Friends. What would we do without them? As Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States, once said, "Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart."
To mark International Friendship Day, the hosts of Sunday Vibes @ NST podcast offer their thoughts on the topic of friendship, and why it's okay to have friends for different seasons, and different reasons!
Catch episode 3 of Sunday Vibes @ NST podcast on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/6o8ZJufcGBGuNmEfhHHg7R or Youtube: https://youtu.be/lPkW9GTinU4.
Sunday Vibes @ NST podcast is a monthly show where hosts Intan, Tammy, Elena and Ashreena attempt to manoeuvre life, personality interviews — and the occasional headline news — in the only way they know how: with openness and humour!
Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal
I remember her so well. The long, blond hair that grazed her shoulders. That colourful little ribbon she always wore, which kept her hair neatly in place. The rosy cheeks. And that classic "English rose" look that I so coveted whenever I scrutinised myself despairingly in the mirror.
No, this was no childhood crush, but my first ever best friend from my primary school in London. With a name like Henrietta Tamara, she was as English as they come. And I was so proud that of all the gregarious girls in our class, she'd chosen me — this slight, bob-haired Asian girl as her special friend.
Oh, those were glorious childhood years. When we weren't huddled in one corner of the playground sharing secrets as others whirled around us, we'd bask in the praises of our teachers for being able to recite the order of the English kings and queens without stumbling. "Teacher's pets!" The other kids would hiss, but we didn't mind. It made our bond tighter.
On a good weekend, Henrietta's elegant mother with the celestial-shaped nose would take us — and her dashing brother, Dominic (whom I had a secret crush on) — for horse riding classes. And on evenings that her mother worked late, I'd be invited to the house to pore over jigsaw puzzles whilst sipping on soda.
Many moons have passed and sometimes, when the mind wanders, I do wonder what ever happened to my special little English friend. Oh, the innocence of school days. And childhood friendships. How I miss thee!
As we celebrate friendships and all the warm, fuzzy feelings our relationships bring out in us, there's a question we've been asking ourselves for the longest time: Can men and women ever have a platonic close friendship? My answer? Pfffffffft.
The movie When Harry Met Sally provides the locus classicus. The problem, Harry famously explains, is that "… the sex part always gets in the way." People of the opposite sex may claim to be just friends, the message goes, but count on it — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — something more is definitely going on.
After all, popular culture relentlessly reinforces this notion. In movie after movie, show after show, the narrative arc is the same. Take one of my favourite comedy series of all times, Friends. What starts as friendship — Ross and Rachel, Monica and Chandler — eventually moves to something more.
Before you call me an auntie with archaic views, don't dismiss me just yet. I'm not entirely a prude. I've got friends of the opposite sex. I've also gone on the male-best-pal route before — with disastrous results. It inevitably let to unnecessary feelings and maudlin malarkey that caused a wonderful, close friendship to self-combust.
And of course, when (boy) bestie moves on to relationships and marriages, how do you maintain best-friend status while managing the feelings of his better half? Too much work that I'm really not prepared to do. Not at this age anyway. So again, I'll say it — PFFFFFffffffft!
COUNTING MY BLESSINGS
"You are who you surround yourself with" rings true for me. That's why I count my blessings for having some of the best people around me that I call my good friends. What constitutes a good friend? In my books, it's those friends who are present, caring and encouraging.
However, being present doesn't necessarily mean they're your 24-hour hotline, but rather, those who don't turn their attention to Tiktok videos on their phones when they're with you because they know it's far more important to focus on connecting with you.
I also appreciate people who are honest. Not just in being themselves, but also in a constructive way. In other words, they knock sense into you, especially when you're in denial.
Of course, it hurts to hear certain things, but it allows you to reflect and improves you as a person. You don't need to listen to every criticism and change who you are, but it's always good to be subjected to honest interrogations from trusted friends who care for you.
On International Friendship Day, I want to thank all my good friends, a small but solid bunch of great human beings, for always being there for me. You've all made me a little better every day and it's a privilege to call you my friends.
Reach Tammy on Instagram @born_a_petite11.
Sometimes, we find long-lasting friends in the most unexpected ways. I still remember writing my first letter to Ana at age 16 on the pretext of language exchange. I'd learn Portuguese, and she'd pick up English.
Our biggest milestone came 15 years later when we met, for the first time, in Lisbon. Till today, we still reminisce and wonder how a friendship could be born simply with letters, emails, chats on Facebook, and (then) Google Chat. But it did!
Then, of course, there's Tammy and Joannica, both of whom I met during work engagements and felt an instant connection. We just clicked. Tammy quickly became a travel buddy and a friend who's always armed with words of wisdom when I need it, while Jo's vibrant and infectious personality was everything you'd need in a partner in crime. We were always up for some fun and mischief!
Then there's Asha. While we never really hung out much in high school, we bonded when we moved to Kuala Lumpur to start college, albeit attending different institutions. Somehow we always seem to attract trouble. All I have to say is Lotus Cinema in PJ, a Mammootty movie, and stolen seats (and we paid for our tickets!).
It's these very friendships, forged unexpectedly, that have brought me the kindest words, the biggest laughs, and added colour to my life. And for that, I'm well and truly blessed.
Reach Ash on Instagram @ashreenapillai.