“We’re always gon’ have life shit.” – Tiffany DuBois
You’re out here living your best life with your crew, having long vent sessions, seeing rotations of love interests, girls nights out and girl trips, then BOOM you or your friend has something major to drop, and despite happiness (pregnancy, relationship/marriage, career advancement) or empathy (illness, family issues, job loss), you begin to question the dynamics and longevity of a relationship that had such a huge presence in your life.
How do we navigate friendships when “life shit” happens?
The cast of Insecure has begun grappling with those complicated answers beginning with Tiffany, a fourth of the crew, very pregnant and usually poised, telling Issa that they were different now after an eventful girls trip to Coachella closed. While the other girls were partying (probably a little too hard), she was walking the tightrope of wanting to turn up with her friends, but knowing she couldn’t go all in because she’s carrying a child. Ultimately, she was left feeling like an outsider because her life was about to change. By the next episode, ‘Ready-Like,’ Kelli, usually the cut and dry comedienne of the group, had a BIG moment of vulnerability admitting that of the three ladies, Tiffany was her “person.”
“…And I’m not trying to be selfish, but I’m losing my best friend to a gotdamn baby.” Two sides of a friendship in transition.
In our early 20s, my best friend since middle school had her first child, my godson. When high school ended, we cried rivers because we were parting ways for different colleges. By junior year of college, we were still maintaining our friendship through calls from different states and making sure we hung out every time I came home. She didn’t know, but I thought it could be over because what did I know about raising babies? My biggest dilemma was what I was wearing to a party. Things were going to be different and no one told me (us) what would come next. We made it through kid birthday parties, funerals, weekend and day trips and another baby.
Ten years later, another friend married and had a baby. Prior to the pregnancy, our ritual had been 10 a.m. phone calls on Saturdays after she moved to another city to stay connected. When the baby was born, outside of periodic check-ins, the phone calls stopped because the child was the priority and a busy and new mom will reach out when she can or feels like it, right? She later told me she’d wished our group would have called her more. She was a mom, but needed adults to talk and share with.
All along, I thought I was being a good friend by staying out of her way. It was natural for the person who experiences a life change to give cues on how to proceed in the relationship is what I told myself. My passiveness was not effective, and I missed some opportunities to add value to our friendship.
Because we don’t know what lies ahead in life and relationships, we often don’t know what to prepare for and discuss. We should be asking our friends the “what happens/when if’s.” That requires being open, letting go of our egos and understanding that although we “know” our friends, their expectations and views can change, and none of us can read minds (See: Issa and Co. and Tiffany’s crossed signals on planning her baby shower).
If you’re in a friendship for a long enough time, the dynamics WILL change at some point, and a baby is only one life event that can rattle things. Life changes don’t mean that your friendship is over, that’s a bit hasty. Modifications can be temporary until the tide turns again. Here’s what we can do to ensure our besties remain.
Be flexible. You may have to swap your extended phone sessions for a couple of chats with big updates ever so often. A group text, which likely already exists, may become the primary mode of conversation for a while, especially if you’re in different cities.
Be intentional. Sometimes life events put a pause on the “randomness” of close friendships. Between professional and family commitments, our calendars can become packed. You may need to schedule some time for yourselves to ensure you can connect with little to no interruptions when possible.
Be honest. If you can’t be real with your friends, why are you friends? (I hope you read that in your “Bella Noches” voice) Tiffany’s confession on Insecure was so refreshing because she spoke to what many mothers-to-be and new moms feel, especially in a group of friends. If you are concerned about your friendship and next steps, tell them.
Ask questions. On both ends, there’s always something we can do when a life change happens. What are the expectations as a best/close friend? How can I help? How do you feel? The friend whom the change is happening to can make requests, too. If you need help, company or a listening ear, say so.
Change doesn’t signal the end of a friendship, but refusal to adapt can.