Even though Julie and Samantha assure Williams that they do fight, over typical teen/mom things like room-cleaning, Williams is amazed witnessing that rarest of things, a unicorn of familial relationships—"a fantasy come to life." She shares her own mom experience, in which certain things (discussions of sex, for example) are taboo, in which clothes belong purely to one person or the other, in which older generations are hopeless about the technologies of the new. Parenting was different then, Williams hypothesizes: Now, with shows like the new VH1 reality show Mama Drama, the parenting norm is BFF-dom. Is this good? Bad? True? What does it even mean?
Like a mother-daughter relationship, it is complicated.
I am not BFFs with my mom. I love my mom, yes; we have what anyone would call a good relationship. But we don't share clothes (when I wanted to borrow her stuff in high school, she quashed that quickly; instead, I borrowed my dad's giant sweaters). We don't talk daily, or hourly, as do some adult women and their moms. We grew up very differently, and to some extent, perhaps we don't always see eye to eye about where the other has come from. We each have others who we do consider "best friends." But that doesn't mean that we would fail to be supportive, even to put each other above nearly anyone else. It also doesn't mean that we don't speak our minds. Like "best friends," the people who love you even in your worst times and continue to love you after you've gotten through them, we don't worry that we have to please or pander to each other. Like best friends, we are generally honest, but we also know some discussions aren't worth getting into. And some are, even if it means you fight. My mom is not my best friend. She's something more rare, something you typically only get one of: My mom.
I'm a bit older than Samantha, though, and this "new wave" of parenting may have started after my formative years. The friendship, and I'd call it that, if not "best friendship," between my mom and me is one between two grown-ups, even if we do happen to be mom and daughter. What's different about Samantha and Julie is that they're doing these "friend" things at a younger age—and they live in the same city, the same home, even. When I was 19 I probably wouldn't have talked about boys or drank willingly in bars with only my mom; we were more protective of our individual space. When I am home now, my mom and I don't go out on the town; we sit and talk at the dinner table over wine. My mom doesn't text, much less tweet. (She does, however, read blogs, even if she despises Facebook. I appreciate that.) Williams posits that the moms who came of age in the sexual revolution, during Vietnam, during the women's rights movement, experienced a norm that diverged from domestic and societal norms. They were different, could be different, as women, and so they could be different as parents. Instead of continuing in the hallowed tradition of setting an example for daughters to rebel against, maybe moms could just be friends with their daughters. Maybe? According to Williams:
Friendship became a kind of parenting strategy: By treating Child as Adult, parents hoped that the kid would actually become an adult, and a good one. The happy outcome for some: mothers and daughters who didn’t have to wait until middle or old age to actually enjoy each other’s company. To maintain peer-ness, there came a coinciding pressure to stay young, technologically supported by the capacity to stay young. Moms have never had at their disposal so many resources—so much paraphernalia—allowing them to shrink the generation gap. If they want, they can practically turn themselves back into teenagers.
Friendship as a method for adults to seem young and kids to seem grown-up; it's positively innovative. Williams points out that this "perfect relationship" is still not exactly common, a reality highlighted by the fact that Samantha and Julie's relationship still appears, if not entirely too good to be true, something so unusual as to be gawked at in an article.