I've been reading In The Event of My Untimely Demise by Brian Sack, a humorous collection of essays on what essential tidbits of wisdom he would like to pass along to his son. It's not exactly appropriate for a son under the age of 18 but it's still quite funny. I just finished a chapter on friends that had some distinctions that appealed to my "MUST CATEGORIZE" brain and, being in great need for blog material, thought I would share. I shall paraphrase and quote wreckless abandon, often without the use of those pesky quotation marks.
Friend: The title of friend should be earned. You are comfortable around a true friend with no need for posturing or pretending. They know your strengths as well as your weaknesses and haven't run away screaming. You can trust a true friend to watch your house and not steal from it. You can tell them secrets that will be kept. There is minimal B.S. You can tell them why you don't want to go out without making something up and though they may try a bit to get you to still go out they will accept your ultimate decision. They will answer honestly if "this makes my butt look big" or tell you if you have bed hair or forgot your pants. If you ask a friend to "drive 1,100 miles in a muffler-less Yugo to staple a banana to a light pole", and you really honestly need them to do it, they will. Friends can stop by unannounced and you're happy to see them and friends will be eager to help you move. You always take their phone calls. True friendships can survive long distances and lengths of time with no contact and when contact is made again it will seem as if no time has passed.
Associates are much like friends - you go out to dinner with them, share some secrets, attend events. They know who you've dated but not necessarily which ones broke your heart. They probably don't have copies of keys to your house. If one of you moves away there's a good chance that you'll trade sporadic phone calls and e-mails but "the relationship will slowly crumble like Soviet-era cement. They might stop by unannounced, which can bother you." When asked the "big butt" question your answer might depend on your mood instead of the truth. Sometimes when an associate calls you'll check your caller ID and not pick up. They might not jump with joy to help you move. You have fun with associates, sometimes a lot of fun, but it's on a different level than a true friend. Associates are "important parts of the friend spectrum, offering many of the perks of true friendship but without requiring the same kind of commitment."
The lowest form is People of Convenience. If you have an extra ticket to some event and you can't decide whether to invite Grover or go by yourself, Grover is a person of convenience, the "no-frills airlines of friendship: they're handy but usually not for the long haul." They are easily replaced and habitually forgotten ("Oh, I was supposed to call him yesterday.") When people of convenience invite you to things you have to think about it and weigh your options. They are great in groups of other People of Convenience but one on one you might find them annoying or dull.
Sack writes lots other things about friendships, such as how they can cross various social barriers and how it's possible to move from one strata to another, etc, etc but it was interesting to me because in my social awkwardness/retardation (and yes, I really did read "Social Etiquette for Dummies" and it was too advanced) I tended to rate people a step higher than they should be. This chapter helped open my eyes and explain a lot of the puzzled reactions I received in my past from people, why person X wasn't so happy for me to drop by even though I would have been pleased as punch for them to drop by my house (but they never did), or why I would be willing to take a day off of work to help person Y but person Y wasn't willing to take even an hour away from his family on a weekend to hang out.
A final "take away" is that friendship is about chemistry - you can't force it.
Veddy veddy interestink. I can't wait to read the chapter on Self Defense!