Illustration by Maxine Crump.

Illustration by Maxine Crump.

I have a question…After thinking hard about it, I’ve discovered that I don’t have a best friend. Is this normal? Is there something wrong with me? —Macy, 13, Memphis

Hello, Macy! There is NOTHING wrong with you. I am sure of it. What it means to have a capital “B” Best Friend is something I’ve thought a lot about, too. I can confidently say that I don’t have a One & Only Best Friend Forever, and there’s nothing wrong with me, either.

In a lot of ways, having a best pal is a more mysterious thing than having a lovey-dovey partner. How does one even define what “best friend” means? If it’s narrowed down to who you spend the most time with, then my best friend would be my bed. If it’s who you’ve known the longest, then I’d call Paw Paw Teddy my bff. Is it who you tell all your secrets to? Then my #1 is the Notes app on my phone. My point is that these criteria are kind of an absurd way to categorize people, who can be more to us than we can even define, and who often move through our lives in unpredictable ways.

Think about those fill-in-the-blank Q&As you complete at the end of the spring semester in elementary school, about, like, what your favorite food or TV show or whatever was that year. You’re supposed to just write down an answer real quick and feel good about it, but if you have to choose just one movie…what about the other 15 movies you saw and loved? It isn’t fair.

Easy guidelines or definitions (like “best friend”) for complicated relationships (like friendship) shouldn’t be A Thing. I understand why they exist, though, because they are pushed on us from every direction—TV, movies, music, art, the internet, and even in the dang hallways of schools!!! Honestly—and I will step down from my cynical, gargoyle statue–covered ledge soon—it’s a load of crap. Friendship is special and ever-changing. Some people grow with you and some don’t. You’ll become closer to some people at certain times, and sometimes you won’t be close with anyone. There will be times when you have a best pal in that movie-magic kind of way, and there will be times when you don’t. All of that is completely healthy and normal.

Friendship isn’t a fixed thing. Friendships and any kind of ’ships have so many layers. To single out a person in the platonic realm and dub them ruler of your friendship heart is unfair—including to yourself! Every person, pet, or presence holds a significance to you for specific reasons, and each connection is as sacred as the next. Not to break out the major cheese, but your individual self is so special, and it’s amazing to discover pals in this goofy world, so why ever limit yourself or the people who want to befriend you? Keep your heart open, and know that only you can fill the you-shaped friendship space in your life or anyone else’s, and there are infinite you-shaped spaces to fill. ♦

Is something just really bugging you? Send your question to [email protected] and include your name, age, and location. We’ll do our best to help you sleuth it out.