No-one is better at keeping you grounded than your school friends.
There aren’t many people who will take one look at your passport photograph and say: “No offence, but you look like a smackhead” or who will stand and laugh hard in your face whilst recounting (for the 58th time) the time you drank nine happy hour cocktails and danced alone on stage to The Jackson 5. (In my defence, it was my birthday and I looked excellent). But this is all in a day’s work for a friend who has known you since you were 13 and prided yourself on being able to recite every single word to Boyzone’s Love Me For A Reason (I can also do the official dance moves, if you’re interested).
It isn’t possible to keep hold of all your friends when you leave school, what with university and jobs and having to take charge of the weekly shop, so the ones you do manage to keep are all the more special. They’re the friends who have known you the longest, who have seen you through every bad haircut, fashion faux pas and unfortunate crush and, if you’re lucky, they’ll only mention each of them three or four times every time you see them. They’re kind like that.
All of a sudden your friendship shifts to suit your new adult lives. You’re no longer in the market for lunch break one-upmanship about who’s doing best in maths or getting off with who or how very dare she buy the same hot pants as you. Now we’re talking jobs and careers and – BLIMEY – marriage and babies, but we still throw in the odd anecdote from our younger days to stop us taking ourselves too seriously. (The one about the time I over-gesticulated and hurled my bracelet into the face of a stranger is one of my favourites, though I still don’t think she’d find it funny.)
These meet-ups are evidence that a joke can indeed remain funny forever. I have one friend with whom I have never managed to get through a drink or a meal without mentioning the time we went to see Shrek at the cinema and an unknown boy burped SO loud in my face that she and I were left helpless with laughter. I’m 29 now and it remains one of the funniest things that has ever happened to me, partly because surprise, aggressive burping is always amusing, but also because that moment really summed up my relationship with boys at that time – embarrassing, undignified, and often just a lot of hot air.
But aside from all the giggles and nostalgic chit chat about school trips and hair mascara and the time I thought blue and yellow braces would look good on my teeth (they didn’t), there’s also a lot of genuine love between us too. We’ve had the privilege of watching each other grow up, and take quiet pride in seeing one another slowly managing to get to where we want to be. I hope we never stop meeting and drinking and laughing, and I hope the stories never stop – yes, even the one about my ill-advised fuchsia pink pedal pusher phase – because they remind us of just how far we’ve come.
And if perhaps one of them would be so kind as to remind me of the above mentioned, nine cocktails/solo dancing story in time for my 30th birthday next year I’d really appreciate it. With my low capacity for alcohol these days, I’m more likely to pass out on the stage than dance on it, and I’m sure that, if that does happen, this lot are never going to let me hear the end of it.