life get too high. If laughter is the best medicine, these are the Physicians of Funny, and I keep them on speed dial.
4. The Kindred Spirit
I’ve had this one best friend for so long I’ve actually forgotten how we met. We can finish each other’s sentences. The connection between us is something that I can’t quite describe, but it’s one of the most intimate relationships I’ve ever known. I can see myself in her eyes, and she reminds me I’m not alone in this world. We are joined together by a bond as inexplicable as it is strong.
5. The Fun-Loving Free Woman
When I was 10, I let a friend talk me into getting on The Beast at King’s Island, which was the longest, fastest roller coaster at the time. “You’re tall enough and you’ll hate yourself if you don’t do it,” she said. I did it, and since then the two of us have gone on to have plenty of daring adventures, from road tripping to Las Vegas in a convertible to learning to ski. We all need someone like this, someone to drag us out of fear and inertia and thrust us into the flow of life. People like her remind me that we only pass this way once, so I might as well enjoy the ride.
6. The Cheerleader
The last thing you want to hear sometimes is that chipper, happy voice cheering you on, especially when your mood is foul. Nothing annoys me more, but there’s nothing that spurns me on like that happy pom-pom section of friends who share my every success on Facebook, retweet all of my articles, feel pride and happiness for my every accomplishment . These are my people; they want me to take risks, to keep moving forward and to realize my dreams as much as I want them to realize their own.
7. The Vault
I have a couple of secrets that are pretty big, so big I never thought I could tell another person. The issue with secrets like that is that they build up in your body; like sweeping debris under the rug in the same spot for years, eventually, you trip on it and all the dirt falls out. I called a dear friend one night and said, “If I don’t tell this to someone, I think it’s going to kill me.” She stayed on the phone with me for two hours. It took 15 minutes to tell the story. The rest of the time, she just let me cry. She has never, ever breached that confidence. She’s never judged me, made me feel badly about what I told her, and she’s going to take that with her to her grave.
8. The Lesson-Maker
Sadly, I’ve had more than a few of these: fair-weather friends who disappear when times are tough, two-faced people who used confidential information for their own gain. I even had one long-standing friend start a phone tree to cut me off socially when we had a disagreement. The lies, the betrayals, the backstabbing — they’re all a part of the classroom of life, the tougher lessons I’ve had to learn. I’ve learned that there’s a little bit of myself in each one of these instances, that more often than not there’s a learning to be gleaned for my part in the matter. For all those tough lessons, I’m better for the experience.
All friends, all needed allies and experiences. These women are the flowers that make my garden grow. I’m grateful for all of them, as they pass through my life for a reason, a season…or a lifetime.