I have always found the word “friend” to be overused to the point of being meaningless. Long before Facebook came up with the bright idea to turn everyone you’ve ever known, from your kid’s teacher to your favorite bartender at your local pub, into your friends, I struggled to square my definition of the word with the way other people used it. My mother once reminded me of an assignment I had early in elementary school (maybe 1st grade) where I had to write a short paragraph about what “friendship” meant to me. While other kids in class wrote a sentence or two saying things like “a friend is someone who is nice to others” or “my dog is my best friend, ” I wrote a page and a half of well-articulated requirements someone would have to fulfill before I could possibly consider them a friend. I got an A on the assignment, but strangely enough, I never had many friends.
We also moved around quite a bit during my childhood. Every three years, after I started school, we would move to a different town, once to a different state. My “boyfriend” from kindergarten and I wrote letters to each other for nearly 4 years after my family moved to the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest, but other than that, I never really kept in touch with anyone. I guess through that experience, I learned that most things, including human relationships outside your family, were temporary.
I typically had one or two close friends in any town we lived in. I remember meeting these girls in Girl Scouts, in my neighborhood, on the bus going to school or in one class or another. My childhood friendships usually consisted of running around outdoors, playing board games and sleepovers. In high school, my best friend and I invented a religion for ourselves and our other acquaintances where we were the co-high-priestesses. We were very creative.
Once I got to college, I don’t think I developed any friendships with anyone. My first roommate proved herself to be wholly inadequate when she decided to go after my boyfriend the first time I was out of town. And my second roommate ended up renegging on the lease we both signed which led to me getting served an eviction notice and having to sue her in small claims court. After that, I just lived off-campus and went to my classes and minded my own business.
Since I’ve become an adult, and I don’t think I’m alone here, it is quite difficult to make new friends. To me, friendship has always required a complex recipe of one or two shared interests, communication style, empathy, trust and time. Of course, when you move every three years, time is the checkbox that always seems to go unmarked. Trust is also hard to come by sometimes, and once broken, it is hard to rebuild. I’d say there’s probably a mathematical expression I could write with all the variables represented to define friendship, but I haven’t put the time into that mental exercise. I do have a useful metaphor, though.
A friend is someone who you would not hesitate to call at 3am on a weeknight to bail you out of jail and know with absolute certainty that they would not only come through with the money and come pick you up, but also never tell anyone about it.
You can see why I have had so few friendships in my life.
You might suggest I lower my standards, but as in other aspects on my life, I say nay. Perhaps you should raise yours!
That being said, I can 100% guarantee that there are many more people on earth who consider me a friend than I do them. This may be by design for self-preservation. I am an excellent friend because there actually are many people out there that I would go bail out of jail at 3am. I’m not sure whether they all know that or whether it would ever be tested, but it’s no joke. I am much more trustworthy than I am trusting of others. Too many burns.
Perhaps you have your own definition of “friendship” that speaks to you. Feel welcome to share in the comments, if you like.