Friends and Acquaintances

“Friends help you move.  Good friends help you move bodies.”

-unknown

Some people have dozens of friends.  I’m not that guy.

I have 6.

Everybody in the world can be divided into 4 categories.

  • Strangers. A xenophobe’s nightmare.   These are the people you don’t know, whether they are passing you on the sidewalk, or newborns on the opposite side of the world.
  • Acquaintances. These are the people you’ve met, mostly in passing.  They tend not to have much effect on your life.   You may pass a friendly bus ride in conversation, but it’s nothing that sticks.   A waitress, the clerk at the store, a friend’s latest date; these are the people you interact with for just a moment and rarely think about further.
  • Friendlies. Most people call these folks friends.  I don’t.   I’m friendly with them, hence the name, but it’s not true friendship.   Often, they are either my wife’s friends, or my friends’ wives.   Sometimes, they are a friend of a friend that I only see at parties, or a coworker that I get along with, but never see outside of work.  We’re friendly, but not obliged.   I may help with some things, but it’s not necessarily a priority.  I’ll go to a funeral, but probably won’t help plan it.
  • Friends. To me, calling someone a friend is a big deal.  I’m willing to do a lot for my friends.   They are able to command large amounts of my time, and ask any number of favors.   If needed, I’ll open my home or help demolish their’s.   Loyalty, honesty, trust, respect, and companionship are all a part of my definition of a friend.  If a friend needs help, I’ll come running.   In return, I expect the same.

Family tends to fall into the same analogous categories.

It sounds cold, but I hesitate to let people graduate into the final category.   My wife used to try to “set me up” with people that she thought I’d like to be friends with, thinking I was sad to have so few friends.  It took years for her to realize that I was happy.   It’s a matter of quality over quantity.   Most of the friends I have, I’ve had for 10 years or more.   I’ve known each of them for at least 5 years, not that time is a requirement.

Moving people into the “friends” category is a lot like dating.   You get along, so you invite the potential friends out for a drink, one on one.  You feel them out to see if they are compatible.  You meet their families, share some food, build some history.   If it all works out, eventually, you consider them a true friend, even if you couldn’t mark the date of the transition.

You wouldn’t marry everyone you date, so why would turn everyone you basically get along with into a friend?

Do you have a lot of friends?  What marks friendship for you?

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  • 5 comments

    Comments

    1. Very interesting post. I actually haven’t thought about this much before. I do have a bad habit of calling many people friends and then associating degrees. I guess I should change my reference. Thanks for clarifying.

      • I call the “friendlies” friends, most of the time. It keeps them from getting offended by me definitions. Sometimes I break it out into friends and close friends, but the concepts are the same.

    2. I am just like you. I have a handful of good friends. And, just like your wife, my mom used to try to arrange “social” events for me. She is an extrovert and never understood the need for alone time. (She still doesn’t. :))

    3. For me, some family falls into the friends category, but most fall into the friendlies category. Good call out!

    4. I get where you’re coming from. I have a core group of family and friends that I can tell anything to and hopefully they can share anything with me. That’s like an inner circle.

      Now, I do have friends that aren’t in that inner circle, but I do consider them friends. Just not inner circle friends/family, and that’s no offense to them. It takes time to “graduate” to that place, I see it that way too. I guess I never consciously thought of it that way, but that’s a good way to put it.

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