Mary-Beth, Gabriele, and Judith became friends in high school almost forty-five years ago. Though Gabriele and Judith both moved away from Toronto (Judith returned fifteen years later and Gabriele visits frequently from Norway), they've remained close, close friends all this time. To make it work, they get together for summer retreats at Judith’s cottage and celebrate milestone birthdays by vacationing together.
In celebration of #BestFriendsDay (and Gabriele’s visit from Norway), we sat down with these three best friends to talk about what it takes to maintain a long-term, long-distance friendship, what it all means to them, and what they mean to each other.
What is your favourite thing about your best friends?
Mary-Beth: It’s always so easy to reconnect.
Gabriele: Mary-Beth is all heart. She is a warm, warm person.
Judith: The thing about old friends is that nothing matters; we just pick up where we left off. They don’t have to be in your current everyday life, but there is a fundamental connection. You know that whatever is going on, they’re on your side. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or not, they’re always on your side (even if your kids aren’t!).
What have they taught you about yourself?
G: How important friendship is. Especially living so far away, [I love] the fact that I can come back and pick up like I was here yesterday. You feel disconnected living so far away without your friends and where you grew up.
MB: That it’s okay to be you, warts and all.
J: They have taught me to be less hard on myself. Because I’m way harder on myself than my friends are. To be more accepting of myself.
What does it take to maintain a friendship this long?
MB: Thank goodness for social media. It certainly helps.
J: We didn’t always need it though. We actually sent physical videotapes and pictures in the mail. So I guess the frequency of contact isn’t the thing.
MB: Big periods of time would go by, but it didn’t matter. You would have kids, you’d be working, but there was never any resentment.
G: It’s almost like you’re an extended family. You have that connection to your friends that you have with your family. What’s nice about social media that we didn’t have before is that they’ll go off on trips and I can see all the photos online.
MB: For you, Gabriele, when you come home, you are pulled in so many directions. You have to make the time.
J: It helps that we know each other’s families cause we all grew up together. You don’t have to explain things. But it’s a mutual thing. You put in the time, but it has to be reciprocated. Even if you can’t do much, you have to know that it’s important to the other person too.
What advice would you give to younger women in regards to holding onto long friendships?
G: If you have disagreements, you shouldn’t get too hung up. You have to look at the whole person and take the good with the bad.
MB: And you have to make allowances.
J: You’re not going to always be in sync and that’s okay.
G: And you should never stop making friends. And have newer friends and younger friends.
J: An old aunt [of mine] said that you really need to have friends in every decade. We’re at the age where people die so you really don’t want to be at the end of your life and have no friends.
What about coping with the changes women go through in terms of marriage, children, etc.?
G: They might be totally overwhelmed with this new life for awhile but you find your way back to them after a few years.
J: You are busy. You’re pulled in different directions. We’re all married and our husbands all get along but they’re not as good friends as we are.
G: We’re the ones who are the glue.
J: Our husbands recognize that our friendships are important to us and they support it.
MB: It’s worth the effort.
J: It is worth the effort. That's the bottom line.
G: Living away, I see the importance of [putting in the effort]. I don’t have it in Norway. I grew up with people who knew me and knew my personality and not having that made me feel a little alienated. Coming back to people who know me is so important.
J: One of the great values of long-time friends is we are called on to play roles, like mom, teacher, professional. We have these faces that we present to the outside world all the time and I think particularly as women we don’t get to be our goofy selves. But with each other, we can be our true selves.
G: And we know we’ll be accepted.
MB: Warts and all.