I remember very distinctly the moment I realised Nathan Binstead had reached actual, proper, best friend status. He was coming round to hang out, I was running late and had no time to put any makeup on, and instead of panicking I looked in the mirror and thought, “Ah well, it’s only Nathan.”
These days I can’t be bothered to put makeup on most of the time anyway, but back then it was a big deal. My eyeliner was my superhero mask, me putting my best face forward, and you only got to see me without it if you had truly reached the inner circle. I had to know you’d be a person who would love me and accept me no matter what I looked like before I would stop caring how I looked around you; before I could breathe a deep sigh of relief and completely not bother trying. And even though the makeup thing is less of a big deal these days, I still have this category of friendship of we’re-so-close-I-don’t-have-to-try. “Ah well, it’s only…” sounds like I’m belittling a person’s significance but it’s quite the opposite; it’s a badge of honour, a sign that there’s nothing “only” about you.
There’s something freeing about being around people who know you so well that you don’t have to make an effort for them. You can talk for hours without struggling to find conversation topics, or spend ages in each other’s company without saying a word. You don’t have to panic-tidy the house before they come round – you don’t even have to get out of your PJs. With an “it’s only” friend, you don’t have to be anything other than the state you’re currently in – warts and all – but I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting things a bit backwards.
Isn’t it weird that we don’t try our hardest for the people we love the most? I’m not talking about trying your hardest to be a good friend; I’m talking about the smaller stuff. It’s the elaborate dinner parties you throw for the people you’ve just met versus your besties coming round and just shoving some pizzas in the oven. It’s getting more dressed up than usual just because you know your mate’s new girlfriend is going to be there, and she’s really cool and glamourous and doesn’t know you very well and you want her to like you. It’s the time and energy you spend getting ready for your first date compared to the lack thereof when you’ve been together 10 years. Why do we give our best effort to our least favourite people?
The answer is obvious: if your tribe really loves you, you don’t have to try – you’re in. And newer people don’t love you yet so you have to give them a bit of a show. But that just seems the wrong way round to me. I should care less what relative strangers think of me, compared to the people who know me really well. Making a nice dinner on all your best serving dishes shouldn’t be something I do to impress people and make them like me; it should be a treat for the people in my life who have earnt a bit of TLC. Yes, you don’t have to go extra for your loved ones – that’s the point, they love you anyway – but maybe you should, at least every now and then.
So make an effort for the people who don’t require you to do so, for the very simple reason that they don’t require it of you. Get all dressed up for a trip to the pub with your partner, even if it’s the millionth time you’ve been out together. Don’t just sit and watch TV together, bring the good prosecco round to your friend’s house and make it a proper girls’ night. Don’t take your favourite humans for granted but treat them, celebrate them, show them the love and respect that their inner circle status deserves. And if, every now and then, you don’t quite manage it, it’s OK – it’s only them, and they’ll love you anyway.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti