Thursday, October 20, 2011

Friendship: Guest Post #3

I’m continuing to explore the theme of friendship with the help of some writer friends. Friendship is a central theme in the story I’m working on right now. If you'd like to chime in on the theme or have something to say regarding friendship please feel free to comment.

My next guest blogger is Margaret Fortune, a writing friend from Agent Query Connect. She’s uber-talented as a writer, a detailed critic as a beta reader, and I like her grounded style of expressing herself.  In her own words: “After graduating with a BA in psychology from the University of Minnesota, Margaret Fortune took up writing as a way to pass the time while job hunting. As it turned out, she enjoyed the writing far more than the job hunting, and has been writing ever since. She currently works at an e-commerce firm where she answers customer service emails, and her short fiction is forthcoming in Nth Degree. Her best friend is a four and a half foot tall stuffed giraffe named Freckles, so clearly she's well qualified to blog about friendship.”

I think we've all heard the phrase, "The More the Merrier!" at one time or other. But is this really true when it comes to friends, or is sometimes more just...well, more?

Not that long ago, a guy who I'd never seen before came up to me at work and said, "Hey, if you'll take the rest of my shift tonight, I'll be your best friend forever." there's a proposition I'd never heard before.
And so I looked at him, this guy whose name I didn't even know, and you know what I said? I said, "Well, I don't even know you. Maybe I don't want you to be my friend. Maybe you're one of those creepy, clingy people that bother you all the time and never go away."

Yes, I actually used the word “creepy.” As you may have guessed, I don’t have a lot of friends.

Well, as you have probably figured out, Nameless Guy and I did not become best friends forever. What can I say? He had a creepy, clingy sort of look to him, and besides, it was a Friday night.

So, are more friends better? To fairly consider this question, I think you first have to decide just what constitutes a friend. Is the creepy, clingy guy at work whose shift you took your friend? What about that nice girl you always talk to in yoga class, but have never gotten around to having coffee with? Are those fifty-thousand Facebook friends really your bosom buddies, or are they simply fifty-thousand people whose only similarity to you is a penchant for hanging out on the computer 24/7 and a compulsion to report all the big events in their lives, like when they eat a ham sandwich or feed the fish?

We all have different definitions about just what constitutes a friend, and in the same way we all have different needs when it comes to how many is the right amount. For some, one or two best friends, people who have known us our whole lives or understand us as if they have, is the right number. For others, those who thrive on getting to know and being around other people, that huge circle of friends and acquaintances may be just what they need.

Which brings me to a few questions: how well do you know your friends? How well do you have to know someone to consider them a friend? Have you ever claimed someone as a friend, and then found out they didn’t see you the same way, or vice versa?

I live in a city of approximately sixty-five thousand people, and whenever my mom and I go out somewhere together, we are always stopped at least once by someone who wants to say hello…to my mother. If we do not run into at least one person she knows, or who knows her, I always start wondering if maybe we walked into a parallel universe and just didn’t notice.

My mom always greets these people back with the abandonment of a long-lost twin sister, and it’s only after they part ways that she will suddenly reveal, “I have no idea who that person was.”

Clearly friendship isn’t always felt equally on both sides, and one person’s fond acquaintance may be the other’s “huh?” moment of the day. Which brings me to another question: does your number of friends determine your degree of friendship? Does having a lot of friends mean that your relationships will, of necessity, be more shallow? Does having few friends mean that you’ll prize each friendship all the more?

When it comes down to it, we all have to find that magic number for ourselves. If you’re feeling lonely, maybe it’s time to ask that girl from yoga class out to coffee. If you feel overextended, like you can’t even keep up with all the friends you do have, perhaps it’s okay to let yourself drift apart from a few of those far-flung acquaintances.   

Maybe you can count your friends on one hand. Then again, maybe you can’t count all the friends you have even if you take off your shoes and socks. But whichever it is, in the end is it really so much about quantity as it is about quality? I leave that to you to decide.

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