Our world is quick to celebrate romantic anniversaries — heck, there are whole guides outlining the specific gifts you should buy a couple based on the number of years they’ve been together.
But how often do we celebrate friendships that have endured through the decades? Friendships that have helped us laugh when times were good and kept us going when times were tough — don’t they deserve our attention, admiration, and china/silver/weird engraved letter opener from Tiffany’s?
As part of our February celebration of all things friendship-related, we caught up with four pairs of longtime best friends to hear about how they’ve stayed connected over the years, how they show up for each other, and their best advice for keeping a friendship alive.
Leela Corman, 50, & Cora Higgins, 50
L-R: Leela, Cora
Cora and I met 29 years ago at Massachusetts College of Art, in a performance-art class. Cora has scraped me off of more floors than I can count. It’s impossible to explain her importance to me. Sometimes the sound of her voice on the phone fills me with so much gratitude and joy that it makes me cry. She’s been there for me through every crisis, from romantic ones to roommate drama to the death of my first child. I hope I’ve been there for her even half as much as she’s been for me.
L-R: Leela, Cora
I can always count on her to love me unconditionally, to give me the unvarnished truth as she sees it, to make me laugh so hard I can barely stand, and to make me feel the most like myself.
"I hope I've been there for her even half as much as she's been for me."
Our friendship has taught me that you have to keep your love for each other before anything else, any difference of opinion or lifestyle (barring your friend going full fascist — if they do that, all bets are off). Always see your friend through the eyes of love, and show up for them when they need you, if you can. Fall in love with them at every stage of your lives. Revel in how long you’ve known and loved each other. Listen to records together. Have each other’s backs. —Leela Corman
Joanna Briley, 54, and Cassandra J. Blackwell, 55
Back row, L-R: Joanna M. “Pee” Briley & Cassandra “Sona” Blackwell. Front row: Sharon “Mums” Harding
Cassandra and I have been friends since I was 13 and she was 14 — I moved to Coney Island and she already lived in the building.
Today, we have a chat group, so we speak and text every day. She also supports my comedy shows. We have birthday celebrations and gatherings just because. We know how to celebrate one another with a party and empowering words.
L-R: Cassandra, Joanna, and Joanna's cousin Julia Akinwunmi
When my mom passed, Cassandra reached out to me and I acted like I was OK. She didn’t realize how affected I was until I performed at a show and shared my struggles. We talked about it, and it was nice to get the love and support I def needed.
"To keep your friendships alive and growing, you must be honest and willing to be vulnerable."
The past 40 years have taught me that to keep your friendships alive and growing, you must be honest and willing to be vulnerable.
I’m so grateful for her because I work 16-hour shifts and perform stand-up, so I am the one missing at a lot of our functions. She understands, but I promised in 2023 I will be present more. —Joanna Briley
Amy Bass, 52, & Sarah Tynan Sullivan, 52
Front right: Amy. Back right: Sarah.
Sarah and I met in 9th grade, in 1984. I had just gone from a very tiny elementary/middle school, in a town that didn’t have a high school, to an enormous high school where I knew NO ONE. She went to one of the city elementary schools and knew everyone. The first friend I made in HS was a longtime friend of hers. And at the end of 9th grade, that girl moved away, leaving us! (There was a fourth girl…but she kinda lost her mind.) Sarah is my ride or die.
We’ve never been out of touch. We were inseparable through high school…went to colleges pretty far away from each other, but WROTE LETTERS (my God, we’re so old) constantly (they’re terrifying to read), called occasionally, and obviously spent every second together over holidays and summer. At one point she lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, for work, and I drove there with another friend — monster road trip.
Today, we visit, hang on the Cape together in the summer, attend family events, weddings, and so on. And now we have texting! We have daughters very close in age and we do concerts together.
L-R: Amy, Sarah. "fall, 2022, MSG, Harry Styles. Our girls were in the pit, we were at the bar (which was empty…because TEENS!)"
There’s no good news that feels real unless I tell her. I remember when I got a lead in the high school musical, “Grease” (I was Rizzo), she literally came to every single rehearsal. I was there when she had her son— she was the first of us to give birth! And I was there when the first marriage started to get bad…and then divorce. BUT THEN THE SECOND WEDDING: beautiful and filled with love, and it was the first night my baby, Hannah, slept through the night.
"We can always count on being able to start the conversation"
Sarah was there almost the second Hannah was born — she drove down with her boyfriend (now husband) and got a hotel room in the city and just showed up on my doorstep first thing in the morning, holding bags of McDonald’s sausage egg and cheese biscuits. I cried with gratitude. She took the baby and I ate the McDonald’s. Same thing years later, when my dad died. She showed up at my mom’s house with bagels for my family, and SHE BROUGHT ME WATERPROOF MASCARA for my dad’s calling hours. I mean, what’s better than that?
We always make sure to not bring any judgement to the friendship, or hesitancy in telling each other anything. As teens, as college students, through really ugly stuff, through joy — we can always count on being able to start the conversation wherever we need to.
My best advice for maintaining a friendship is to prioritize communication and being together. Checking in. And understanding that you are both going to change, and that’s OK. You’re both going to find other friends, and that’s OK. — Amy Bass
Jenny Rubin, 52, & Sherry Sidoti, 52
L-R: Jenny, Sherry
Sherry and I met in the yard during lunch at our elementary school. We were in 4th grade together in the West Village in NYC, but I distinctly remember us chatting it up that day as we stood outside the lunchroom, peeking in and making jokes about other classmates (in the nicest way possible, of course). I remember the laughter — and it never stopped, 44 years later.
I feel very lucky to still be in touch with my childhood friends. It has never seemed like “work.” Sure, there are ebbs and flows in any relationship, but we just made a point to always stay in touch. And even when we don’t feel like talking on the phone, there is always a check-in text every so often. We always keep each other up to date with what is happening in our lives.
L-R: Sherry, Jenny
Last year, Sherry and I went to Mexico for a yoga retreat that she was teaching. I had been going through a tough time and she was there to lean on and let me talk about it, with no judgement. That’s how it always is — no judgement. We also both got to bask in the glory of just being together! And enjoying a vacation away from stressful everyday life.
Recently Sherry has been dealing with the trials and tribulations of having a sick parent. I have not been with her in person, but I do try to check in as much as possible, to let her know I am there.
"When you have been friends as long as we have, you don't even need words."
Always, no matter what, we can always make each other laugh. Laughter feeds the soul like love. When you have been friends as long as we have, you don’t even need words.
My best friendship advice is, try not to judge. Advice can be given if asked, but try to just be there, with no judgement, if possible. And just honestly put in the time. Like I said, a text, a message, send a joke out of nowhere, just keep in touch. It’s so easy. —Jenny Rubin