Does a BFF Really Need to Be Local?

There are days, every now and then, when I wonder if this search is just silly. Why do I need a local BFF when I have so many wonderful best friends all around the country? Do zip codes and state lines make all that much of a difference?

And the answer is: YES.

I was reminded of this today. I spent the afternoon with one of my best friends from college who’s in town for only a few days. A couple of hours after we parted—each to our own separate dinner plans—we got on the phone and spent 20 minutes rehashing what had happened in the time since we saw each other. Much of that meant listening to my friend dwell over her lunch options for the next day and me explaining in detail what I ate for dinner.

It reminded me of my days in New York, when I would talk to some of my friends every day, or close to it. And we would talk about nothing in particular.

Here’s the thing about long-distance friend phone calls: They are exhausting. They involve so much catch-up and general life updates. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem reasonable to discuss the minutia of everyday life when you have so much “big stuff”—job, relationship, family—to catch up on. There’s a lot of “so what else is new?” and it doesn’t seem relevant to explain that you had planned to get mussels for dinner, but then the restaurant where you wanted to eat was closed so you ended up with broiled tilapia instead. Plus, the whole “what are you doing tomorrow?” conversation is a wash with a long-distance friend, since there’s no way you can meet up.

I’ve mentioned before the Ann Patchett essay in which she says “That’s my idea of real intimacy: It’s not the person who calls to say, ‘I’m having an affair’; it’s the friend who calls to say, ‘Why do I have four jars of pickles in my refrigerator?’”

I quote this often because it’s spot on. The truth is, for whatever reason, once a friendship spans states, pickles seem too unimportant a reason to call. Shouldn’t you be calling to ask about her wedding plans, or what she’s been up to the past week, or how her job search is going? This unimportant pickle detail is the kind of call you make to someone with whom you have nothing to catch up on. Someone to whom the only thing left to say is “where do these jars come from?!?”

So that, my friends, that is why I continue to search for my local BFF. Because that one 20-minute phone call was so satisfying, and while my long-distance friends are irreplaceable, they are no longer the folks to call about pickle abundance.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Does a BFF Really Need to Be Local?

  1. So true. I’m yet to find my pickle friends in my new city :-)

  2. I definitely agree with this. My BFF lives 6 hours away, and we text/facebook about the little things like pickles, but it’s just not the same.

    I had a local BFF like that too, where we’d talk everyday and see each other a few times a week. But as we’ve gotten to the end of our 20′s, our time has gone to things like graduate school, dating, home buying and wedding plans, so although we have lots of big things to talk about, we just don’t have the time anymore.

  3. Yes! Agree!! And I wouldn’t give up my long distance best friends for the world, but my local best friends are definitely who I talk to about pickles or how I saw crazy garden lady across the street weeding at 10:00 at night (again!) because my local friends know what I’m talking about already without tons of background story.

  4. Maryl

    I disagree. My best friend and I have been long distance for most of our friendship, and we talk about the mundane, every-day details type of stuff, every day. And even if not every day, even if we haven’t talked in two days, we can and still do talk about that type of stuff. I do agree to the importance of having local friends and love your blog, but I disagree that long-distance friends only focus on the “serious” stuff. My long distance friend and I focus on everything, important & silly & everything in between!

  5. Lindsay

    I’m with Maryl on this one. I live in Alaska, my bestie lives in Boston. We talk nearly every day, and we cover everything from life’s big hurdles to the pickle jar news. I’ve called her in the middle of the night with my own crisis, and she was there at 3 AM her time and was with me until 7 AM (before she ran a 1/2 marathon the next morning!!), and I take time out of my work day nearly every day to talk with her about the day-to-day stuff. I don’t think I could ever find anyone like her anywhere, and really, that’s ok with me! I keep trying to get her to move up here, because of course I’d rather SEE her, but the distance really doesn’t prevent us from maintaining the best kind of bestie relationship I could imagine.

  6. Lorrie Paige

    It’s important but if you (or your BFFs) keep moving around (you said you have many best friends all over), why torture yourself? Finding a BFF in every place you live seems to be very important to you–beyond writing a book about it–but once you find another BFF, are you–or the BFF–going to move? Then you’re in the same boat all over again. Sort of like Groundhog’s Day….

    Why put yourself through this?

    At least decide with your husband whether you plan to stay in Chicago forever, and if that’s a yes, then when you meet potential BFFs, ask them are they planning on staying in town forever? Otherwise you’ll be repeating history once again.

    IMO, wait until you’re settled down in the city you want to call home forever, then look for a BFF who feels the same way. Because otherwise if you are unsure if you’re going to stay in Chicago or know for sure you are moving again later, you may not be local BFF material….You know how hard it is to leave a BFF when moving (or when they move).

    So I say, figure out where you want to live forever and make a mutual-minded BFF there.

  7. I am very conflicted by this. Part of me doesn’t want to believe it because it means that I have no true BFFs if that is an nonnegotiable part of the definition. Yes, I have friends that are local – people that I might see now and again, but none that I call on a regular basis about the important or the mundane. Part of that is by my own design, as I have already been here longer than I thought I would be back for and don’t know where I will be. Like Lorrie sort of stated, I don’t want to find a BFF here just to have to leave them if/when I decide to finally move so I can do my job better and be happier.

    On the other hand, I don’t think your BFFs have to be local. Because I know that I have BFFs and none of them are local. And, yes, it’s hard and having them be local would be much easier on us and our relationships, but they are still my BFFs. And I know that you’re not saying that you can’t have a long-distance BFF.

    It seems to me that maybe you’re asking if you can be happy without a local BFF. And, in that case, I agree with you 100%. I think that in order to be truly happy, at least for me, having a local BFF would be a must.

  8. Cheryl

    ABSOLUTELY!! The best BFF material are the ones who are close enough that when you need to go shopping, they could just go along with you, and maybe stop for a coffee on the way home (or on the way there, if you’re doing groceries and stuff would spoil/melt).

    Because right up there with “why do I have 4 jars of pickles in my refrigerator” is the question “how did I end up with only one navy blue shoe and one black shoe of the same style, when I can’t find either of the others?”

    Playing devil’s advocate for a second, though, I have been able to keep up with important BFFs who are states away by phone through a simple technique: phone meals or phone TV. You call your BFF and have lunch or dinner with them on the phone. Speaker phones work really well – you just put the phone on the table and chat about whatever pops into your head while you’re eating, and when you finish (and your BFF finishes, too), you can say, “thanks for having lunch/dinner with me! Talk to you later! Bye!” And that’s it. The phone TV/movie is similar, only you call during commercials (or before/after the movie).

  9. It is hard to maintain long-distance friendships; I think that’s why a lot of friendships fade after high school and college, because everyone moves in different directions and they’re not all in the same place (both literally and figuratively) anymore. My college friends that I still keep in touch with are the ones that are local, partly because we’re able to see each other more often.

  10. Pingback: The Tell-Tale Sign | MWF Seeking BFF

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