What is a Friend?bydinkleberry©
edited by Miss Marguerite
While we can dispute the positive and negative aspects of Facebook, one truth is that they have diluted the word friend to being meaningless. People will state that they "have 673 friends." Yet the truth is they often barely know these people and sometimes don't know them at all! That's not friends. To me a friend has a whole different meaning.
My psychologist has taught me that it is always necessary to properly define what you are discussing. If you look up the word friend at dictionary.com it will give this:
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?
4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.
As you can see these definitions are so broad as to be basically useless. Only the first definition has any applicable meaning yet is so vague as to leave one saying, 'Huh?' To me there are four levels of friendship, each with its own value and significance.
The first level of friendship is that of Acquaintance. For some reason this word has taken on a negative stigma. It is often used in this context: "Carl? Oh I know him but he's only an acquaintance." With this, there is an implied negative reason that the speaker deliberately only knows Carl at this level. That negative stigma is unfortunate because it is an excellent word to describe the first level of friendship. Acquaintance simply means, "a person known to one, but usually not a close friend."
Again a vague definition but it's a start to describe those who are situational colleagues. I have work friends, gym friends, and school friends; and that's all they are to me. We are on friendly terms. We may share personal information. We may even care about each other. But the ultimate truth is that they are location based acquaintances; we only interact at that location whether it is work, the gym or school and we are both comfortable with this level of friendship.
My gym friends and I are very comfortable with the fact that our acquaintance does not extend past the gym. I absolutely never plan on inviting my work colleagues to my apartment to watch a football game. Even with my school chums, if we need to meet for some studying or work on a project it is usually on the university grounds or some public place nearby. I am uncomfortable inviting acquaintances to my home or going to theirs.
If I were to leave my job, start going to a different gym or transfer to another college I'll never see these acquaintances again in my life and my life will not be affected by this fact.
I like to call the second level of friendship Pals. My pals are just that, they are the adult version of playmates. We get together and have fun. We shoot the shit. We josh around. For the most part our friendship is at a somewhat superficial level (but not in a negative sense.) I've had pals I've known for years that I barely know beyond being an avid hockey fan. Hockey fans are a strange bunch in that they are extremely passionate about their sport. They love their team but they also love the sport. I fall into this category. I'm a New Jersey Devils fans, yet if a pal calls me and invites me to a Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers game I'm there even though I hate both of those teams.
Many of my pals are sports based. We are either hockey fans or we may be NY Giants fans. We get together on Sunday with a bunch of other pals to cheer and yell at the TV. We'll argue who is the best quarterback. We'll debate the effect of the Designated Hitter rule (which sucks).
The irony is that while my pals are closer and more important than my acquaintances they don't get Christmas cards or gifts. It's almost mandatory that I exchange Christmas gifts with my acquaintances at work, especially those trapped in the same cube farm in which I am trapped. However with pals it's not expected and would actually be awkward if we did.
My pals are pals because they often have what we call an entertainment value. This means they are fun, amusing and entertaining for a set amount of time before their humor and antics become annoying, boring or insulting. A great example is my pal Jordan. He has an entertainment value of about 20 minutes, after that he crosses the line from funny and juvenile to crass and offensive. Thankfully he is slowly learning how to do a Costanza, leaving on a high note -- or at least shutting up.
When I think of pals I think of The King of Queens, with Doug Hefferan and his pals. While Doug has one Friend (Deacon) the rest are pals. They are always doing something when hanging out whether it is playing cards, at a batting range, bowling or watching TV. Unlike with Deacon, Doug never spends quality time with them.
If this seems masculine it's the same for us gals. I have pals where we get together to do something. It maybe shopping or window-shopping, going to an art gallery, getting our hair, nails or toes done -- or we may do each other's hair, nails or toes but there's always an activity that is the basis and focus of why we are together. When we gab it's always about this, that and the other thing. When I'm with one of my pals and she's doing my hair I won't suddenly share with her the fact that my hands have started trembling as a side-effect of my psychotropic medications. My pals are my playmates and are there for the necessary happy times I need to create in my life.
