Lately, as I spend more and more time interacting with people online, I’ve been thinking about the nature of friendship. What makes a friend a friend versus an acquaintance? When does an acquaintance make that transition to become a friend?
I obviously can’t speak for everyone, but I think I can identify a criteria that works for me.
Send me birthday cards. I’m not talking online greetings on slapping some sentiment on my Facebook wall – these are actual cards. I do the same – unless I was recently sick and the night I was planning to go get the card, I was actually running a fever and then got stuck at home, but it doesn’t mean I love you any less. Honest. The card I sent you in my feverish brain even made you laugh. In fact, it was hysterical. Unfortunately, it was never purchased.
Can tell you my parent’s name. Not every member of my family can do that, so my “friends” score higher points than many of my family members (this happens a lot).
Can communicate through a sophisticated set of grunts and gestures. There’s just a point in a friendship where you’ve moved beyond words and can communicate more with a leveled stare.
Are deep in soda debt thanks to “JINX!” or “Pincha-poka-Coka” – (please feel free to schedule delivery times)
Know when it’s a good time to circle the wagons or when it’s an even better time to clear a path.
Can get away with calling me by a name other than Beth and will get a response.
Can hug me. Don’t tell them though, I’ve convinced them that I have a strict “no-hug” policy and I don’t want them draped around my neck in some bizarre hug-off ritual. In fact, I may have to go wash my hands now. The image is giving me the willies.
Can accurately distinguish my traits from my Mom’s. That’s neat that you know the one or two little trivial thing about my Mom and her love of presents or her punctuality, but my friends can actually make the distinction between the two of us. My friends also recognize that I had two parents influencing my development as well as a step-parent. Thankfully, I don’t have any unresolved issues regarding this point and my friends are shaking their heads in a show of solidarity.
My friends recognize I just had a moment, whereas my acquaintances hoped I might have still been going for humor.
Made me set-up this blog. Wait, I’m not sure that’s a good thing – blame them.
Know which family members are safe to mock. Not that they do that, because that would be wrong. I would never encourage such behavior or laugh at any inappropriate joke told at a family member’s expense.
Know which family members are strictly off limits were they ever to suggest the person was anything but a lovely, delightful, amazing member of society.
Understand these family designations can switch on a whim without any advanced notice.
Will not only bust out laughing during my rants where my head is spinning around and my face is turning some shade of purple, but they’ll fan the flame to keep me going. My friends are a highly supportive bunch.
Now I really think “acquaintances” have gotten a bad rap. I have a ton of acquaintances and we do things like lunch or meet for drinks and we ask polite questions about each other’s various family members and pets. We can talk about movies, books and television without hissing and spitting (hissing and spitting is obviously reserved for friends and their bad taste). Sure, these acquaintances are not coming over for a slumber party, but they also escape the me that doesn’t know how to behave in polite company. In fact, it’s with this set of people that I practice my rusty social skills. I say things like “yes” instead of “yeah” and work on whipping out phrases like “thank you”. And when these acquaintances don’t call me on my actual birthday, I’m not placing them on some mental list. Those of you who are acquaintances, this isn’t actually a bad group to belong to – there’s so much less pressure.
I wish I could think of some common occurrence that moves an acquaintance over to friend – maybe it’s when the person has given some sign that they can handle more than a simple exchange of pleasantries. Maybe it was when Lynn talked me off the ledge every day after I lost my job and I made her laugh so hard, she spit water on her monitor (no respect for technology) or when Anna threw her luggage down in the dorm’s TV room and collapsed on a couch or was it when she was “taxing” a Wendy’s burger? or maybe when she was convincing the staff a Chick-fil-a that I was “special”? or that first card that called me a quarter of a century old, which made me feel old and really I’d like to be “old” like that these days – then there’s Kendra – maybe it was with her refusal to get my mail because she was exceptionally lazy and really there was just the one more mailbox to check but nooooo… or that time you sassed me… or that time you gave me a book of “Opposites” that made me cackle… or the time you identified my “super powers” and here we are… friends. Well, maybe not you, because I think you owe me a phone call, but the rest of you.
Friends know when you need balloons.