Friends come in all shapes and sizes

Friend, buddy, chum, pal. They are just words, not instant summaries. I started counting up different types of people I like in different ways, and got bogged down. They can’t all fall under the same umbrella word ‘friend’, can they?

I’ve been on a singles website for nearly two years because it has a lively blogging facility  roll eyes and have got to know some people really well, to the point where we chat almost on a daily basis. I’ve never met them, probably never will meet them, although I would go out of my way to have a drink or a coffee together if the chance ever came up. Virtual friends, oh yes, but it’s hard to hide behind the written word for that long without exposing fatal flaws.

I follow, and am followed by, hundreds of people on Twitter – I’ve met, hmm, about twenty of them, a fluctuating group of us meet up several times a year, always fun. Friends.

I have friends on Facebook – some genuinely are, scattered all over the world, we often haven’t seen each other in years and may never meet again, but we share news and photos. Some are colleagues from earlier jobs, and some are writers I may one day meet. Facebook calls them all friends.

One penpal, a writing contact, has been a great friend and support, yet we’ve never met and will never meet. ‘Penpal’ doesn’t begin to cover it!

Real life, a handful.  Very highly valued. It’s easy to find out who’s a true friend – screw up, or go through a challenging time, then see who sticks around.  Okay, easy isn’t the right word. But definitely interesting!

Yet what is a person who is entertaining, amusing, but ducks out whenever they have something more interesting on, or you aren’t as much fun as usual? When you are back to yourself, there they are, entertaining and charming, fair-weather friends who can make the sunshine seem brighter, but you can’t rely on them the way you can on a real friend.

My books are about friendship, but it tends to be the tried-and-true type. There is a place for these others because they are in my life, and in yours too. What do YOU call the different types?


The best friend question

Regular readers of the blog know that I joined a singles website a few months ago to do some research. I’ve hung up my research cape and boots but the website I chose has a fairly active blogging section and some are really interesting.

I was totally taken aback, though, by an exchange I saw on one of them, written by a bloke who sent out a whole bunch of eflowers to make new contacts. One response was from a woman who said she had received an eflower a week ago and the man who sent it was now her best friend. Say what? I read it again. Best friend. In a week. She hadn’t met him, they had exchanged messages and then talked on Skype, and he was her best friend.

Has the meaning of ‘best friend’ changed? My daughter, when about ten, told me she had fifteen best friends. No, no, I said, you have fifteen friends, which is your best one? She looked at me as though I was deficient (ah, that look mothers so love) and told me they all were.

Maybe I should have asked which was her BFF. That used to puzzle me, too, aren’t best friends ipso facto  best friends forever? My best friend and I have known each other since we were obnoxious spotty schoolgirls. We live in different countries now, don’t talk that often on the phone (but never for less than an hour when we do) and meet up every few years. I can tot up my real friends without taking off my socks, and I still think I am rich. Edge and Vivian, in my books, have been friends since childhood and now are fellow residents at Grasshopper Lawns, but had also kept their friendship going during long separations in different countries. Staying power, to me, is as important as shared interests, laughter and support.

The thing is, there were lots of comments on that particular blog on the website and the general consensus was that someone you were attracted to, and could talk to for hours on end, was an immediate best friend. If you really struck lucky, your love interest as well (although maybe that takes two weeks. Nobody said.)

So tell me, what is a best friend?  I’m a writer, I need to know these things.