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Friend zone: How many “besties” do you really need?

Just one ‘bestie’ is not enough; you need at least five kinds of friends to survive in this world

brunch Updated: Sep 25, 2017 19:15 IST
Seema Goswami
Seema Goswami
Hindustan Times
Friends,Bestie,Chaddhi buddy
How can you choose one friend...and proclaim him or her to be the best? (Photo Imaging: Parth Garg)

I must confess that I have never really understood the concept of a ‘best friend’, or as young people today would call it, a ‘bestie’. How can you choose one friend above all the others who are close to you and proclaim him or her to be the best? How do you decide which one of the many people you love and cherish deserves to be given top billing? And how do you justify downgrading all the others who care for you in the process?

Through all the stages of my life, I have had several sets of friends. There were the girls I grew up with (and many that I grew away from). There were the office colleagues who remained an integral part of my life long after my career had moved on. There were the friends I made when I moved town and met new and interesting people. And so on.

If you asked me to rate these friends on a sliding scale, I would fail spectacularly to do so. Yes, it would be possible to gather my social acquaintances in one group and close friends in another. But that’s about it. I would not be able to pick any one of them as my ‘best friend’. And that’s because I love all of them too much to assign ranks to them, or impose some sort of pecking order.

In any case, I don’t believe that a woman can do with one friend alone, even if she is the ‘best’. If you ask me, we need five kinds of friends (at the very least) to see us through life. Allow me to list them here, in no particular order of importance (because, as you may have gathered by now, I don’t set much score by ranks).

The chaddhi buddy

This is the woman who knows everything about you. How you were so nervous on the first day of school that you disgraced yourself by vomiting in class. She remembers the time you flunked maths and doctored your report card before taking it home. She knows the name of the your first boyfriend and the fact that you cheated on him with the man who is now your husband. She knows all your dirty secrets, but you know that they are safe with her. Just as her secrets are safe with you. And no matter how long the two of you go without talking, you always pick up exactly where you left off.

The mother figure

No, she’s not your mother. Maybe she’s not even old enough to be your mother. But her official title and age does not matter. She’s the maternal presence in your life who makes you feel safe and protected. She’s the one you go to with problems that you don’t want to take to your own mom (your penchant for bad boys, your marriage woes, etc.) because you fear disappointing or angering her. And she draws upon her life experience to give you advice that is both dispassionate and discreet, with none of the emotional baggage that mothers often bring to such exchanges.

I don’t believe a woman can do with one friend alone, even if she is the ‘best’

The protégé

Just as you need a maternal figure in your life who is not your mother, it also helps to have a daughter figure who is not, in fact, your daughter. Goddaughter, protégé, or whatever you may call her, this is the relationship that keeps you young and allows you an insight into your own children (if you have any). More importantly, it gives you a stake in the future, and allows you to pass on your accumulated wisdom to the next generation. It’s the mother-daughter dynamic without any of the angst and conflicted emotions. And while the bond may be less powerful as a consequence, it is also less constricting.

The cheerleader

We could all do with someone like this in our lives. She’s the one who chivvies you along just as you are about to give up on your personal dream (be it writing a book, running the marathon, or giving up carbs). She’s the one you call when you’re feeling a bit blah, secure in the knowledge that the world will seem like a better place once you’ve spoken to her. She’s the one with the solution to every problem, the antidote to every poison, the cure to every illness. None of them may ever work, but their placebo affect is beyond doubt.

The travel buddy

This one is harder to find than you may imagine. She needs to be someone who likes to travel to the same places as you. If you are a beach person and she is one for the mountains, this simply won’t work. You must be happy to share a room – and more, importantly, a loo – with her on occasion. And you must have the same circadian rhythms; an owl and a lark do not happy travel companions make. But if you are lucky enough to find someone who ticks all these boxes, hold on to her tight. She’s worth her weight in air miles.

If you still have room in your life for one more, than I would heartily recommend The Platonic Male Pal. He could be a work colleague, the husband of a friend, or the friend of your brother. All that matters is that he is someone who would never dream of hitting on you. Once you’re sure of that, you can make him your go-to guy for insights into the male of the species. God knows, we could do with a bit of help in that department.

From HT Brunch, September 24, 2017

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First Published: Sep 24, 2017 01:02 IST