I’m Nobody’s Best Friend And I’m Fine With That
After all, it's much better to be on the fringe, am I right?
I’m nobody’s best friend anymore. Instead, I’m a friend on the fringe and loving it.
There’s an old adage that says as far as the quality of our friendships go, it’s better to have a dollar bill or four quarters than it is to have 100 pennies — but I’ve come by a different perspective. Sometimes, even time and again over the course of a lifetime, we find ourselves in the position of not having a best friend — a go-to person or a ride-or-die — but rather many lovely and sustaining friendships of a different quality. If we choose to see those friendships that way.
Recently I came up for air after being submersed in dealing with a marital trauma for a couple of years. Healed and ready to be more social, I took stock and realized I’m now a friend on the fringe. I’m nobody’s singular go-to person right now and no one is mine. Instead, I’m a peripheral friend to a few different enclaves of women. I belong in many groups of friends, but I’m no longer anchored in one specific circle or tethered tighter to one friend than others.
At first, I felt adrift and lonely as a result of this realization. I felt like I was missing out on the benefits and protections of having a best friend or two, as well as the joys of being one — until I grasped the beautiful and important things being a fringe friend is doing for me. And for others.
I don’t know about you, but when I have a BFF or two, I tend to feel complete. Cozy and content. Looking back, when I felt completely connected to one specific friend or friend group, I didn’t often look around to see who else might need a friend. Nor did I feel an urgency to grow and evolve as a person — I was cool with complacency. I was so comfortable nestled as a pea in a pod with just one or two others that I stayed right there and didn’t venture out of that ecosystem much.
In that state, I missed out on encountering all kinds of endearing personas, compelling new stories and enriching perspectives. Because I wasn’t listening for the call to break camp and move, expand my horizons or meet the needs of others with the gifts I’ve been given, I didn’t. In hindsight, I can see how shortsighted the walls of my peapod had rendered me.
Not all fringes are created equal, though. And part of what made me feel “less than” for existing in the realm of the fringe was how often I was left out of conversations about events and circumstances stemming from gatherings and pairings when I wasn’t around. I was about to feel plain sorry for myself over being kept at arm’s length by women practically purring over each other — like I was on a need-to-know basis with these women and they had decided there wasn’t much I needed to know — when I realized it wasn’t me, it was them.
A different gathering I joined showed me there are groups of women who simply love bringing other women into the fold. No matter their existing ties that bind, they’ll make sure you get the
inside joke. There are women who will take time to retell you a story already well-known among their ranks. They will not leave you on the outside looking in — doing so would make them feel terrible. They’re interested only in feeling good around other women and in other women feeling good around them.
There are women who will make you feel included, bring you up to speed, and make you a part of their whole. There are women who believe author and activist Glennon Doyle was right when she recommended we form horseshoes of friends, not circles. I wasn’t always this kind of woman, but I want to be only this kind of woman now.
Once I learned to discern groups looking to include others and evolve from those that close ranks and put up barriers, I discovered I love my “fringe friend” position and its benefits. Outside of our carefully crafted comfort zones, a whole new world of healthy and empowering companionship awaits.
Author and shame researcher Brené Brown says we can never get enough of the things we don’t need. I don’t think we need comfort in this life as much as we need compassion — both the expression of it and its receipt. When I look back, during the years I was over-comforted by having a bestie or two I wasn’t looking for anything more. Nor was I giving enough. What a disservice that was to myself and to others. How many connections did I miss out on fostering with those in dire need of one?
Today, when I feel lonely or like I’m missing out on that one special friendship we’re told is so important to our well-being, I remind myself feelings aren’t facts. Then I work to counteract those feelings by intentionally meeting my own needs in healthy, empowering ways. Essentially, I act as my own best friend. And I remember all the avenues I have into welcoming groups of female friends. The fringe benefits to free-floating in these groups without anchoring myself to any of them are piling up around me.
At the forefront is how I’ve learned firsthand the importance of being inclusionary, while recognizing being exclusionary — whether intentional or otherwise — isn’t good for anyone.
When my circle was singular and tiny, comfortable and seemingly complete, I wasn’t being the friend to many that I am today. I feel richer for the 100 pennies now adding shine to my life — even if others don’t. I’ve learned we’re as rich or poor in friendships as we decide we are.