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What Is a Best Friend? Here’s How to Keep a Long-Term Friendship (as featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine)

These super sweet BFF stories will melt your heart.

Adult friendship is two people saying, “I haven’t seen you in forever — we should hang out!” Then later wishing you hadn’t made plans. In your 20s and 30s, new people stream into your life through college, work, weekend avocado toast and bottomless mimosa brunches, though as we approach mid-life, schedules compress, priorities shift, and we settle for Netflix and Pinot Gris at home. Oftentimes, we realize we’ve let close friendships lapse and reconnect only when faced with a life-event like a death or divorce.

Science proves making and maintaining long-term friendships as an adult can be tough. According to a 2019 study by OnePoll and Evite, the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years. After asking 2,000 Americans, they discovered 45 percent of adults find it difficult to make new friends, with 42 percent mentioning introversion or shyness as the reason for the difficulty.

That makes it even more impressive when you see friendships that span a lifetime. It takes a lot of work to keep up a relationship for so long — but these six BBFs have done it, and are therefore our new best-friend-goals. Here, they reveal how they’ve able to keep it up, even after time, kids, and/or distance have gotten in the way.

Maricela Lau Prudhomme &
Pamela Yamamoto Ostrowski
Pacifica, CA & Dana Point, CA
39 Years

Best Friends Goals - Maricela and Pam

How did you two meet?
Yamamoto Ostrowski: We met in the first grade at an all-girls Catholic school called Canonesas De la Cruz in Lima, Peru. I believe we were the only Asians that attended the school. In Peru, students remain in the same room for the entire year, while different teachers come to instruct the kids on various subjects, and they don’t have to change rooms. Maricela and I shared the same room for 11 years, and each year we tried to sit close so we could talk.

How did you initially know that you should be friends?
Lau Prudhomme: Pamela and I hung-out all the time during recess at school. We both have strong and competitive temperaments. Pamela is Peruvian-Japanese, and I am Peruvian-Chinese. Our shared Peruvian-Asian background made us feel connected.

How you kept this friendship alive for decades?
Yamamoto Ostrowski: We haven’t lived in the same place since we were 17 years old. After high school, Maricela moved to California and I moved to Japan. Ten years later, I received a beautiful letter in the mail from Maricela. She found my address in Japan and we picked up where we left off. We continued to keep in touch via letters. A few years later, I came to the U.S. for the first time just to visit Maricela, and stayed at her house with her parents. I’ll never forget the day that I arrived and she picked me up at the airport. We laughed, cried, and screamed at the same time. It was an amazing day, and I’ll hold that moment in my heart forever. Even today, each time that we see each other we jump up and down with tons of hugs and kisses, like the first time we reconnected.

What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you together?
Lau Prudhomme: I’ll never forget when Pamela chased me around the schoolyard after I slapped her in the face when she was being mean to me. But, more seriously, she was present at every significant day of my life. She was my maid of honor in both of my weddings. Our lives have played out quite similarly. We both divorced our first husbands; are now remarried; and we both began a family at the same time. I’ve always told her that she mimics my every step! Our friendship is the strongest now that we are learning to be moms for the first time.

How did you stay friends through raising families?
Lau Prudhomme: We have both always wanted a family. And, we both had a hard time conceiving. I finally got pregnant once I stopped trying at 43, and gave birth in November, 2018. While Pamela decided to adopt the same month. We now both have girls. No matter how busy we are, we continue having this sister-like friendship.
Yamamoto Ostrowski: Life is so amazing and made us mothers at the same time! Even more, her daughter was born on my birthday. We’re more connected now than ever.

Paula Didion & Pamela Zwicker Young
Litchfield Park, AZ and
Westerville, Ohio
43 Years

Best Friend Goals - Paula Didion & Pamela Zwicker Young

How have you kept this friendship alive for decades?
Didion: Simple friend love. There is no drama. We’re honest with each other, and we don’t judge — at least not openly! We’ve always been this way. I’ll support Pam to the ends of the Earth if necessary.
Zwicker Young: We were in each other’s weddings, are godparents to each other’s children, and we’ve always kept in touch over holidays and tried to get together in the summers when the kids were younger. Our daughters are close as well, and continue to maintain their friendship. They even refer to each other as cousins.

What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you together?
Didion: In 1978 we were in Toledo Ohio together during a blizzard. We spent a week snowed-in together, surviving on whatever means we had on-hand. We managed to make the most of it, and I think we grew even closer.

Do you think it’s better or worse for young people today trying to keep friendship alive in the internet age?
Didion: I think it is worse. Nothing beats old-fashioned physical contact, face-to-face honesty, and love to bond people. A touch is worth a million words.
Zwicker Young: I think it’s very important to have a real-life friendship outside of technology. Young people sometimes have difficulty dealing with real-life, adult situations face-to-face. Also, it is hard for some young people to just make friends because they don’t know how to communicate without texting.

Tracy Cook & Julie Carson Meeker
Campbell and Calaveras County, CA
39 Years

Best Friend Goals - Tracy Cook & Julie Meeker CarsonTRACY COOK & JULIE MEEKER CARSON

How did you two meet?
Cook: Julie and I first met in Kindergarten in 1980 at Kathryn Hughes Elementary School. In the 3rd grade she put a note in my cubbie box that said “Will you be my best friend?” and there was a hand-drawn box to check “yes or “no.”

