One of the most frequent questions I get from writing and sharing online is “How do I get a Heidi?” And, listen–if I knew how to clone my best friend and sell her, I’d be rich. I encourage my kids to be careful when using “best” to define one friend so as not to make other friends feel bad and to keep friendship circles wide and free, but I’m almost 40, and it is a well-known and accepted fact in our circles that our friendship has earned its title. I can’t imagine life without Heidi, and everyone who knows our friendship knows that “best” isn’t about exclusivity but rather years of stories, love and support that have granted us the highest honor of friendship…the best of the best. If I’m told a secret prefaced with “Don’t tell anyone,” I clarify with, “Wait–I can’t tell Heidi?”, and the answer is always the same: “Well of course you’ll tell Heidi. Everyone already assumes that.”
Last week, we interviewed each other over dinner and drinks, answering some frequently asked questions on friendship, supporting women and what we love most about our relationship.
The waiter came by at one point after noticing the questioning and typing going on and asked, “Is this a job interview?”
“Oh, we already got the job,” we laughed. “We’re best friends.”
What would you say are the three most important things that make your friendship what it is?
Heidi: I’m going to say honesty is #1. And a mutual respect for each other as people. Like I feel like we admire so much about each other. And the safety to be or say anything. I truly believe I could call and tell you anything, and you’d be there for me.
Kelle: Well you know that’s true.
Heidi: What’s your three?
Kelle: Vulnerability is huge for me. I think we’ve both revealed our most unattractive qualities to each other and exposed the things that we don’t love about ourselves. We’ve seen each others’ houses trashed, snapped at our kids in front of each other, talked about failures, cried, admitted we’ve got messes. Once you get that out of the way, you don’t waste any time performing in a friendship to portray an image you want a friend to see–that we’re smart or good moms or funny or successful or have put-together houses or whatever. That’s exhausting and wastes so much space in a friendship that could be spent investing in real connection. We’ve both opened the junk drawers in our lives, so to speak, for the other one to see, and we’re both still here, completely unaffected by those messy parts about each other. So every forward step in our friendship can now be spent loving, supporting, writing stories, making memories, having fun and really being there for each other. I also think our friendship wouldn’t be what it is today if we hadn’t gone through hard things together. We’ve weathered disagreements in our friendship as well as some really hard things in life together. I know I’m making this way too long of an answer here, but I’d say the last and maybe most important thing is this deep desire for each other to succeed and be our best. It’s one thing to show up for each other when we’re down or laughing about the messes, but sometimes I think friendship is proven most real and beautiful when women wholeheartedly support and celebrate each other when we succeed. My life is happier when you succeed and are truly happy. If you want to be president, I’ll stake my yard with “Vote for Heidi” signs. If you have a huge victory happen or a dream come true, I want to be the first one you text so I can show up at your house to jump up and down and celebrate with you.
What trait do you most admire in each other?
Kelle: This one’s easy, and I think anyone who knows you would say the same. It’s your empathy. I’ve never met someone who thinks about others’ situations more than you. And you don’t just think about it. You do something about it. You are so good about asking the question “How can I make that person feel loved?”
Heidi: This one’s easy for me too. It’s your joy. Your zeal for life. Like you’re really fucking happy about a lot of shit. It’s refreshing.
When you meet new people, what is it about someone that makes you want to be their friend immediately?
Heidi: Good energy.
Kelle: Feeling inspired by them–like I could learn from them.
I have a hard time in friendships when…
Heidi: …people aren’t vulnerable with me. But I’m learning you have to earn vulnerability. I expect it right off the bat, and that’s not very fair.
Kelle: Ughhh. So true. Sometimes I think when we focus on vulnerability so much, we set ridiculous standards. Like a woman shouldn’t have to shake your hand and blurt out, “My life’s a mess, I yell at my kids, and my breath stinks in the morning” in order for me to like her. I don’t want to misinterpret vulnerability for “Give me dirt.” And I definitely don’t want to be a woman who needs to hear weaknesses about another woman in order to accept her. A beautiful woman whose kids listen to her when she barely whispers “Time to leave the park” and walks over to a car that’s not littered with snacks? That doesn’t mean she’s not vulnerable or likable.
What’s an immediate friendship turn off? Like you have no interest in developing a friendship if…
Heidi: People are mean. Hearing someone make fun of someone. Group gossip. If a group of women is talking about another woman, I’m out. Not that we don’t ever vent to each other about someone who was mean or a little off or whatever. But we do it in the safety between just the two of us, we don’t waste a lot of energy on it, and we keep it focused on our reaction and feelings rather than ripping the other person apart. But that collective group talking about another woman? No.
Kelle: Same. We’ve talked about this one a lot.
You’re both super busy moms. What’s your key for staying close?
Heidi: We talk pretty much every day, right? Even if we don’t see each other.
Kelle: I don’t even think about it any more. It’s just habit–the minute the kids are dropped off at school, I get back in the car and call you to start out my day. And then maybe three other calls throughout the day.
Heidi: I think spontaneity is important too. We know how hard it is to create perfect pockets of time for friend dates, so we take what we can get. A lot of “Stop, drop, and roll” dates where one of us invites the other one over or out to grab a drink and the other one says yes without having to clean the house or take a shower.
Kelle: And I feel like we’re good with creativity when it comes to making space to get together. We text each other when we’re going to Target to see if the other one wants to go, and we’ve had some of our best times together, pushing carts side by side in the produce aisle. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve stood in the home section for an hour straight, crying and talking about life.
Heidi: I can distinctly remember at least twice that we’ve done that. They should just make a table for us to sit down there.
Kelle: We’ve also accompanied each other on work dates just for fun. And we have a lot of post preschool drop-off coffee dates, even if they’re quick.
Do you guys ever judge each other?
Kelle: I originally said no to this, but you totally called me out.
Heidi: We totally judge.
Kelle: I think there’s so much in our women culture right now that celebrates supporting each other, high-fiving each other, lifting each other up, praising each others’ successes, accepting differences and NOT judging (which–YES!–is the ultimate goal and absolutely what I seek to be in a community of women)–that my immediate response is “I do that! I support women! I don’t judge!” But that’s not completely honest, and I want to pay attention to my humanness. I don’t want to feel shame about real, normal feelings or pretend that I never feel them. I judge sometimes. I judge people I love. Sometimes my judgments are warranted or simply identifying things I do or don’t want for my life. But it’s more about what I do with my judgments (they are always more about me than the person I’m judging) and how I analyze my feelings rather than the idea that I’m out there with a pasted-on smile, high-fiving and “You Go, Girl!”-ing every single thing any woman does. I love Amy Poehler’s advice on this: “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again: ‘Good for her; Not for me.'”
Heidi: I think in any deep friendship, you do end up judging. That might be a really shitty thing to say, but that’s sometimes what pushes us to be honest and real and helps us to be better. We feel the freedom to say to each other, “I think you’re being too hard on your kid” or “You need to get your shit together.” That’s burned us before too though. We’ve said it at the wrong time or have pushed too far, and it’s hurt us. That seldom happens, but it does. But I like the fact that we feel the freedom to call each other out. I think we’ve helped each other be the best versions of ourselves.
Kelle: I think we’ve also earned permission to judge. We have so many years and stories behind our friendship and an underlying foundation of love and wanting the best for each other that we know we can be honest with each other. We have some unspoken rules too. We know that our friendship is too precious to ever let something take that away. If we’ve hurt each other in any way, we don’t do that thing where we get awkward or don’t talk to each other. We make efforts to work things out quickly.
Do your husbands support your friendship?
Kelle: 100%. I think they both know that we are better humans, better moms and better wives because of our friendship. And I don’t put so much pressure on Brett to be my “everything” and fulfill all these areas in my life because friendship (among other things) helps fulfill them. I’m more than just my marriage. Brett’s said many times, “I’m so glad you had Heidi to talk about that with, because I’d be clueless.”
