Saturday, December 20, 2008


Friend is a word that is used too loosely in our language, like LOVE. So many different kinds of love and yet we use the same word for all of them. I think there should be distinctions, because just as we don’t love our shoes the same way we love our partner, we shouldn’t call acquaintances FRIENDS. Sometimes we find we do because there are people who are a little more than an acquaintance and although not quite a friend, acquaintance seems too small. You get the point.

I am suggesting that there are many flavors of FRIENDSHIP. Everyone isn’t a FRIEND, and by using the term loosely it minimizes important and valued relationships. So for that reason I reject this singular word usage. We need distinctions and categories. Below are my suggestions for some new terminology.

BUDSTERS: The work buddy – lots of laughs at the office, occasionally go out for drinks, maybe share a personal story or two but nothing too profound. You go home and your paths rarely cross outside of work. No weekend phone calls to check in. When they leave their job you stay in touch for a month or two, maybe as long as a year and then it fizzles out – maybe a Christmas card over the years wishing you joy and peace and overlaid with promises of getting together which never materialize.

COMFIES: The Confidant-Those with whom you can talk and share secrets with but never a laugh because they just aren’t funny and don’t even have a sense of humor for that matter. This is not the person you seek out when you’re looking for a good time because they can be a real kill joy although a savior during tough emotional times. They are generally older than you and you have much respect for them and value their role in your life. It is just a very specific role. This is understood by both.

HILAIRIES: The “I like her, she makes me laugh” friend - the person who makes you laugh, split a gut kind of laughing but beyond a shared sense of humor there’s not much else to talk about. Shallow conversation that is often strained because outside of the context of humor you find there’s not much upstairs and you’re really not that interested. You might invite this person to a BBQ but certainly not for an intimate dinner party.

CHITTERS: The gossip friend - most often, but not always,it is a co-worker since at work you are typically surrounded by all sorts of people you would never otherwise associate with– they make easy targets for gossip. The gossip friend is the one you chitter-chatter with, usually in whispered tones, disparaging your co-workers behind their back. You practice changing subjects with ease and alacrity so you don't get busted when someone pops their head in your door. (some people are really bad at this part!) Ironically, this is not a person you would ordinarily be friends with outside of work as generally people who gossip will gossip about you behind your back when they are gossiping with someone other than you.

COMATES: These are the people in your life that come closest to the meaning of the word FRIEND, because they are kind and loving people and are present when you expect them to be (funerals, illness, special moments, things like that), but you wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable calling them in the middle of the night to ask for a ride to the hospital.This would be beyond the scope of this friendship. You enjoy each others company and enjoy good times together and lots of laughs, but it is not a friendship where there is deep emotional depth. You don’t talk about profound things together or share really deep secrets. You do love and care for these people, it’s just not a deep bond. This category could be further broken down into sub-groups. Most of us have a lot of COMATES. Some BUDSTERS can fall into this category as well as Good Neighbors. You get the idea – each group with subtle but distinct differences between give and take and why they are in your life, but balanced all the same.

FRIEND: the real deal, the authentic, undeniable friend. The one with whom you can laugh and cry and share all your secrets with and never fear that your secrets or vulnerabilities will be used against you or dispersed. The one who is always there for you, who will drop anything to come to your aid, who will defend you like a lion or lioness if someone hurt you, or wronged you, or just plain said something mean to you. Loyalty is a true measure of friendship. A true friend is the one who comes to your aid before you even have to ask – they know you, they can sense discomfort and want to make your world better for you. They care deeply about you. They know unmistakably and completely in the deepest part of their heart that you would do all of these things for them as well. They never question your loyalty or motive. This is the person with whom you can be completely honest and expect the same in return. Did I behave improperly? What should I do? could I have done this or that better? Do I look fat in this outfit? They help you grow and you trust that they will always tell you the truth because they love you. The true friend honors and respects you and would never allow anyone else to dishonor you. This is the friend that is still going to be sitting next to you laughing when you are old and holding your hand when you are lonely and scared.

Friendship is also about forgiveness – about allowing for mistakes because God knows none of us are perfect –it is about apologizing and accepting apologies – about never letting hurt go unspoken – but expressing it out loud so there is no projecting – it is about communicating honestly.

It is also about making sure there isn’t spinach or lipstick on each other’s teeth, but more importantly it is about doing the boogy check after they have blown their nose.

This kind of friendship is hard to come by and usually only comes once in a life time if you're lucky. If you are lucky enough to have found such a person, look after them, nurture and protect them, love them unconditionally, don't ever take them for granted and demand all the same in return.

TAKE-AWAY POINT: be careful when choosing a friend. Pay attention to red flags from the start. To quote Maya Angelo, “when someone shows you who they really are, believe them the first time”. It’s a really valuable lesson that will ultimately spare you a lot of heart ache.

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