I use the term “independent friends” a lot.
Like, “Oh, you know Isabelle from book club? Are you independent friends?”
What I’m referring to are friends who see each other one-on-one and are pals on their own, not because of someone else or some common activity.
My friend Chloe and I, for example, met through our mutual BFF, Sara. We were also in a book club together. For a while, we called each other friends, but we would only see each other at book club, or with Sara. I still, five years later, remember the phone call one quiet Saturday when we decided to have dinner, just the two of us, that night. From there, we started hanging out just us sometimes, and our friendship was a relationship all on its own. Not because we read the same books, or knew the same people. Just because we liked each other.
Over the weekend someone asked how Chloe and I knew each other so well. “Through Sara?” she asked. I responded with some (perhaps mildly defensive) statement like, “Well, we met through Sara, and them Chloe joined our book club, but we are independent friends!”
When you meet a potential BFF in the context of another person, or a shared club, it can be really tough to extract the friendship out of those circumstances. But once you do, it’s a source of pride. You did the impossible—you made a real friend! All on your own.
I’m in the process of “independent friending” another potential BFF, the one I wrote about a couple months back. She and I talked about getting together when we met at mutual friends’ parties. Now we’re en route to plain old friendship. It feels like a real feat.
Anyway, this term has been on my mind a lot lately because I’m always asking people about their independent friendships. I can use this blog/book as an excuse, but the truth is I’ve been fascinated by other people’s friendships—and how they came to be—for as long as I can remember.
Before my whole stint in extreme friending, I often got jealous when I heard about girls I wanted to befriend becoming independent friends themselves. Jealous, but also intrigued: how did they do it? What exactly happened to elevate the friendship? Now I have a better handle on the process, but I’m still totally intrigued by it.
So, anyway, if we meet and you tell me about this girl in your running group, now you won’t be confused when I say “So are you independent friends?” You’ll get me.
Is this a term that other people use? Or did I coin it? Do you have any relationships that you are proud to say went from just friends to Independent Friends?
Friends in Los Angeles! I’ll be reading on Monday, Jan. 16, at Small World Books at 6 PM. Would love to see you there. And Chicago! Don’t be scared of the snow, this is what we are built for. I’m reading tonight at 7 pm at The Book Cellar. I’d love to see you!