Sunday, October 23, 2011

Friends-- How many do we need?

Instead of a regular Sunday Salon post these week, I want to talk a bit about friends.These days it is fashionable to have lists of "friends" everywhere. There are friends we've never met, friends of friends who become our "friends", people who think we're "friends" because we met at the bus stop or the checkout line at the grocery, stores where we shopped who claim we're now their "friends" just because somewhere we said we "liked" them, and pop stars who claim us as their "friends" because we once bought a ticket to one of their movies or concerts, lots of people we barely know (if at all!) who have "friended" us to be able to keep track of our lives, and often, to intrude on them.  The word has lost its meaning and is being used in place of acquaintance, colleague, associate, or simply contact when it's used as a noun, and good grief - the trouble we find ourselves in when we convert that once meaningful noun to a verb!

On the other hand, those of us raised in more traditional (some say uptight times?) still lean to the definition found in The Oxford English dictionary:
a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations
 Or Webster's definition:
One who entertains for another such sentiments of esteem, respect, and affection that he seeks his society and welfare; a wellwisher; an intimate associate;
Last week, when we visited Florida for a few days, I was reminded of what the real meaning of the word  is. We had the beautiful and all too rare experience of being able to spend an entire day with two very very dear friends, whom we've known since 1969. As often happens with military folks, our friends are torn from us time and again; but time and again, we find a way to stay in touch, to meet up, to share not just memories but dreams, not just successes but aches and pains, accomplishments and sorrows.

Spending time looking back on our shared memories, filling each other in on family members, jobs finished, ongoing projects, unmet expectations, dashed dreams, exciting new adventures, and the pros and cons of living in opposite extremes of the weather this country has to offer, we found ourselves talking about BOOKS. In fact, we spent hours lingering over a wonderful lunch sitting on the deck by the inter-coastal waterway in St. Augustine watching water birds pull fish out of the water, and talking about all the different books and writers we'd discovered since the last time we got together over two years ago. We left with promises to send longer lists to fill in what we shared that afternoon, and with the glorious elation that comes from knowing that our liberal arts educations were not wasted, and our aging brains were still capable of rational analysis, debate, and consensus.

I don't need a blog or Facebook, or twitters or tweets or MySpace, to stay in touch. These are people that we know will always be there for us and who understand who we are and what we are about. We may go months without hearing from them, but when one or the other calls, it's like we were never apart. Our shared lives are rich in the love and understanding we've had over the years, and that's what true friendship is all about. I'll never have to worry about being 'unfriended.'


  1. This is lovely. You're right that friends such as the ones you had the chance to catch up with are the best of all friends. We have friends like that too.

    Then, for me, there are my virtual friends like you and the other book bloggers I follow. Since I have been a caregiver, I'm relatively isolated, and these virtual friends, I sometimes think, are what keep me sane. There are many times virtual friends fill a great need and I'm grateful for them/you.

  2. Barbara, you are so right in your take on virtual friends. There are people like you, whom I've never physically met, that add so much to my life by dropping by to chat on a regular basis. I think of you as a friendly next door neighbor whose tea kettle is always on the boil, and who will always listen to my latest story, rant, or wishlist.

    In many ways, I think this building of good virtual relationships is going to be the key to keeping many of us from total isolation as we age and cannot travel or venture out as we used to when we were younger.

    You know....looks like we have a whole new post topic here. Hope your day goes well, and the sun is a shiny for you as it is for me today.

  3. I agree with Tina; these virtual friends bring us warmth when we are unable to get out and about.

  4. I will admit that there have been times in my life where my 'virtual' friends were lifesavers to me. Some of them became and stay 'real' life friends as well and have been a huge addition to my life.

    for those of us ...waving my virtual arm madly...who are shy and rather introverted and, quite honestly, have a limit on the need for interpersonal interaction (ok, I will stop before I come across as too totally weird) it is a grand outlet and way to share interests with others.

    within limits...I do not think all those folks on Facebook and I are too close. :-)


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