Sorry, chum. Grown-ups don’t need best friendsOr so says JULIE BURCHILL, who makes new friends almost as quickly as she loses the old ones
23:09 GMT, 28 March 2012
My second husband believed I had such a fickle attitude to friendship that each Friday he would update the list of my ‘Top Ten’ friends in the manner of a Top Of The Pops chart countdown.
It went something like this: ‘And straight in at number five — for writing a flattering article — it’s Daisy Waugh.
‘But down three places — for not being sufficiently fawning at the Groucho Club last night — it’s Emma Forrest!’ And so on.
Who needs 'the one' Julie Burchill thinks she just doesn't suit having a Best Friend
With this in mind it’s perhaps no surprise that the ‘no best friends’ policy being adopted in some primary schools gets top marks from me.
Earlier this month it was revealed that headteachers are encouraging children to play in large groups instead of forming close-knit bonds to save them the trauma of falling out with a close pal.
I agree. Having ‘best friends’ is — at least for me — as outdated and small-minded a concept as the idea of ‘Sunday best clothes’.
When I hear people say, ‘I’ve only got three friends and that’s all I need,’ I find myself speculating about them being serial killers. To me it’s just not natural.
To believe that one, or even three, mates can supply all the things one needs from one’s friends is as stupid as believing married couples must do everything together.
As I have got older, I have found myself making friends with the ease and swiftness that other people pick up fuzzballs on their jumpers. And I believe it is probably my lack of longing for ‘The One’ that makes me so popular.
As with romance, neediness is never good when looking to make new pals.
It wasn’t always this way. I was an only child, which I loved even though it made me very keen on my own company.
Having 'best friends' is — at least for me — as outdated and small-minded a concept as the idea of 'Sunday best clothes'
My strongest memories of primary school are weekends spent lurking in my bedroom, begging my mother to tell whichever pre-teen was at the door asking me to go and ‘play’ (shudder!) that I was indisposed. Real girls struck me as wet — nothing like the gutsy heroines of the books I read.
In secondary school, no longer able to avoid socialising, I discovered a talent for ‘stirring’ — and found girls vying to be my ‘bezzie’ (I came to hate this word with a passion) as I took them to one side and imparted thrilling lies about our contemporaries.
My castle of cards eventually came tumbling down, of course, when I was off school for six weeks with laryngitis and came back to discover my victims had all compared notes, leaving me friendless.
But rather than being distraught, I was delighted! Now I didn’t have to be bored and they didn’t have to be mauled by my spiteful nature.
Needless to say, I was hardly likely to bag a Miss Congeniality award.
But following the end of my first marriage — five years spent in social purdah in Essex — I found myself moving to London in the mid-Eighties to marry my gregarious second husband.
He wrote a party-going column for a modest literary magazine and I made friends by the wagonload, quickly becoming the non-sexual equivalent of the easiest girl in town. It wasn’t always pretty.
I was entirely capable of befriending someone at dusk, hearing their entire life story — often with never-before-revealed details of unspeakable sadness — by midnight, and completely forgetting everything (even their name) by morning.
According to Julie Burchill, drunks don't make completely bad friends
Mind you, drunks don’t make completely bad friends — we never get tired of our mates’ boring stories, and you can confide in us about anything with full confidence that we’ll have forgotten it by the time we sober up.
I’ve calmed down a lot since those frenzied West End days and now try to keep random befriending to a minimum. My friendships tend to develop more organically — I met one long-term crony when she was my cleaner, and another was my mentor at my first volunteer job.
But I still much prefer having lots of different friends, with whom I do wildly disparate things — from learning Hebrew to getting drunk — rather than the sort of tight, homogenous circle some souls favour, which I fear would leave me claustrophobic and gasping for air.
I still have a friend from my home town (the one exception to the madding teenage crowds), who is called Karen and is as close to me as a sister. But as I only see her once every five years I wouldn’t dream of calling her a best friend.
And I have Facebook friends whom I have never met but rush to make contact with each morning, even before I drink my coffee, because they’re the only people I’ve ever met who are smarter than me.
It’s safety in numbers. Truth be told (and you may have guessed this already), I am not the best friend in the world, and this being so, maybe I just don’t suit having a Best Friend.
I am fun, kind and generous — but loyalty never has been and never will be my strong suit.
'I am fun, kind and generous — but loyalty never has been and never will be my strong suit'
And there’s a bigger reason why I don’t need a best friend, though it embarrasses me to admit it. I cringe when I hear women say the words, ‘My husband is my best friend,’ but, looking back — even through the red mist of marriages gone bad — I can see this has always been true of me.
From when I was a teenager embarking on my first shotgun wedding to my present life as a provincial wife in a relationship that has lasted longer than the first two marriages put together, this has been the case for me.
Not in a cheesy, teddy-bear-sending, matching-jumpers kind of way — but in bad-kids-in-the-back-row-of-the-school-bus way.
The three men I married have all been very different but in each case their main appeal was having a partner-in-crime on tap. With this position filled, the pickings left for any ‘best friend’ are obviously going to be somewhat second-best.
When I fall out with a friend a part of me feels pleased because now there’s a vacancy for a new one. But if I were to fall out with my husband I’d be extremely sad, and I can’t think of any advantages it would bring.
So to any sorrowful school kid missing their ‘bezzie’, I’d say just grow up and get over it.
Because friends come and go. And while friendship might be great fun — it’s a very runtish runner-up to love.