Toddlers cry for funny reasons. Their bath is too “wet”, their brother looks wrong, they eat lemon. Their brains are still developing and they can’t regulate emotions yet – so it makes sense that small, specific things can trigger them.
So what can we do about a 34-year-old woman sobbing because she can’t remember her best friend’s favorite sandwich? Or because he would never again bet against his friends over who would win the fifth season Australia’s Next Top Model? Or because of the cast photos from the TV adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s memoirs Everything I Know About Love just came out and they perfectly captured what it’s like to be alive and breathe your twenty year old friendship to the point of breaking your heart physically?
That woman is me; I am the woman who cries. I mourn because the world has changed and so have my closest female friends. I’m into the fourth decade of my life, everyone’s pregnant or engaged or sharing memes about low back pain, and there’s a calm but sure loneliness when you realize how easy it is for friendship to slip into someone’s priority list. Hence: tears.
Okay, sure, so I also howled during the elephant episode of David Attenborough’s newest series, and I can start now thinking how much my nephew loves bucket hats. My nervous system was shattered two years into a pandemic and I’ve prepared tears for almost any situation.
The earlier ease of friendship was a big trigger for all of us. It is nostalgia for friendship, exacerbated by world events that force us to turn inward.
“I am saddened that the world has changed and so have my closest female friends.”
Kate Leaver, author
When I say nostalgia, I don’t mean the sweet, modern version of the word. This is closer to the original, more brutal, Greek definition of the word, which connotes real pain and suffering (it comes from the word “nostos” which means to go home, and the word “algos”, which means pain). A very, very tender feeling of longing for something from the past. Something that feels like home. Like, for example, the people you drink wine with, barefoot in the sun on a hot summer night in your twenties when you’re still figuring out who you want. Like! For example! The smell of the fancy quiche your housemate’s mother taught her, or the tan streaks we get from roasting ourselves stupidly on the beach, or flashbacks of Friday night visits to the video store to buy the latest Fizzers and Julia. Roberts Films (RIP, Blockbuster).
Friendship used to be about details, right? Knowing someone’s coffee order, or secret favorite movie, or most embarrassing crush (as well as their aspirations, flaws, and family history) is proof that you really did let someone into your life.
My friend Sammie sent me a screenshot of this poem by writer Jessica Ulrichs recently. “I miss how friendship used to be,” he wrote, stealing my deepest thoughts. “I miss the details… when I know the boss must be new or how we both know what we’re doing on the weekends, because usually it’s with each other.”