Today, The Atlantic is launching a new series of interviews that we are calling The Friendship Files. It will feature a weekly conversation between me and two or more friends, talking about the history and significance of their relationship—how they met, the way their friendship evolved over the years, what they mean to one another, that time one of them borrowed a sweatshirt and didn’t give it back for 20 years, and so on.
Friendship is the most flexible category of relationship—it can ebb and flow with the tides of busyness; it can stretch and contract to fill whatever space people make for it; it can evolve over the seasons of a life; it can weather a long dry spell or wither away. Friendship’s strength—and its weakness—is that friends choose one another. And with no shared cultural script for how a friendship should progress, like the one that exists for romantic relationships, friends have to figure it out for themselves.
Friendships are rarely considered to be people’s primary relationships—that honor falls to family, or romantic partners. Those are the relationships that get the most research, and most of the epic storytelling. The Friendship Files is a corrective to that, an invitation to read about the internal dynamics of a wide range of friendships, and a reminder that these relationships, while not defined by blood or law, shape and anchor our lives too.
When I started this project, I worried that perhaps talking with friends about their friendships week after week might start to get repetitive, or boring—but that wasn’t the case. People are at their most generous, their funniest, and their most fascinating when talking with and about their friends. Doing these interviews has been one of the greatest joys of my career so far, and I can’t wait to do more.
The Friendship Files is launching today with four Q&As, and we will add a new one every week, starting next Friday. Here is our opening lineup:
- A Friendship Baked in the Great British Bake Off Tent
“You need a bowl or a whisk and one of your baking friends will get it for you. You know those trenches in the war? It’s kind of like that.”
- What It's Like to Make a Friend on Bumble BFF
“People can be really judgmental, like, 'What’s wrong with you that you can’t make friends by yourself?' But it's honestly really hard to do it naturally.”
- He Returned His Friend’s Sweatshirt 20 Years After He Borrowed It
“It became my most meaningful piece of clothing that I owned.”
- When a Teacher Becomes a Friend
“I think we just started coming to Mr. O's room for lunch. I don't even know if we asked permission. Probably not.”
I am always looking for friends who would be a good fit for this series—friends who met in an interesting way, who have gone through an unusual experience together, or whose story illuminates a particular facet of modern friendship. If you or someone you know fits the bill, please send a nomination to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me a bit about what makes this friendship unique.