Sunday, February 8, 2009

Julia Buckley - Best Friends: The Comrade Conundrum

Julia Buckley is a mystery writer who lives in the Chicago area. Her first mystery, THE DARK BACKWARD, was released in June of 2006; her next book, MADELINE MANN, received glowing reviews from Kirkus and Library Journal. Julia is a member of Sisters in Crime, MWA, and RWA. She keeps a writer’s blog at on which she interviews fellow mystery writers; her website is She is currently at work on a new mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth and English teacher.

Best Friends: The Comrade Conundrum
by Julia Buckley

My ten-year-old son is overly laden with best friends. The other day he was speaking of his friend J.T., whose name I hadn’t heard in a while. “Oh, you’re still friends with JT?” I asked (these things are subject to change rapidly in kid world).

“Oh, sure! He’s my best friend,” Graham said.

But a couple weeks later, Graham was speaking of his friend Christian, whom he also described as his “best friend.” In each case, he spoke with total earnestness, and I’m sure that in a way both boys fit the criteria.

I’m rather envious of the best friend concept–both of people who bestow the title with such ease and also of those who receive the honor. To be honest I don’t know if anyone refers to me that way, but I have never called someone the “best” of my friends. I don’t know whether it’s a natural reticence, or a desire to not offend other friends by singling out one as special.

The other problem, though, is that every friend is distinctive for a reason. Perhaps I’ve been deprived for a lifetime, but I never noticed the lack of a best friend. I only really think about it when other people introduce theirs. I think, “Huh–I wonder why I never had a best friend?”

As a kid I found plenty of friendships within my family, among my four siblings. My sister and I were two years apart and did most things together until we went to high school–at which point we developed our own circles. I had three friends named Kathy, ironically, who as a trio were my best pals, but I didn’t really call them that. Nor am I one of those wives who refers to my husband as my best friend, though by some people’s definitions I’m sure he is.

I guess “best friend” is just never a term I grew up with, so I never bothered to assign it to anyone.

I took a little poll of my family members.

My husband said that the last best friend he had was a childhood soulmate named Kevin whom he lost track of after high school and has never been able to find again. A long-lost friend . ..

My older son said that he has “lots of best friends,” but cannot really narrow it down–which means, to me, that he doesn’t have a best friend.

And of course my little son has a best friend, but the owner of that title is subject to change according to Graham’s largesse.

I’ve met people, though, who make best-friendhood sound so glamorous, so warm and wonderful, that I wonder at my own failure to pursue it. They’ll say, “Oh, this weekend I’m going to the movies with my best friend Jane,” or “I’m so excited about spring break–I’m going to Las Vegas with my best friend in all the world, Mary Kay.”
They toss the title around with the casual ease of someone who is confident in the permanence of that friendship, the wondrous bond of it.

So I’m curious to know, those who read Kaye’s blog: are you best-frienders? Or are you not? And what distinguishes one group from another?


Anonymous said...

Howdy, Miz Kitty!

Besides wanting desperately to write a Western together, I think you and I have a lot in common when it comes to this "best friend" thing. I don't really have a best friend, either. In fact my wife is always complaining about the trips I make into the wilderness alone; my great hunting and gathering expeditions which sometimes last for weeks and are strictly solo ventures. That's why she bought me a fancy $300.00 GPS unit a few years ago for my birthday, hehe. But, I digress. It's not that I really LIKE to go on these trips alone...I just don't have anyone to go with me who can get the same time off from work that I can. And, to be honest, since moving to Oregon eleven years ago I've never really taken the time to cultivate any "best" male friendships. No, the last time I had a "best friend" was when I was a kid growing up in Washington state from about sixth grade, until we graduated from high school. His name was Roger Hobbs. He lived just down the street from me and I was a year ahead of him in school. We spent endless summer and fall days together tramping the barren sagebrush hills around our town looking for excitement, adventure, and trophy jackrabbits. How do I know we were best friends? Because being boys, when our inevitable "BB gun wars" would on occasion break out between us, neither one ever shot for the eyes. Or even the head. When you are 11, and heavily armed, that is a sign of true "best" friendship. Earlier I said I go it alone when I'm hunting, but I didn't say I'm "always" alone. Every year at camp two of my dearest old friends will inevitably show up; Jack, and Daniels. And we usually have a rip snortin good time! Hehe.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey--so very very interesting that you bring this up. I've really been thinking about this recently.

I did have best friend in junior high, Debbie Snively. She and I were co-presidents of the Beatles fan club. But then Debbie got cute and interested in "boys." I never got cute and stuck with reading and music. I was a real loner.

In the facebook-world now, I hear from all kinds of high school "friends." Mostly they're reminiscences about parties and events that I was never invited to.

