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Tuesday 16th July, 2019

Bizarre Thought for the Week, w/c 18th September 2006
Tony Dobson

Hi all,
Grooms always have a tough job at weddings. Giving a speech is usually a thankless task, during the course of which you have to reel off a list of thank yous without sending everyone in attendance to sleep. Some people succeed (take a bow, Douglas McCabe), some don't (stop looking at me like that, please).

The one real area you have to be creative is in how you describe your new wife. With that in mind I couldn't help but be disappointed when my brother-in-law took the opportunity to say during the speech at his wedding (three years ago), "Not only are you my wife, you're also my best friend." Clich? alert!

Really, who deemed the term "best friend" as a suitable way to describe your wife? Isn't that utterly demeaning to the person you're married to, just putting them on a level (lofty as it is) of best friend? I had a friend years ago who for some reason was really offended when Tom Hanks described his wife as his "lover", but at least that's a closer term than "best friend".

I've been pretty lucky with my best friends. I've had a few, categorised by location mainly. However if you were to as "Who's your best friend?" then undoubtedly I'd say Neil Taylor. Best friends are people you know for years, bond with, have countless memories and share stupid stories with (I'd almost guarantee Neil's thinking about a certain evening in a Portsmouth bowling alley right now). To me there's no-one better than my best friend for unwinding with.

Wives are nothing like that. For one you don't need the same amount of time to bond to that extent. The memories seem to merge into one big mass (commonly referred to as "the time we've been together") and the stories are by no means stupid. Okay, there are moments that have made you both laugh, but for the most part the memories are of the romantic/poignant variety, not the stupid ones you share with your male best friends.

Did I say male best friends? Let's scratch the male part off. Female best friends don't exist. I'm not saying I'm in agreement with the When Harry Met Sally principle that men and women can never be friends, but from a man's point of view you can't be heterosexual and have a best friend who is a woman. It can't be done. And if you think it can be done, go and get married and then tell your wife that you're spending the evening chilling out with your best friend. I hope you can sleep well on your sofa.

There are of course good female friends. These can definitely exist, even if you're married or in a serious relationship. However let's not go over the top and describe each and every one of these friends as a sister. Please. I've seen some of the text messages my brother-in-law has sent to his sister. I've noticed his absence from her hospital bedside on occasions when she's not been well. Ain't much love there sometimes.

My brother-in-law has always had a knack for giving his parents the most impractical, of no possible use presents that still have an unparalleled ability to suck up to them. Framed poems of how much parents mean to someone, stuff like that. He's never got anything like that for Lorraine, for three reasons:
1) Because she's his sister.
2) He gives Lorraine money, because she'd prefer new clothes and/or shoes.
3) There's nothing of that variety to buy, because there's no market for brother-sister mushiness!

For the most part it seems as if actual brothers and sisters aren't particularly close. From my Dad and his sister right the way down to my peers (both male and female), it seems like almost none of them are close to their sisters/brothers. So you've got a good female friend who you are close to and can talk about things with - she's like a sister! Er, no. You know a girl who is a pain in the backside, rarely talks to you, spends hours in the bathroom and gets you into trouble with your parents - she's really like a sister!

(Yes, I realise I'm an only child. You think I've not witnessed what sisters - especially older sisters - can do to their brothers? Please.)

What could make a female friend like a sister? An unnatural open nature with a guy, safe in the knowledge that's there is only ever platonic friendship there. A willingness to not just listen, but actually help a guy with girl problems. And they'll probably like who your partner, although they'll probably not be their best friend. After all, at some point you'll likely have a moan about your partner to them. And you can't ever have been attracted to them. As a guy said at a Star Wars screening I saw in California some years ago, "Dude, that's your sister!"

There are probably two female friends I've had who I'd refer to as being like sisters (I realise I am contradicting myself - sue me). Of course that's under the condition that you always get on with a sister and that they always get on with their brothers. Both of these friends have a younger brother and I know that they haven't always gotten on with them. Would they say I'm like a brother to them? Unlikely. Although we get on well at the end of the day I'm not the same flesh and blood that they are.

So let's get this straight once and for all. Wives are wives. Best friends are best friends. Female friends are just friends (but never best friends) and only sisters are really sisters. Let's not blur the lines any further and avoid needless and unnecessary complications.

Have a good week!

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