How you kept this friendship alive for decades?
Cook: It was easy when we were going to the same school. We lived less than a mile away from each other, yet talked on the phone while watching the same TV show together. Once Julie moved two and a half hours away after the eighth grade, we incurred so many long-distance phone bills, and our parents limited phone calls to 30 minutes a few times per week. But they also drove us back and forth to visit with each other during winter, spring, and summer vacations. As college students we didn’t have much money, but managed to afford gas to occasionally visit each other. It became easier as young adults with the advent of email, text messaging, and social media. In our thirties and now forties, we’ve been more deliberate in planning outings and celebrations together. Now that we’ve both lost our parents, we’ve connected on an even deeper level. Her dad died when we were 17 from throat cancer, and her mom in 2017 of breast cancer. I texted her so often after my mom and dad died, just to be reminded that life will go on.

What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you together?
Cook: On my 31st birthday, Julie drove hours to have a party with me and some other friends in my hospital room following my own complicated cancer surgery four days prior. I was so sad that morning, and feeling sorry for myself on my birthday when Julie and five other friends arrived to see me. I’ll never forget that. Three months later I was her maid of honor at her wedding. I told her she didn’t have to have me since I didn’t have hair, and did not want to ruin her pictures with a bald girl in them. She told me that I was ridiculous.
Carson Meeker: The most memorable things to me are the important events that have happened in our lives. We have been through breakups together. We stood for each other in our weddings. We have been through cancer together. We have been through the deaths of our mothers and fathers together. We have celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and mourned many losses together. I get to watch her raise her son and we get to grow old together. That’s the stuff that I think about.

Eric VanNorden and Gavin Sargent
Boring and Tigard, OR
39 Years

Best Friend Goals - Eric VanNorden and Gavin SargentERIC VANNORDEN AND GAVIN SARGENT

How did you two meet?
VanNorden: We attended Gresham Union High School together, and were both in the marching band as tuba players. Gavin was a long-haired, skinny kid with a great sense of knowing that I was the funnier and more handsome one.

How you kept this friendship alive for decades?
VanNorden: Over all the years, having a friend that understands the way you think is a blessing. We’ve never judged the other. No arguments, just acceptance.
Sargent: We’ve always had shared interests. From playing tuba to riding motorcycles, to playing wingman for each other, to having a drink or two. We seemed to be closely aligned. In the last couple decades as we got busier with families and life, our shared philosophies about family and politics have facilitated the bond.

Do you think it’s better or worse for young people today trying to keep friendship alive in the internet age?
VanNorden: I watch my children’s struggles and wonder how we would have managed it. I draw no other conclusion than not well. Interpersonal skills seem to be lacking, along with an inability to cope with simple issues that compound the “everyday life” skills we need to thrive.
Sargent: Also, I see kids cutting down their peers with little to no thought about it online, and hundreds of people can be in on those caustic comments. Whereas in the past, if someone had something bad to say, only a few were likely to be in the loop at the time.

Karin Salisbury Duprey &
Carolyn Greene Dalgleish
Cranston and North Kingstown, Rhode Island
46 Years

Best Friend Goals - Karin Salisbury Duprey & Carolyn Greene Dalgeish

How did you initially know that you should be friends?
Salisbury Duprey: As kids growing up in the ’70s, we were pushed outside at dawn and told not to come back until the street lights came on. We lived in the same neighborhood, played in the same yards, attended the same schools, and shared the same friends. We became friends organically, and realized we needed to remain friends.
Greene DalgleishInitially, I was highly superficial in my decision to befriend Karin. She had a pool and junk food at her house, and I had neither at mine. In reality, I think I knew at a young age that Karin had traits that I needed to be around — and that I didn’t necessarily have! — that included intense loyalty, positivity, deep feelings, and a big sense of fun and adventure.

How you kept this friendship alive for decades?
Salisbury Duprey: We have so much respect for each other. She fills my heart with gratitude for the decades of invaluable friendship. You just don’t let that go. Besides, she knows too much!
Greene DalgleishWe’ve always seemed to connect regularly even when distance was a factor; like during college when I was in Ohio and Karin in Boston, and for most of our twenties when we were living in different states. Karin has always been completely grounding for me, and I needed to connect with her periodically. And with her deep loyalty, she would often get the ball rolling and the plans organized.

Do you think it’s better or worse for young people today trying to keep friendship alive in the digital age?
Salisbury Duprey: I think today’s friendships are genuinely different because of the internet. I think kids need to peel away from technology in order to build the strength and deep roots to keep these kinds of friendships alive and healthy. Carolyn and I started our friendship because we were playing outside, away from technology and away from adults, which allowed us a more connected reality than I’ve seen in adolescents today.
Greene Dalgleish: Today, it seems easier to stay connected at a basic, more superficial level. But it feels like the deeper connections are much harder to develop for young people now. I think part of the reason our friendship has lasted and grown deeper is that we’ve really had to work for it, in good times and bad.

is the creator and co-author of 101 Ways to Conquer Teen Anxiety and the forthcoming In Case of Anxiety… Anxiety Hacks for a Janky World.

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