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Navigating adult friendships requires time, emotions and love

 How to navigate adult friendships (Photo: iStock)

Have you ever thought, deeply, about the friends you have had; friends who may, or not, be in your life? Have you rated your ability to make good friends? Have they been loyal, or backstabbers? Have they answered your distress calls? Have they matched your happiness, during good times?

I recently did, after attending an occasion where I witnessed people celebrating over six decades of friendship. I went down memory lane, examined the trail of friends I left behind, those who have kept up, and I must say that I am mostly impressed with my choice.

I cannot put a time on when my first bosom friend became that, because we lived a kilometre apart, we were born three months apart, and we were cousins. She was just always there. She was a bosom friend for thirty-six years, until she died suddenly, a few months short of her thirty-seventh birthday. The spot she occupied in my heart is a hollowness I feel every single day.

Euna, for that was her name, and me, usually met over the weekend and school holidays, because we attended different primary schools, reason I had to find a stand-in friend for school days. Enter Rachel, one we became inseparable, one who also became Euna's friend.

We went to different secondary schools, but we hang out over the holidays. Rachel, however, got married right after secondary school. I did not even know she had a boyfriend - betrayal? We drifted apart, but to date, whenever Rachel and I meet, we pick up from where we stopped the last time we met.

Making friends in high school was tricky. I was one of those girls stuck between villagers and city girls. I was not a perfect fit for either group even though I was a villager through and through, but eventually, two bosom friends ended up being city girls, and a third one, like me, belonged to the lost tribe.

Only she came from money and I didn't. I wondered why I gravitated towards the city girls, if I was ashamed of my roots, then I realised I was just ambitious, and curious about the stuff I did not know. I wanted the world, not the village. I was going to find it.

And I did, through friends. Decades later, I am still in touch with two of the girls. We hook up once in a long, long while, and have a jolly good time, but they no longer are bosom friends, just people I share history with.

As a tax-paying adult, I have settled on three bosom buddies. Women whose backs I have had, who have had my back, walked beside one another through the shadow of the valley of death. I am hesitant about finding another bosom friend because, like finding a life partner, so much energy and too many emotions go into vetting trustworthy friends. It is draining.

The senior citizens I witnessed celebrating shades of friendship made me think of my mother, one who has kept her friends forever. The same friends she had when I was a toddler were the same she had when she was a young girl, the same friends she has now.

How does that generation do it? How do they stick with one another in youth, to marriage, to being mothers, grandmothers, till death do them part? All that turbulence!

Even more fascinating is that they kept friends as couples. A close-knit circle of friends where five husbands are best friends and the five wives are best friends too, who visit one another in couple-form. I have my own friends, and my husband has his own friends. Not that I dislike his, and I know he is fond of my friends, but don't they want breathing space?

How about friends from opposite sex? I have a handful. Are they bosom buddies? It depends on what one defines bosom friend as. For me, it is someone whose shoulder I could literally cry on. Someone I confess to my deepest fears, secrets.

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