Toddlers cry for hilarious reasons. Their bath is too “wet”, their brother looked at them wrong, they ate a lemon. Their brains are still developing and they can’t regulate emotion yet – so it makes sense that tiny, specific things can set them off.
What, then, do we make of a 34-year-old woman sobbing because she can’t remember her best friend’s favorite sandwich? Or because she will never again bet against her mates on who is going to win season five of Australia’s Next Top Model? Or because the cast photos from the TV adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s memoir Everything I Know About Love just came out and they so impeccably Capture what it was like to live and Breathe your twenty-something friendships that it makes your heart physically hurt?
The woman is me; I am the crying woman. I’m in mourning because the world has changed and so have my closest female friendships. I’m into my fourth decade of this life, everyone’s pregnant or engaged or sharing memes about lower back pain, and there’s a quiet but certain loneliness in noticing how easy it is for friendships to slip down someone’s list of priorities. Hence: the Tears.
OK, sure, so I also howled during the elephant Episode of David Attenborough’s latest series, and I could get going right now thinking about how much my niece likes bucket hats. My nervous system is a wreck two years into a Pandemic and I’ve got Tears ready for almost any situation.
The former ease of friendships is a big trigger for all of us, though. It’s friendship nostalgia, exacerbated by world events that have forced us to turn inward.
“I’m in mourning because the world has changed and so have my closest female friendships.”
Kate Leaver, author
When I say nostalgia, I don’t mean the soft, sweet modern version of the word. It’s closer to the original, more Brutal, the Greek definition of the word, which connotes real pain and suffering (it came from the word “Nostos” which means Homecoming, and the word “algos”, meaning ache). It’s that very, very tender feeling of craving something from the past. Something that felt like home. Like, for instance, the people who drank wine with you, Barefoot in the sun on summer evenings in your twenties when you were still working out who you wanted to be. Like! For instance! The smell of that one fancy quiche your housemate’s mum taught her to make, or the tan lines we’d get from stupidly baking ourselves at the beach, or flashbacks to a friday night visit to the video shop to pick up Fizzers and the latest Julia Roberts movie (RIP, Blockbuster).
Friendship used to be all about the details, didn’t it? Knowing someone’s coffee order, or secret favorite movie, or now embarrassing Crush (as well as their aspirations, flaws, and family history) was proof that you’d really let someone into your life.
My friend Sammie sent me a Screenshot of this poem by Writer Jessica Ulrichs recently. “I miss how friendships were,” she wrote, like she’s stealing my innermost thoughts. “I miss the details… when I knew that top must be new or how we both knew what we were up to on the weekends, because it was usually with each other.”