Thursday, October 15, 2009

How Do You Define True Friendship?

My son came home the other day and shared something he’d heard on the bus: “Friendship is like peeing your pants. Everyone can see it, but only you can feel it.”

This peculiar and somewhat amusing statement started me thinking about friendship and looking up different definitions. In my 1976 American Heritage Dictionary, the first definition of a friend is “a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.” The 1977 Webster’s New World Dictionary first defines a friend as “a person whom one knows well and is fond of.” Wikipedia says, “Friendship is the cooperative and supportive relationship between two or more people.” Hmmm. Perhaps friendship is not so easily put into words.

When my children were little and learning about stranger danger, we talked about who were our friends. At that time, I defined a friend as anyone who had been in our home or whose home we had been in. That was simple enough for a child to understand, but after further consideration, not a definition to stand the test of time. Just recall the flap over Obama’s visit to the Ayers’ home and the ramifications during his presidential campaign.

My first childhood friend was Judy. We were in the same grade in elementary school, and we both had curly brown hair. In fact, people often confused us because we looked quite a bit alike. Sadly, Judy’s family eventually moved to the next town. We still got together for a while; then, as often happens, our get-togethers ended. But I still remember her with fondness. Just seeing her picture makes me smile.

Now my dictionaries are dated and definitions may have changed. I wonder how many ways future editions of American Heritage or Webster’s dictionaries will define friends and friendship. Someday, will a friend be defined as a person one exchanges “tweets” with or a person one links to on Face Book? I have a dozen or so “friends” on whom I know nothing more about than what they’ve read or plan to read. At least we all share a mutual interest in reading and

I like to read about different friendships. Mystery series in particular often have friendships—or sidekicks—woven into the stories. Stephanie Plum has Lula; Myron Bolitar has Windsor Horne Lockwood III (Win). Even loner Jack Reacher has his band of ex-military police buddies who appear when he calls them. These characters do not always choose the same course of action or share the same beliefs, but they always support and respect one another’s choices and beliefs.

For me, true friendship is an intricate balance of respect, trust, mutual values and interests, shared experiences, loyalty, fondness, and acceptance. That’s the kind of friendship that never moves away. And it doesn’t come along everyday.

How about you? Do you remember your first friend? What fictional characters’ friendships do you enjoy? How do you define true friendship? And don’t tell me it’s the person who buys enough books for you to sell through :)


Alan Orloff said...

Interesting post, Lisa. "Friends" seem to come in all categories, and that list is expanding, as you mentioned. Facebook friends, Twitter friends, blogging friends, "friend" friends, writer-friends, etc.

As they say, you can never have "too many" friends!

jbstanley said...

I do remember my first friend. I also recall how painful it was when we grew out of one another. She showed up at my house the night before I was supposed to take the SATs and said she was dropping out of school and moving to Florida. I don't know what happened to her. But friendships define our lives and I love reading about rich, complicated friendships.

Dru said...

Good post.

I remember my first friend and was very sad when we moved away (we were both 12). We tried to stay in touch but life kept getting in the way.

We learn to socialize with that first friend and the socialization continues throughout our lives. It is what you do that truly defines a friendship.

Jody said...

One of my very first friends is still a friend, though she lives miles away now. Her grandparents (both sets) lived in houses across the street from my house. We've known each other since before we went to school!
My other close friend I met through a play group for our children. We discovered we lived near each other, were both substitute teachers, and had many common interests. We also had many differences: she's Jewish & I'm Catholic; she's far more liberal than I am, though I too am liberal; she had boys & I had daughters. We still spend a lot of time together though her job these days keeps her much busier than mine. Our husbands are friendly, but not close.

G.M. Malliet said...

Nice to meet you at Bouchercon! Thank you for stopping to introduce yourself. I hope it is the start of a friendship.