Friends who can be their irritating selves with you are the best

Coco Khan
Photograph: Image Source/Getty Images

I had been thinking about my friends from secondary school, about how rare it is to have lasting friendships and how some relationships that I thought mattered had folded under the feeble pressure of an awkward conversation or a missed party. Yet here we were, together. The Girls. A miracle, I thought, before a question popped in: do I really like these people?

A hen weekend is a testing environment. There are some experiences you can’t row back from, and shivering on a British beach in a cape, drinking through a penis straw, is one of them.

I can see these friends for what they are: despots. There’s the Organisational Despot, the dictator who tightly follows the schedule no one asked her to make; the Fun Enforcer, the mafiosa who is never far from a prop, with an expression that reads, “Have fun! Or else.” And the Obscure Dietary Requirement Tyrant, who keeps us all eating lettuce through sheer fear of her gluten-induced rage. Obstinate, unreasonable autocrats, I think. How do they survive in this world?

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The truth is, the world of our friendship is not like the real world. Our patch of reality has different rules. In our bubble, we’re allowed to be our worst, our most human. This is rare. Why do we put on an act for so many people? Why do we behave less fussy or pretend we’re busy when we just don’t want to go out?

Perhaps we fear that the love might not last if we show them our true selves. Although I sometimes long for the pleasantries of fairweather friends, I’ve learned that it’s a gift to have pals who feel they can be so freely irritating. That is the sign of a deep friendship.

Truly, I wish annoying friends on everyone. In some ways, it is a tyranny, although I think I have a better word for it: family.