Here’s part of a conversation my husband and I had over dinner:
Me: “Are you friends with Frank?” (name changed to protect identity)
Him: “No, not really.”
Me: “Not really? Is he on your facebook or not?”
Him: “Oh. You mean that. Yeah. Yeah we are friends.”
Did he seriously need clarification? I mean, “friends” = whether or not a person is on your facebook. Everybody knows that.
I actually stopped asking people to be my friend, or asking people if they were friends with other people when I was in grade 2; you know, when a shared love for cherry popsicles made you instant best friends and a bad mood or a hogged turn on the swing were grounds to un-friend that person the very same day. But here I am, 35 years later, asking again. And by the look of my facebook friend tracker-counter thing sometimes, I have to ask myself if I’m really not in grade 2 again. The way the numbers jump up and down on any given day makes me want to run to the mirror to make sure I’m not still wearing those navy blue polyester shorts with the permanently stitched-in creases and white elephants printed all over them. I mean, sometimes those numbers make me feel like if I say or do or share the right thing, a few people will invite me to skip double dutch with them in the playground after school. But if I say or do or share the wrong thing, well, then they’ll just turn up their noses, take their skipping ropes, and go home without so much as a goodbye. Sheesh. Losing 3 friends in one day is a big deal!
In grade 2.
Or if they’re real friends. The kind that my husband so foolishly thought I was talking about. He still holds to the old-school, unadulterated, original definition of what the word “friend” means: His “No, not really,” translates into: “I never actually see the guy. Haven’t seen him in years. Never talk to him, even. Have no idea where he works, who his kids are, what he does in his spare time, where he likes to eat, what he likes to read. No idea at all. Where does he live now, anyway?”
(On facebook. Duh.)
Real friends know these kinds of things about each other because real friends have invested time into the relationship. Real friends are interested in each other. Real friends respect each other and treat each other like they do. Real friends have earned the right to speak into one another’s lives because there’s trust. Real friends give some and take some; take some and give some. Real friends don’t keep score, keep tabs, keep distance. Real friends look out for number 2, too. Real friends don’t friend you one day because you both love cherry popsicles and then un-friend you the next for hogging the swing … and then re-friend you when you pull out a package of pop-rocks.
And real friends never mock you for wearing navy blue polyester shorts with permanently stitched-in creases and white elephants printed all over them. They love you for it.