When I have to talk to someone about something that's kinda heavy and serious then it's time to talk to one of my (lower case) friends. This is the third level of friendship and it begins to come close to the meaning given earlier of, "a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard."
To me I have more feelings and regard for many of my friends than I do some of my cousins. I have three first cousins on my maternal side who live in Queens. I see them every Friday at our family dinner and I love them dearly. Then I have a bunch of first and second cousins from my father's side. Maybe it's from being from New Jersey but they are all assholes. My friends are more important and I care more for them than I do my asshole cousins. Is that wrong? Isn't blood thicker than water? I guess but this gives you an idea of the significance of where my friends fit into my life.
Because of the type of person I am, I can become friends with someone pretty quickly. I've learned how to read someone very quickly. Almost immediately I get a vibe that tells me at what level of friendship to extend to a person. Rarely does someone I meet start as an acquaintance then gradually become a pal and finally graduate to a friend. My acquaintances are at that level of friendship because that's only as far as I like them. My pals are for fun. My friends are my friends.
I'm also very loyal. The fastest way to feel my wrath is to offend one of my friends. For a friend I will try to do as much as possible for them, even if that means sacrificing on my part. My loyalty is both a positive and negative trait because I automatically assume that my friend has similar beliefs and will automatically have my back. [Unfortunately this isn't always the case but I will not change.] I also extend a level of trust to my friends. Perhaps it's a Brooklyn thing, or a tough part of town thing, but trust is an awarded thing and you respect that trust by extending it in return. I have a friend Johanna who's been a friend for years. We share many secrets and gossip. When it comes to gossip and one of us says, "That goes in the Vault" that means it stays between us. I have many juicy tidbits in the Vault that I won't even share with my girlfriend, HarleyQuin.
Through my Facebook page I have gotten to know some of the admins of other pages and they have become friends. I not only care about them but I care about what they care about. There are many times where I'll find my mind drifting and it's with a wondering concern of how a friend is. I often equate things with people, an example being I have a friend who lives in Hawaii. With my hand problem I try to avoid handling cash, however Thursday morning I had to and I found myself holding a quarter with Hawaii on the back. Just that brought a smile to me as I thought of my friend.
Many times these friendships are transitional and that's not a bad thing. I'm no longer in touch with most of my childhood friends and that's because our lives have gone different ways and those bonds have faded. I attended UVM in Vermont for three years and while there I made a few friends. Since then we've all gone our separate ways and I'm fine with that. I'm not Facebook friends with them because at this point in my life I don't care what silly shit their dog did today.
I've done the rehab shuffle many times, and usually while there I bond with one person who for that time is my friend. I'll run through a wall for them and they are the one who hears about the blackness that lurks in me. Mostly because of the nature of addiction I'm not in touch with any of them. [It's awkward to stay in touch with someone you met in rehab while you are back to shooting junk again.]
A few years ago I was in a psych hospital for nine months. While there I became friends with about five people. Every afternoon we'd hang out, convinced we were the only sane ones there -- including the staff. Since then we've all been released yet I'm still in touch with only one and we are slowly drifting apart. She has three kids and they are her main concern (and I hate kids); she lives far away and is doing her own thing while I am obviously doing my own thing. Our lives no longer intersect and when we talk it's more stilted and awkward. Neither of us wants to talk about mental illness because we are both working to overcome it, yet that was the bond that brought us together. Still, at this point if Eliza ever said, "Dink, I need you" I'd be there in an instant. Because of her family situation I know it's not the same but she'd do whatever she could. I also know that if I need to talk to someone who truly understands the nightmare of being mentally ill she is there.
Another great example of a friend is with Trina. I met Trina when she was dating my older brother, back in high school days (about 15 years ago.) Since it was only a school romance it wasn't weird or awkward for me to remain friends with her. Three years older than me because of her stunning beauty I loved her. Not like that, but because I wanted to learn how to be as glamorous. Even as a teenager, she was working as a model.
