In Defense of Mom-like Love

Someone should bake this cake for Erin!

I recently realized that all of my close friends are attractive. Really, really attractive. They all have haircuts that really suit their well-proportioned faces, dress well (but not too well, they don’t try too hard), have beautiful eyes and lovely smiles. At first I found this to be a little troubling. Do I hold my friends to a normative, oppressive standard of beauty? Have I rudely avoided making friends with uggos? Does this make me a bad person?

It was around this time that I started to realize that my close friends are also the nicest people I know. They are really good listeners, they’re clean, they throw the best parties, are super funny, they’re good girlfriends and boyfriends and are super socially conscious with bleeding hearts of gold. I also found this troubling. Do I have a skewed perspective on the world because my friends are so great? Do I need some sort of affirmative action program for grumpy, mean friends?

Don’t worry, I understand that it’s really improbable that I just so happen to be friends with the prettiest, nicest bunch of twenty-somethings on the planet. (But not impossible! Really, you should meet my friends!) I genuinely believe that my friends are good looking and kindhearted, and will defend that to the ends of the earth. But I know I’ll never be able to prove it. Instead, I think I’ve stumbled upon some truth of friendship: When you’re really good friends with someone, it’s impossible to be objective about them.

One of my (positively brilliant, really clever) best friends compared it to looking at a specimen under a microscope. The closer you zoom in on the image, the better you understand the details, but you start to lose sight of the organism as a whole. When you know someone for a long time, you learn about their motivations, their childhoods and all their weird habits, and they start to make sense. You start to just love them so much, despite the times they make you mad or upset or you see them throw up. It can be bad sometimes — I want good things to happen to my friends, so I meddle destructively in their affairs. But I also think my lack of objectivity makes me a better friend. It helps to get constructive criticism from someone when you know that the harsh words are coming from a place of real love. It’s nice to know that somewhere out there, someone really likes you, even when you don’t particularly like yourself.

I’m also starting to realize that it’s equally important to have acquaintances. Getting lunch or coffee with a person you don’t know very well feels centering. They can see you with some perspective, and make you feel like a whole human with a coherent personality rather than a haphazard collection of close-up shots.

But I know my intense affection may just be a quirk of my personality. I love like moms do, unconditionally and enthusiastically. I joke that I sink my teeth into people, because I don’t let go of old friendships or relationships. But I think that seeing your friends through rose-colored glasses is as important when you’re not that effusively affectionate. It’s amazing to spend time surrounded by the people that you love and that really love you back, to feel empowered to be grumpy, wear your fat sweatpants and go a little too long without a shower.

By writing this, I’ve probably embarrassed everyone that I’m close to. Sorry about that. But they’re so pretty, nice and generous, I know they’ll forgive me.

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