What do you do when you have a friend you used to be *best* friends with, and you still love her dearly but you have literally nothing in common anymore and you don’t enjoy time the time you spend together anymore — but you also aren’t ready to give up that friendship because it meant so much to you?
To the Elderly Aunt, being best friends conjures up memories of her own 7th-through-9th grade posse of four: Janet, Taffy, Alice and, naturally, the Elderly Aunt (before she was elderly.) We were inseparable BFFs — four girls on the cusp of womanhood, joined at hip and heart. We grooved along together for three whole years, completely simpatico with each other on all levels. We talked and dreamed and giggled in concert, reveling in the bonds of our “best friendship.” We were d’Artagnan and the three Musketeers: One for all, and all for one! Forever and ever! Amen!
Where are those long ago BFFs now, the Elderly Aunt wonders?
Physically, she has no idea. Out of curiosity she Googled and Facebooked them, and found only two pictures of Janet. Judging by those pictures, her one-time BFF is now a well-groomed grandmother who looks as conventional as the Elderly Aunt is not.
In the Elderly Aunt’s heart, however, the four of us remain forever young, as Mr. Bob Dylan puts it one of his rare, genuinely sweet songs. And our long-ago BFF-ship is no less valuable to her because it ended more than a half-century ago.
Still, the way the Elderly Aunt sees it, holding Janet, Taffy and Alice close in her heart does not mean she still needs to spend time with them.
For one thing, what would we talk about?
Well, we’d certainly reminisce about the day in general science that Mr. Taylor had his entire class form a circle and hold hands so he could run an electric current through us to demonstrate an electric circuit.
But then what?
The truth is that over the decades most of the Elderly Aunt’s fervent BFF relationships have morphed into fond memories. Indeed, her vast experience has taught her to distrust the staying power of intense friendships. Intensity in any relationship, in her experience, leads to the unrealistic expectation that the relationship will never become less intense; that feeling-wise, it will stay the same forever. And it has been Elderly Aunt’s experience that change is the only constant in relationships as well as life in general. And to expect anything else of a relationship is diminish its chance of survival.
Over the decades, the Elderly Aunt has observed that the Gorilla Glue of truly lasting friendship is made of quieter stuff—understanding, flexibility, tolerance, quiet and transcendent affection, the eschewing of all need to control. As she sees it, these are the qualities that encourage us to embrace and celebrate the inevitable changes in all our relationships, rather than experience them as a diminution.
And so, dear reader, to return to your question: What to do when a dear friendship fails to adjust to life’s inevitable changes?
In the Elderly Aunt’s opinion, the only sensible thing you can do is tuck the memory of the your *best friend* relationship away snugly in your heart. And then—as difficult as it will certainly be, and as much of a loss as it will certainly feel—let go and let the intensity of your BFF friendship fade into whatever quieter form it takes. In the Elderly Aunt’s experience, this is the only way to continue our one-time BFF friendships as they are now, as we look back fondly upon what they once were.
The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on the second and fourth Monday of each month. To get the Elderly Aunt’s advice on an issue that’s been intriguing or bugging you, email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions).