We’re Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, friends and coauthors of the new book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close (Surprise! It's GNI's August book club pick!). We are day one fans and readers of GNI so it’s surreal to be writing to you all as guest editors. It’s also kind of perfect, because our own friendship was founded on so many nights in.
In the book, we write about what a joy it was to get to know each other in the quiet, intimate spaces of our home. We lived in dingy Washington D.C. apartments, but we made decadent snacks for each other (Ann’s cheeseball is Midwest-iconic, and Aminatou’s queso is Texan perfection), watched so much trash TV (ahem, Gossip Girl and Jersey Shore—can you tell we met in 2009?), and spent countless, braless hours doing nothing on the couch. Well not nothing...on Sundays, we did the crossword side by side! Spending all this unstructured time together is how we first got obsessed with each other’s brains, and started to build the bond that has seen us through more than a decade of friendship.
In some ways, Big Friendship is a story we started telling each other on those first nights staying in together. These days we live on opposite sides of a continent and, right now, mostly see each other on FaceTime. But we’re still obsessed with each other’s brains. (Clearly! We wrote a whole book together.) And now, most importantly, we know that we have to work in order to keep each other close.
These days, few friends have the luxury of being in the same room; let alone sitting side by side. But this pandemic is a strangely wonderful time to be releasing a book about investing in meaningful friendships for the long term, because most of our lives have been pared down to the essentials. And for us, it’s never been more clear that friendships are among the core relationships that sustain us most. That doesn’t mean they’re uncomplicated or always easy—in fact, if a friendship is truly intimate it’s guaranteed to hit at least a few challenges and communication snags. The hallmark of a big friendship is not a lack of conflict, but the ability to address the issues that inevitably crop up between two messy adult humans who are just doing their best.
We hope you’re all finding your own ways of staying connected to the friends you love—even on your separate couches far apart. It’s hard work, but it’s so worth it.
See you on the internet,
And since GNI asked, here are some hallmarks of our own big friendship:
Our all-time favorite friendship snack:
Over the course of our friendship, we have eaten pounds and pounds of this delicious feta salsa. We sometimes call it the '90s Dip because the key ingredient is sun-dried tomatoes.
Some of our own friends we like to brag about:
We love these gorgeous handmade ceramics and joyful prints, made by our friend Kenesha Sneed of Tactile Matter. We both have her work framed and sitting all over our homes. You can also often find us wearing the exceptional, plant-dyed apparel and natural fabrics made by our pal Miranda of Miranda Bennett Studio."
The best gifts we've ever given each other:
"This SleepMaster sleep mask is silky-soft, stays firmly on your head without pinching, and blocks out light while also muffling sound. It's one of the best gifts that Aminatou has ever given me, which is really saying something." - Ann
"This unassuming Casio Illuminator watch ️(a gift from Ann!) is functional, robust, comes in fun colors, and serves as a great reminder that we can leave our phones behind when we're together without worrying about what time it is." - Aminatou
More books on friendship that we recommend:
Read Sula, a book about a complicated friendship between two women, written by Toni Morrison. We also can't recommend enough Sister Love: The Letters of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker 1974-1989. In it, two iconic feminist poets exchange letters over 15 years, covering everything from their work to the most intimate details of their lives.
About that friendship-catalyzing cheeseball and queso tradition we mentioned earlier:
Elda Cullen’s cheese ball recipe is the go-to cheese ball in Ann’s family. Yes, the ingredient list sounds counterintuitive, but this spreadable dip is seriously addictive. Do yourself a favor and pair it with Triscuits. For Aminatou's queso, The Homesick Texan is a go-to for all best queso recipes. (Full disclosure: The two-ingredient recipe on the Ro*tel can is also the real deal. Secret's out!)