I am a creature of habit.
As much as I like to think of myself as a spontaneous, carefree manic pixie girl, ears pricked and fingers poised for any directionless zephyr ready to carry me off into adventure, I favour routine. I like the predictability of a morning rehearsed, the comfort of five hours stretched out into a familiar shape. This unremarkable repetition is also one of the things I’m most neurotic about - “am I wasting my youth? WHAT AM I DOING?!” - but there’s one component to the daily schedule which has become ingrained into habit without hesitation: saying good morning to my best friend.
Wake up, make a tea, sit down, say good morning.
Even if we don’t then speak for hours, this simple exchange is the symbolic spreading open of doors for the day to come. We ask each other how we are, how we’ve slept, what we have on for the day and whether we had any orgasms in our sleep. We’ll send memes and compare dreams, tilling the earth of the same conversation we relax into at approximately 7am each morning (later if it’s a Saturday, and even later if it’s a Sunday).
It’s ordinary and it’s simple, but it’s an important show of how we turn up for each other.
You see, both of us are now part of a long-distance best friendship. She’s in London and I’m in Ipswich, and although there’s only a few hours’ train journey between us, there was once a point when I lived with my grandparents where I could walk to her front door in 2 minutes, so that kind of close is not quite close enough.
The possibility that our best friends might move away exists within periphery of teenagehood, a asterisk attached to love and work and travel for those with itchy feet and unresolved minds. We know it can happen - we know it will happen - but whilst we’re getting drunk on £1 shots and languishing in the responsibility-free realm of old-enough-to-drink but not-old-enough-to-be-serious, we don’t care. The threat of missing our sisters feels as far away as pension pots and dental plans.
But then the ‘if’ becomes a ‘when’ and the ‘when’ becomes a ‘now’, and before you know it, your favourite person to while away a groggy Sunday with a hundred miles away. The off-the-cuff evening visits make way for girls’ weekends planned far in advance, hungover hangs cut short by the necessity of travel and the looming responsibility of the working week. As we ache into adulthood, the freedom that we had to absorb each other begins to dim, and we make way for a new iteration of best friendship. Less symbiotic and more loving long-distance.
As a generation we talk about LDRs a lot - how to keep the spark alive, how to not feel jealous when the person you love is having a tonne of fun with someone else - but less often do we consider how our friendships are affected by distance. Which is strange when you reflect on how many of us have grown up and flown the nest, leaving our people pods behind for the lure of a good job or a good city or a good shag.
Just like long-distance relationships, long-distance best friendships need work. They deserve work. It’s easy to fall into the natural rhythm of life and settle for a quick exchange of texts and the certainty of birthday party reunions, but like a little cutting taken from a plant and migrated to a new pot, best-friendships need nurturing. They need love and attention and a kind of life-long determination to keep the connection alive, no matter the distance or drama of the month. For most of us, the relationship we have with our best friend is the longest one we’ll have all our lives, and when you go from living in each other’s pockets to only being able to share a bottle of prosecco once a month, the nature of that relationship is bound to change. Many times, in fact. Best-friendship is a living reincarnation of the story you create with one of your favourite people.
You can expect a few things to happen when you begin your LDR. You’ll talk about missing each other a lot and lament that you aren’t both 10 minutes from the same pub. You’ll cry when you see each other, not necessarily because you’re sad about the distance (although you are), but more because you store up all of your frantic emotions for these scheduled girls' time meetings, and when your partner-in-crime starts to ask the questions that only your parter-in-crime can, all of that frenetic energy bubbles out in an alcohol-induced fizz.
You find ways to share things without needing to be next to each other. Days off, for example, which are united by the knowledge of naps and UberEats deliveries. Sure, we’re not both dipping into the same bag of salty chips, but I know that she’s lounging watching Gogglebox and I’m doing the same, and through that guiltless relaxation that we both know we love, we can feel close to each other. Even when we’re not talking. Just the knowledge that we’re in similar comfort is enough.
Your drunk chatting graduates to drunk gushing. If you’re not well-versed with this mode of enthusiastic affection, drunk gushing is what you call the reams of incoherent messages we send when we’re 4 wines deep in the locked loo cubicle. Think: “I literally loveuso much I wld die 4 you”, “wow how lucky am I that u exist?????” and “thnak u for being YOU AN ANGEL a queen amongst PeasANTz”.
Those classic conversations once shared over a single faucet now move into the digital realm, to be laughed about and screenshotted the next morning. Although it never gets old, that warm glow of someone you love singing your praises with no inhibition and no reserve. Just really going full throttle on how much they love you and wow, aren’t your tits are looking fucking amazing lately??? and if you die I’ll resurrect you just to kill you again for leaving me so don’t even think about it.
You also gradually become an eager spectator of their ‘other life’: the existence they have outside of you which constitutes their day-to-day. It’s their job, their love life, their other friends - the tangible parts that they can see in front of them, that accompany them for the few quick cocktails you wish you could share. It’s the drunken stories you aren’t a part of, the cute boy you’ve never seen, the work that won’t ever creep close to your own.
It’s the trips you can’t go on and the events you miss, the anecdote you’ve heard a thousand times over but which this time comes with a small detail which reminds you that you weren’t there. Sometimes it’s sad and makes you miss the closeness you once took for granted, but most of the time it’s #goodcontent for a fucking juicy story. Because you live for best friend gossip. It’s the food that keeps you alive.
You also start to appreciate the depth of your friendship. When your bond isn’t a given solidified by circumstance or proximity, every conversation and every meeting feels like a little building block in your joint effort to stay connected. You’re elevated by the knowledge that somebody is expending their energy and spending their time, just to stay close to you. And you aren’t even shagging. It’s a selfless love.
Whether your journey can be measured by train or by plane, the distance between you will always feel long. But it’s worth working for, these special bonds, because they’re the kind of connections that outlast many others, and they’re constants in a life which is forever changing and turning.
So send a text, a voice note, a calendar alert for your next wine and whinge - anything - and remind your best friend that you’re thinking of them. Many people become friends but few become family, and once you’ve started sending someone pictures of your poo in the toilet, well, there’s no going back, is there?