Throughout the years, Trina and I have fallen in an' out of touch as we each battled our own addictions -- we battle different demons. Yet we've always remained friends. How's that possible? When we reconnect we pick-up where we left off. Before my going to the Nuthouse, Tri (pronounced Tree) and I had fallen outta contact. In January, I was browsing at corsets on LingerieDiva.com -- and imagine my surprise when I saw her modeling a series of them! My first two thoughts where, "Holy Shit, that's Trina" and also "Damn look at her implants!"
From there I reached out to her. I discovered she was back from California and now living in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Although still modeling every now and then, she was dancing. Tri admits to being lazy and not liking to work. In the amazingly small world a city of 8 million can be, I discovered she dances at the same club HarleyQuin bartends in Manhattan. Usually working different shifts, and the nature of their jobs, HarleyQuin only knew who Trina was but didn't know her. Trina is also an acquaintance of my pal Kat, who dances at a different club.
Today Trina is as much a friend as ever. We talk almost daily, see each other at least once a week, sometimes share clothes -- we wear the same size pants and shoes - and like Kat and HarleyQuin, she is an admin for my Facebook page. When I called her for the first time in four year I said, "Hey,"
Her response was simply, "Hey, what's up?"
"Nuthin'," and from there we picked-up and haven't stopped t'awkin'. ByTheWay, when I talk with Trina my Brooklyn accent becomes more pronounced, or worse depending on your perspective.
Finally there is that fourth level of friendship, what I like to think of as Friend with a capital F. In my life I've been lucky enough to have found couple of them. The first also happens to be my first ever friend. I don't remember how I met lil Dick. I know more than remember that by the time we were five-year-olds we were already Friends. I'd guess we became Friends because of my older brother but the thing is my older brother wasn't really friends with lil Dick's older brothers. I do know that one of the bonds that forged us together was that we were the youngest ones of our families (although later I'd have a younger brother) and in some ways in the neighborhood. There were the older kids and then lil Dick an' I. So we'd protect and defend each other.
Not interested in playing with Barbie dolls and the other shit my older sister was interested in, I much preferred hanging out with my brother, who is five years older, and his friends. For their amusement they would put me up to fighting other kids in the neighborhood, including boys. I was a good fighter, even a terror. In order to be accepted by my older brother and his friends I would fight anyone except my Friend lil Dick,. The reason I wouldn't fight lil Dick was that from the beginning he had my back, sometimes literally, and I had his. You didn't fuck with one without having to deal with the other.
Is it odd that a boy and girl could be Frick an' Frack? I don't know. It's just the way it was, but I'm sure being a tom-boy who loved to fight and play basketball helped. Yet even as we grew up and I discovered I was a girl (if you know what I mean), lil Dick and I still stayed Friends. We loved to go exploring, and growing up in Brooklyn that meant first discovering other neighborhoods then venturing into Manhattan. [Because who cares about Queens?]
I love how stoic lil Dick is. He is quite comfortable not speaking for three or 4 hours. He and I have such a bond that only a look, a nod, a nudge is all that's needed. We love to people watch. Many times all that's required is to point at someone with a chin motion or finger and the other automatically knows why that person is being pointed at. I can nod my chin at a Frankenmom, (a middle-aged, fake boobed, fake-tanning, Brazilian waxing, navel-piercing, woman who dresses like a slutty 12-year old.) and lil Dick will just give me that smirk that says, 'Nice.' With two or three body gestures, lil Dick an' I can say more to each other than if I had to listen to someone ramble on for half an' hour.
In a world where people fear quiet, it's comforting having a Friend who embraces it. My mother has wondered how we can hang-out for hours and exchange less than ten words but that's the beauty of it.
