F – Friends

I know some people who refer to virtually anyone they know as a friend. I’m not one of those people. I might use that shorthand occasionally, when the details of my relationship with someone is immaterial to the conversation. But to be my friend, we have to have some sort of intimacy. I need to have shared something more than just superficial with you. And vice versa. By my definition, I count my friends using the fingers on one hand. Which sounds a little sad, doesn’t it? There are lots of folks I like, but just liking someone doesn’t mean we are friends. Or does it?

I think of Jen as my oldest friend. We met because our rooms were on the same floor freshman year at college. This fall we’ll have been friends for 27 years. We’ve been through a lot together. And even though we currently only live about 15 minutes from each other, I rarely see her. Her kids are older than mine and we are in very different places in our lives. The love is there, but the time isn’t.

My friend Sandy lives 400 miles away. We talk on the phone nearly everyday. We have kids the same age. We have a lot of life circumstances in common. Our families vacation together. Though I’ve only known her for five years, I think of her as a sister.

But my friend Nancy is the one I’ve truly known the longest. I’m not sure when we actually met – maybe 5th grade? Which would put our friendship at 34 years or so. But she lives across the country and our contact is minimal. Still, she’s the person from the earliest part of my life that I’m still in contact with.

I see the friendships my kids are making, and it’s interesting to me to observe the criteria for friends. At their age, friends are a product of proximity. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that the basis for all friendships, at least originally? I see K get manipulated by friends – they threaten to withhold their friendship, or to not invite her to a birthday party. One kid in her class tells her daily where she ranks on her personal friend scale – one day she’s #1 and the next day she’s fallen to #3. A few days later promoted again. I hate that. Friends are critical to happiness, but I want my kids to have the skills to choose friends who will bring them joy, not pain. So much of parenting is fostering self-esteem in your child, isn’t it?

Of course, friends can be virtual too – and I guess I’ve shared some intimate things in this space.  I’ve certainly been the recipient of it too, from many who read this blog, and even more who haven’t.

How old is your oldest friend? Or rather, how old is your oldest friendSHIP?  And while we’re talking, how do you define friend, anyway?

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2 responses to “F – Friends

  1. I have a friend going back to 2nd grade, so 39 years. And another from 5th grade. We keep in touch but they live 5 hours away and their kids are in college. The folks I spend the most time with now are people I inherited when hubby and I got married. Most of them are younger than I am, but we all have kids the same age. i’m with you. Just because I’m on a speaking acquaintance with someone doesn’t make them a friend. And I hate to hear what your little one is going through with the ranking thing. Kids can be so hateful.

  2. My oldest close friend I met in 11th grade, so I guess we’ve been friends for 29 years. We see each other about once a week. My other close friend I met in college and we’ve been friends for 20 years. She lives down the street from me and I talk to her every day. We often have dinner and hang out together in the evening.

    I have different gradations of friends. I have my two closest friends, that I’ve known forever and I keep in touch with regularly. I have friends I’ve known a while, but I’m not as close with. Then I have friends I’ve made through volunteering at my kids’ school, which includes both teachers and other parents. I have made some friends in the blogging world, that I actually consider friends, but I haven’t met any of them in person, so I don’t know how that counts, compared to real-life friends.

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