On Friendship: The One Ship That’s Never Supposed to Sink

When I was eleven years old, my one goal in life was to achieve the holy grail of pre-teen girl existence: the BFF. (Or, as my favorite book series at the time called it, a “Bosom Friend.”) A little less than a year later, I met my dear friend Colee at summer camp, and we’ve stayed in touch–in spite of the usual “big” life changes which are known to break up friendships: college, moving, marriage–for over fifteen years.

Unfortunately, this kind of friendship stability isn’t usually the case with most people in the “new adult” age category.

Which brings me to my latest plot issue. When it comes to real life, you’ve got all different kinds of friends that make up your support system, your fellowship, your inner circle. You’ve got fair weather friends, party friends, dependable friends, obnoxious friends, and even that one friend you can only stand in small doses every couple of months. But rarely do you have one friend to rule them all, that all-encompassing support system / comic relief / keep you honest friend. Except in fiction.

In fiction–especially women’s fiction, chick lit, rom-com, romance, etc.–there tends to be this one stereotypical friendship that either defines or calls into question the MS’s “realness.”

– You’ve got the “quirky / weird friend,” who makes the heroine look suave and together by comparison…

"Kit" - Failure to Launch (image courtesy of imdb)
“Kit” – Failure to Launch (image courtesy of imdb)

– The “slutty, outrageous friend” who makes the heroine look demure and virginal by comparison (even if the heroine is only slightly less slutty and outrageous than the SO friend, see: “Carrie Bradshaw”)…

"Samantha" - Sex & the City (courtesy of imdb)
“Samantha” – Sex & the City (courtesy of imdb)

– The funny and/or not attractive friend (or BFUF, in dude-speak), who–let’s face it–only exists to make the MC seem hotter and more desirable, as we laugh at her hilarious antics…

"Megan" - Bridesmaids (courtesy of imdb)
“Megan” – Bridesmaids (courtesy of imdb)

– And finally, the all-purpose friend. Not too weird or gross, not too sexy, but usually placed in a non-threatening monogamous relationship, in order to ensure that she doesn’t steal too much attention from the MC…

"Suze" - Confessions of a Shopaholic (courtesy of imdb)
“Suze” – Confessions of a Shopaholic (courtesy of imdb)

While I’m not trying to indict the ENTIRE institution of rom-com, or its sometimes shallow preconceived notions about long term girl-on-girl committment, I’d like to point out that none of these stereotypes are very helpful or believable off the screen. For someone who’s currently attempting to craft a loving, sister-like relationship between two fictional females, it can be tempting to fall into the trap of just labeling the BFF as “trampy, but lovable” and just moving on.

Has anyone else dealt with this problem? And if so, do you have any advice?

And/or as a reader, what are some of your pet peeves when it comes to fictional friendships?

2 thoughts on “On Friendship: The One Ship That’s Never Supposed to Sink

  1. Well, I write romance, but I have never given a female lead a BFF.

    But I’m very mean that way. =)

    If you’d like to avoid such stereotypes as listed above, why not put a spin on it? Make the BFF blind, or deaf. Make the BFF disabled. Give her some disorder like the one where they cannot grow any hair or something weird. Also consider giving her a strange vocation, like the person who euthanizes animals at the shelter, or a mortician, or a coal miner.

    Maybe instead of making the BFF a wise consultant, you can make her totally mental. Let her neurotic behavior be charming, her input WAY-off, and then somehow it turns out she was right…

    Also, what if she has the ‘trusted friend’ but instead of a BFF it is someone new to their life who quickly gained the profound trust in some unique or funny way, or some ‘destiny’ type connection.

    and since you love ellipses…

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