There are two surprising facts about my relationship with lil Dick. The first is that we have never done anything sexually. Not even as kids and being curious. I've never seen his ding-dong so I don't know if he is actually a little dick. (His nickname comes from being the third son and named Richard. After being called lil Dick the first 10 years of his life it eventually became his name.) The idea of kissing lil Dick seems as foreign as kissing my brothers. We have slept together so many times as it to be countless, yet all we do is sleep -- and the last time we did was this year!
The other surprising thing is that considering my drug history, lil Dick (to my knowledge) has smoked pot only twice. He's also a crappy drinker as he will nurse two beers over the course of four hours -- which I guess comes in handy nowadays. At 6'4 and two hundred and something pounds of muscle he works as a heavy at an Italian restaurant. He's that guy that sits at the front door and with just a look dissuades you of the idea of dining there.
We have remained Friends through my years of using and abusing drugs. Sometimes it would push us apart, as I certainly would never use in front of him. I didn't even like using in the same building as him, yet being a heroin addict you don't always have the option when you have to use. It's always lil Dick that made sure we stayed Friends; he always came looking for me no matter what shithole I may've been living in at the moment. He's also rescued me from real shitty shooting galleries. Whenever I went missing my mom or DearOldDad sent lil Dick to go find me. He has that way of being able to get in to places not open to others and learn things from people they wouldn't share with others.
I know he disapproves of my drug use but it never drove a wedge between us. Whether I was 2 days out of detox or completely deep into a drug mission, he treated me the same. He would ask, "You using?" and I would tell him the truth. Sometimes the answer is "Yeah" or "Bad" and occasionally it was even "No." No matter what my answer was I got the same expressionless nod and that was the end of that topic. For an addict you cannot imagine how comforting that attitude is from a non-user.
The same is true with my zaniness, or more correctly mental illness. I don't hide it from him. He's seen the cuttings that litter my arms and he'll ask, "Fresh?" If I only nod my head or explain the whole thing to him makes no difference to him as long as I'm honest, which I always am. Having ridden along on my rollercoaster of bi-polar, he's seen the extreme highs and utmost lows and their sudden shifts. I'm diagnosed with Broad Spectrum Bi-Polar with psychotic features. This means I run the gamut from where my highs and lows are soft and gradual to where I display true Manic-Depressive, where I'm happy, happy, joy, joy and three hours later suicidal. Reading me he'll simply ask, "Up?" or "Down?"; asking am I building up to my manic phase or descending down to my depressive state. I think he has never asked me if I'm taking my meds -- making him the only person I know who hasn't.
Yet there is one subject where lil Dick is not allowed to be silent or answer in monosyllables. That subject is his love life and his latest girlfriend. After the third date (or sooner) I must meet her. We have been doing this for so long (over ten years) that he knows the routine. It's my turn to ask, "So?" and get the whole and complete story. If one of us doesn't like the other's newest partner that's enough; it means I have to find a new one (or he does). We trust each other's judgment that completely. I've broken up with guys I thought I was in love with because lil Dick gave me that scowl.
It was with great fear when I introduced HarleyQuin to him. I love HarleyQuin like the dickens, but she is so opposite me or my past partners. I feared he would look at that and give a head shake that says 'No Dink, this is not the one.' Imagine the relief I felt when he gave me that approving smile or when his Hercules sized body engulfed the 5'4 125lbs HarleyQuin in a hug!
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for lil Dick, there isn't anything I wouldn't tell him, and there are no secrets between us. This may sound crazy but if he told me he needs to kill someone the only thing I would do is try to figure out a way of how We could do it without getting caught.
The same is true is for my other Friend. We've never called each other best friends, bff's or any of that dumb shit. We never had to because from the beginning it was obvious to everyone, and still is.
Again I'm not sure how Gina and I became Friends. I do know it happened sometime in elementary school, maybe third or fourth grade. We're the same age, but we were Friends before we ever had any classes together; and once we started having classes together the teacher usually regretted it. And that was our earliest bond, I was her and she was me and we were the Masters of Disasters.