Heidi: Believe me, our husbands’ lives are better with us in the picture. They benefit, and they know it. There are things we do for each other that let them off the hook. And they know we are fair sounding boards. I’ve complained about Jeff before, and you’ve stood up for him; likewise, you’ve vented about something Brett did and I’ve called you out and pointed out what he did right.
Kelle: I think every relationship is different. What we have works for us and our families. We take our kids on trips together to fun crazy places our husbands might not be that into, and people might judge, but it works for us.
What’s your favorite friend memory?
Heidi: We have so many, but I know we’re going to answer this the same way.
Kelle: What, Nella’s birth?
Heidi: Yes. It was such a raw, precious time, and I think friendship goes to a new level when you get to be there for someone when they are hurting in the way that you were and to be present to the love that was unfolding.
Kelle: You literally stayed in that hospital for four days straight. I’ll never ever forget the way you showed up.
Heidi: I remember feeling at the time like I had some kind of superpower. If I think back to that time and how it felt, I thought I could protect you from any negative energy coming in.
Kelle: I actually think God waived the earthly filter and really did give you that superpower then.
Favorite things you do for each other that make good friendship tips?
K: We give each other pep talks before either of us goes someplace that makes us feel uncomfortable or intimidated. I love the texts you start madly sending right when I need them: “Just shine your white light. Focus on the light that you want to bring to the room and the way you want people to feel. Your light is so bright. You got this!” They are such powerful texts to receive.
H: I got that from Oprah, you know. How about picking up each other’s cameras and taking pictures of each other without being asked. So many of the photos of me with my kids were taken by you.
K: Same here. And I love them so much. I love how I’ll go to edit photos after a party, and there will be 100 that I didn’t take. You are so good about that.
H: We are good about loving each other’s moms. When our moms are visiting and we take them to a social event or have people over, we always support each other. You’re so good about making my mom feel at home and talking to her, and I always make sure to sit with your mom and find out more about her life. I love your mom.
K: And I love yours. I love the comfort I get from sending my “You know the drill” text when I’m on a plane and it’s about to take off. I know if anything were to happen, you’d implement “the plan.” Take over. Make sure my kids know I love them. Clean the house before the mourners arrive. Screen any potential new wife to make sure I’d approve.
H: We pick up each others’ kids. Like when you forgot to pick up Dash from preschool a couple weeks ago and I texted, “Dash is in my van. You forgot him.”
K: I love that being your friend means a life contract of being there for my kids. Whenever I have a fleeting worry about Nella being accepted, you always say, “Life contract, Kelle. Every party, graduation, life milestone, you have my family in party hats cheering her name. That’s five of us which can fill a room, so any worry that no one will show up should be non-existent.”
H: And you do the same for mine. Honestly, I think loving each other’s kids is one of the best things you can do for a friend.
K: The meals you make for people. Food is such a wonderful love language, and you do that for people so well. And the goody bags of treats you drop off before road trips.
H: We buffer each other’s parties. Like if there’s a new person coming who doesn’t know anyone else at the party and I’m busy entertaining, I know you will make sure she feels welcome. You’ll represent me. I don’t even have to ask.
K: I can’t tell you how many times new friends I’ve introduced to a big group of people have said later, “Your friend Heidi? She’s so nice and easy to talk to.” Actually, now that I think of it, most people like you better than me once they meet you.
H: That’s not true.
K: No, it is, and I’m totally fine with it. And I think one of my favorite things we do for each other is saying yes. All these crazy ideas we’ve had, calling each other last minute to see if we want to get in the car and drive two hours to explore some city. We’re good at saying yes, and I think so many of our memories and bonding moments are because of our yesses.
H: But I still wish I would have said no to that crappy hotel you thought was “charming” on that road trip with the kids. Oh my God, that was disgusting. I should have never listened to you.
K: Hey, you can’t win them all. You know there are a billion more things we could list here, but we have to end this somewhere, right?
H: To be continued…
K: In real life.
Have a question or thought about friendship? Do you have a best friend or a story about connecting and building meaningful relationships with women? One of my favorite things to dig into and talk about is creating intimate friendships with women. Tell me your thoughts, your stories, your favorite thing about your best friend or tips for staying close.