It was like one of those "meet-cute" scenes in a Hollywood movie, minus the romance. A few weeks ago, I met a lovely, middle-aged woman named Carole through a mutual friend. We discovered we had a lot in common during a pleasant conversation over lunch.
She's written books. I've written books. She's lived in London. I've lived in London. She has three kids. I have three kids. And we both think "Breaking Bad" is the best TV series ever. If we'd met in college, we might have been bonded for life. But now that we're midlifers, the whole friendship thing is a little trickier to master. Yes, this woman and I have reached out to each other a few times, but haven't managed to meet up again. Chaotic schedules and stressful careers leave little time to nurture a new friendship between people with no shared history. Often, that's just the way it is as you grow older.
And this is precisely why I'm so protective over the close friendships I have managed to cultivate over the past 50 years. As I've moved around a lot, I've spent a great deal of time liking, poking, calling, texting and emailing -- all in an effort to keep up with those friends I value most. Most importantly, I've spent as much time as possible visiting my best friends in the flesh.
Indeed, it's been my experience that the single most important thing you can do as a friend is show up. When your friend has her first art exhibit, show up. When your friend's going through a divorce, show up. When your friend's father dies, show up at the funeral, even if it's a four-hour drive away. When I turned 40, 20 female friends came a very long way for a special dinner -- and I'll never forget it.
A very close friend just marked her 50th birthday with a weekend of parties in New Orleans. With work and kids, a three-day trip to celebrate with my friend, who also invited some other old friends I didn't know, wasn't exactly convenient. But I went anyway. I showed up. And I'm so glad I did. The sense of togetherness I experienced, and the look of appreciation on my friend's face, were priceless. Celebrating these kinds of milestones with your besties -- when you know it means the world to them -- cements a relationship like little else.
So what other characteristics go into a long-time friendship? Huff/Post50 reached out to its Facebook community this week to find out. Here are just seven other things besides showing up that all genuine friendships have in common.
1. You're both present.
"The ability to know when just to listen and when to give advice. Being there, no matter what, even if you live hundreds of miles away. Understanding each other and accepting each other unconditionally." -- Pamela Williams
2. You truly want the best for each other.
"I have two best friends and what they have in common is the awareness that I want them to be as happy as possible. So if I am a bit of a jerk sometimes they know it is not actually directed at them." -- Affinity Mingle
3. You're unabashedly loyal.
"She always has my back and NEVER takes the other person's side. If I am in crisis, she is in crisis. We do that for each other... no matter what!" -- Janise Bachler
4. You can laugh with each other -- over the silliest things.
"I have a handful of friends that I've had close friendships with for about 40 years, and they are the treasure of my life. I value their acceptance, their trust, their loyalty, their forbearance, and their humor. I can't imagine life without them!" -- Christine Boone
5. You're willing to answer each other's calls any time, day or night.
"You have forgiven me. You have loved me no matter what. You would answer my phone call at 3 in the morning." -- Ilene Phillips
6. You're honest enough to call each other out.
"A good friend cares for me enough to tell me when they think I'm wrong about something." -- Gary Frank
7. You can pick up exactly where you left off even after a long absence.
"Regardless of the length of time that has elapsed between meetings/correspondences ... the connection is still the same. -- Hank Zona
What do YOU appreciate about your best friend? Let us know in comments.