When you turn up to Naming Days, Funerals and Weddings, as a Civil Celebrant, you become acutely aware of the word “friend” and what it might mean to the various people who are attending the ceremony. I don’t mean “relatives”, those people you inherited, I mean the others with whom you have no familial ties and were free to choose. For some time now I’ve been pondering what we mean by the term - friend?
First up, I went to Wikipedia for some definitional help and was surprised by what I found. “A friend is a person you like or know. People who are friends talk to each other and spend time together. They also help each other when they are in trouble or are hurt. Friends are people that can be looked up to and trusted.” The definition goes further, but I just want the general flavour, not the detail.
So, armed with this concept of “friend” I started to look at people in the setting of the ceremony they were attending and I started to ask a couple of questions. How long have you known each other? When was the last time you talked to each other? Their answers again surprised me and to deal with the concept, I’ve had to think about a friend classification scale and here’s what I’ve come up with.
First point on the scale: “acquaintance” – someone you keep tripping across because they know the same people you do or hangout the same places you do. You can have “acquaintances” spread throughout history and contact with them is accidental; they have not progressed to the next level, “friend”, and are unlikely to do so. The chances are they don’t know much about you and nor you about them; you just keep seeing each other and chatting.
Then there is “friend” – this is someone you see regularly or someone you once knew more closely but the context in which you knew them (school, work, sport) has now disappeared and you often accidentally rediscover them, rather than purposefully trying to catch up. Your history is littered with them and for a period you are travelling or have travelled the highway of life together and in that time, you were close. It’s likely you had occasions where there were groups of you but singular contact was not unusual; when you rediscover them e.g. wedding, it’s a “long lost friend” scenario. It’s unlikely to last at any significant level, promises are made, but it was good to catch up; however, in rare cases, it can undergo complete metamorphosis and be elevated to new heights.
And finally, “bestie” – now this one comes with challenges; it comes the closest to the Wikipedia definition but you should understand the possibility of it having a two-dimensional nature. “Besties” transcend contexts; I said earlier these relationships are two dimensional. On the one hand, they meet all the Wikipedia criteria and more; on the other hand, they are not dependant on context and even though the original context was important in their establishment, it is no longer relevant. There are often only a few of them and they hold a privileged position in your life; the level of trust and respect you have for each other sometimes rivals that between you and your partner.
Now the point of all this is simple, any valued relationship requires work on your part to keep it alive; friendships are no different, without nurture a “bestie” drops back into the miasma called friendship and sometimes drops from your circle of friends altogether. So, have a look at your personal list; who are your current “besties”? Are you investing in these relationships or is it a one-way street? Who has dropped off your “bestie” list and is it time to give it another go? Whatever your situation, I’m sure you’ll find an excuse for a cup of coffee in there somewhere.