I am not sure if I am a good friend. I am not sure what constitutes a good friend, or even a friend for that matter.
From childhood friends to Facebook friends, and work friends to frienemies, I feel like I am reading an IKEA instruction manual: looks so easy at the pictures, but you can not help but feel that you are missing something.
This whole subject started on a rather bleak afternoon, as I was freezing with a friend on a bench at Trafalgar Square, looking at people feeding pigeons, and children playing in the empty fountains. She told me she thought I have a lot of friends; I did not agree – I have a lot of acquaintances. When she shrugged, I asked her what constitutes a ‘friend’ to her: ‘well, if you do not have your wallet with you at Pret, they will lend you money for a sandwich, or if you are sad, they will try to cheer you up’.
That for me is not the definition of a friend, but of a human being. Behaving in a friendly way is not a sign of friendship, but of manners. Listening to someone or cheering them up is a natural part of the everyday, not a badge to be earned.
You see, I personally do not open up easily. I am friendly with everyone, but I would not necessarily consider them my friends. I seem to be a magnet for people on bus stops who want to escape their truth by sharing it; who want to share their problem at a party without wanting to hear a solution. To them, I am their friend. To me, they are people I know.
It is about what meaning we want to assign to the word ‘friend’. Are we expecting our friendship to be a snippet of a sitcom like FRIENDS, or One Tree Hill? Or are we realising that each person understands the title in his/her completely different way?
For me a friend is a person that you call when you don’t want to talk to anyone; a person that takes a chair next to you when the shit hits the fan; that will love you despite and because you are yourself; that is happy for your happiness, and sad for your sadness. A friend comes without an agenda: s/he loves and accepts you for who you really are, and not who you could be; someone you can co-exist with in an effortless way.
While I have more than 500 Facebook friends, I have no more than 5 true friends. People I call on my lunch break or amidst a breakdown; smiles that make me feel warm inside; memories of falling asleep together on uncomfortable flat-pack furniture, and discussing reality shows as if they were international NATO summits over rose tea and home-made cakes.
My point? The superficial is lovely (I am generally a big fan of it), but staying there is not the beginning or end of the world. Dig deeper, and you might find a human connection under the code that makes your like button.