Defining friendship

The New York Times ran an article on friendship yesterday. The article talked about research that shows about half of friendships aren’t quite mutual, which is to say that one friend is more invested in the friendship than the other. I have lived both sides of this.

I first remember this happening when I was in fifth or sixth grade. A girl I considered a casual acquaintance called. My dad answered the phone, and she asked if I could come to her house for a sleepover. I made him repeat the name three times because I was sure he must be mistaken. I thought her kind and funny, but we didn’t know each other well enough for a sleepover. Because sleepovers are a very big deal when you are entering the teen years. Would we talk about boys? Would we have to change clothes in front of each other? I managed to set aside my angst and go, and we became friends afterward — at least from my perspective.

I try to let go of the times that I have been the more enthusiastic friend because that is far less fun. I have definitely been in friendships where I am putting forth 80 percent of the effort when I should just let it go.

Anyway, I am getting sidetracked because the second half of the article was the part that really interested me. That portion discusses how scientists have tried to define friendship. They say that a best friend is someone you interact with every day or nearly every day. People usually can only maintain one or two best friends. A close friend is someone you interact with at least once a week. The average person has time for four or five close friendships. Beyond that, friendships become less intimate.

You guys, if that is the definition of friendship, then my husband is my only close friend. I think I have had interactions with friends four or five times the entire summer. The majority of my interactions (using that term very loosely) are sending texts to people to try to coordinate play dates or dinners, and for the most part, I haven’t even managed to do that successfully. Admittedly, I do see friends (acquaintances?) more during the school year because everyone is in town. Maybe I do need to get back to an office job. I’ve definitely had co-workers who became friends.

The article goes on to talk about the effects of a lack of close friends, how people tend to experience a lot more anxiety, and I have been feeling that this summer. In the words of the wonderful Mindy Kaling: Is everyone hanging out without me?

I do have friends that I treasure, though I am obviously not seeing them as often as I would like. And I have plenty of emergency contacts to list on school forms, which I consider a pretty good test of friendship. Greg and I were discussing whether maybe this is just the phase of life we are in. Children around Eleanor’s age are taking on more extracurricular activities and getting more homework during the school year, which means life revolves around that. Yet, we’re not at the point where we can leave the kids home alone to meet up for an adult dinner.

How often is everyone else seeing their close friends? And how many close friends is that exactly?

Also, on a side note, happy 13th (seriously?) anniversary tomorrow to my dearest friend!


3 thoughts on “Defining friendship

  1. This would disqualify my best friend as my best friend… we text frequently and talk less frequently and see each other even less often since she lives four hours away. It does explain why I’ve formed such great friendships with some coworkers, though. And I’ve definitely been on both sides of that friendship investment, too.

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