Let’s make it all about Oprah for a moment, shall we? Oprah says in reference to Gayle (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Nothing’s better than a good friend,” and with the notable exception of a perfectly done French fry, I wholeheartedly agree. There’s really nothing better. If you’re living without, I recommend you fix the situation pronto. That said, I’ve no intention of instructing you on how to go about that here; I’m out of practice myself, having slipped into a motley crew of lunatics my freshman year of college and having held on tightly to those lunatics for the better part of 15 years. At this stage, new friends come along only once in a long while. And all I can say in terms of how I find them, is that, well, I don’t really. They find me is how it feels: I’m at a social gathering complaining about my facial hair, when suddenly there’s some new gal beside me who’s like, “My issue has always been my hairy lower back.” So you get to talking and fast-forward five years and she’s the one you call crying about the fact that you’re crying about J. Lo’s divorce. So again, I’m not here to tell you how to find her; I’m here to tell you how to assess a new lady friend. How to tell if she’s The One. Or, more specifically a Keeper.
1. You don’t wear a bra to her apartment. If I’m getting together with my BFF on a given night, and the plan is for us to hang out at her place, the first thing that goes through my mind is, Yay! I don’t have to wear a bra! In other words, you can be your rawest self around her. You can let the gals fly, leave the makeup at home, wear your grossest boyfriend jeans. Grossest boyfriend jeans, I said. Not the chic ones you pair with heels. No. I’m talking the biz you watch TV in. When you’re sick.
2. You take off your bra at her apartment. If, perchance, you’re out and about in the world, and then head over to her house, you take off your bra once you’re there. Her company’s too strongly associated with comfort, with ease. And so instinctively you say, “Hold on a sec. I can’t fully relax ‘til my bra’s off. Okay. Good. Now please: Go on.”
3. You speak of the makeshift commode. So, here’s a thing: A few years ago I broke my leg. As someone who pees approximately 5,472 times in a night, getting to the bathroom proved an issue, so I got into this habit of taking a flower vase with me to bed and peeing in there. I told this to no one except my best friend. (And now you, of course, but that’s okay: We don’t know each other really.) I told her because I knew I could, because I knew the worst I’d get was, “Huh. You’re weird.”
4. Her husband is like your brother. One of the longstanding jokes between my best friend and myself is that I’d rather have sex with my brother than with her husband. Do I mean that literally? NO. The point, though, is that she and I are close enough – and her husband and I are close enough – that the notion of the actions feels equally deviant.
5. Her honesty fits you like a terrycloth robe. You need a woman who’s comfortable being honest with you. Direct. And I’m not talking, like, “Do I look fat in this?” and she goes, “Well, it’s not the most flattering thing I’ve seen you in.” No. I’m talking, like, the two of you are naked in a gym locker-room, and she says, “Wow. You’re labia are long.” Sure, in the moment she says this, you’re like, “Really? Must you?” But allow me to point out that when the boyfriends/aging parents/nasty bosses hit the fan, she will prove to be the one to prop you up. She’ll be the one with the advice that you can trust.
6. Honesty fits her like a terrycloth robe. You need a woman who’s honest with herself. Watch for this. Watch to see if how she answers the questions you ask her: “How’s life? The job? The husband?” If she delivers unto you an endless stream of platitudes and positivism, duck and run my friend. DUCK. AND RUN. For if she can’t honestly assess herself, she sure as sherlock can’t do a lick of good for you in your hours of need.
7. Tears fit her like a terrycloth robe. You need a woman who’s comfortable with crying. Your crying, specifically. She gives you so much as a raised eyebrow, an awkward, even faintly disingenuous, “Um … are you, like, okay?” and you’re gone. I myself am a crier. More things set me off than don’t, and so do I know the value of a friend who’s always sensitive, but never indulgent. I call up my BFF, hysterical at the penultimate Oprah episode wherein all the men and women she put through college march toward her carrying candles while Kristin Chenoweth sings something fierce, and my BFF is neither saccharine nor dismissive. She’s just like, “Wait, what’s wrong? Oh. Those people marching. Yeah, I know. That shit’s intense.”
8. You’re the “before” to her “after.” Above all else, I urge you to pick someone better than you. Pick someone smarter, funnier, more grounded. She should be all these things and more: Kinder, more dependable, possessing of some weird little talent (my BFF can pop ‘n’ lock) that you yourself do not. And if she thinks you’re these things yourself, fret not. That’s just the sort of humble, self-effacing lady that you’re into.