As I grew up,my "best friends" (though I never called them that) were work colleagues, but TV is so nomadic, the "friends" would come and go and new ones would arrive. We were friends because TV news is such a 24/7 battle, you've got to be in it together. But when they left, or I left, we hardly stayed in touch.

Entering writer world, in my
mid-50's, there are suddenly people I adore. People I would have been best friends with, I bet, had I known them in my, um, youth. It's odd, though, isn't it? That the solitary-ness of writing creates such a community?

But my best friend now is my husband. And that works.

So, what can we learn from all this? Are we--selective? Or solitary? Or timid?

Julia Buckley said...

Maybe this is something lots of writers have in common. Give me a comfy chair and my laptop and I feel I have a companion.

But Ken--where is Roger now? And Hank, where is Debbie? Would they be people that you still got along with as adults?

I find, too, that I have such different criteria for friends now than I once did. I'm a selective gal. :)

Anonymous said...


My old best friend Roger lives in Mesa, AZ. We email each other once or twice a year, but I last saw him in person almost twenty years ago when I was in Tuscon, AZ for two weeks of law enforcement training. I spent a weekend with him and his wife at their home. I had never been to AZ before and I haven't been back since, but never in a million years would I have imagined that during the weekend I spent with them, less than a hundred miles away in another Arizona town was the woman who would, seven years later, be my second wife! Weird, huh?

Julia Buckley said...

That is kind of weird, Ken! Ol' Fate was following you around--or you were following him.

Unknown said...

I'm thinkin' this IS partly a writer thing. You can only do so much socializing and still write -- on many levels. I've had best friends at different times in my life. Inevitably misunderstandings or circumstances or time has moved us away from each other. But, like spring flowers, sometimes they come back, as one of mine has just resurfaced on Facebook this very evening! Of all, however, my husband is my bestest friend -- we have 32 1/2 years married, and 37 1/2 years of friendship.

Julia Buckley said...

That's wonderful, Robin--both about your husband and about Facebook. I've also found a couple of long-losters on that internet phenomenon. And I'm Facebook friends with Kaye Barley. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Julia,

I don't recollect ever having a single "best friend." When I was a girl, I had a group of friends. That whittled down to a few "good friends" as I got older. I still keep up with those friends. Brenda (c. 1967) lives in CA, Barbara (c. 1971) lives in FL, and so forth.

Every now and then, when I was a girl, someone would call me her "best friend." That always made me uncomfortable because I felt like she expected me to call her my "best friend" in return.

Perhaps those of us who aren't "best friend" types don't feel such a pressing need to distinguish. Life is busy and short. Let's get rid of the hierarchy already! :-)

Suzanne Adair

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Hey Everyone!!
Julia - This was wonderful, thank you! I'm so glad you stopped by, and hope you'll come back often, my friend.

Kenneth - Your friends sometimes worry about you on those High Lonesome trips you take all on your lonesome. I suggest you take our jeq person along with you the next time. What say??

Hank? I am flabbergasted by this. When I look at you, I see a beautiful, confident woman and can only picture you being that person your entire life! Oh my - the people we were compared to the people we grow into, and the stories we could glean from all that. I must say - having met your dear husband, I think you've chosen a very special "best friend."

Robin - hey there! I'm always interested in hearing how couples met, and I'm especially interested in hearing if you and your husband were dating these five years before you married, or were you buddies, or what??

Suzanne, hi!!! Girl where HAVE you been? Or do I owe you a note? I'll catch up with you soon, but happy to see you dropping by here!

Julia Buckley said...

Hi, Suzanne.

So interesting, isn't it? The rhetoric of friendship. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, Julia:

I have 3 or 4 really good friends, all of them from my adult working life. Hmmm. Except for one from high school days that I accidentally found while roaming through the Internet.

One is in Mexico, one is in Colorado, one is in Arizona, and one just died in California. Seriously. All week I've been remembering good times we had.

I never really stayed in one place long enough to make a best friend. My sister Carolyn, on the other hand, keeps in close touch with friends she's had since grade school. I envy her that.

If I do have a best friend it is Carolyn. She's only two years younger than I am, and for all our grumbling and grouchiness at time, we have supporred each other through some harrowing times. I'm grateful for her.

Pat Browning

Anonymous said...

Well, pooey. I should have read that post first. My sister and I haven't "supporred" each other. We have supported each other.

But you knew that, didn't you? (-:

Pat Fumble Fingers Browning

bo parker said...

What is a friend by definition? Back in high school and college, it was buddies--guys who wanted to get together and enjoy dong the same things. Beyond that there was very little one-on-one.
Later, during a working career, there were hundreds of professional acquaintances--saw them regularly, shared business meals, group golf outings. Again, beyond that, no one-on-one.
Today, regular E-mail is swapped with two classmates from college. We have visited once or twice. Friends or acquaintances?
I guess I have to say, as have others, that the one person who was my friend in the fullest sense of the word was my wife. And since her death, my son.
Bo Parker