I can´t tell you very much about Arthur. His older sister Amber was my older sister´s best friend, and his older brother Jonathan was my own older brother´s best friend. Our families seemed to possess an inherent symmetry of friendship, thus it was only natural that I felt Arthur was my own best friend. After all these years, what I remember vividly was that when his mother threatened him with a swat on the behind, he had the temerity to dodge her, while I, on the other hand, would stand and accept whatever punishment was coming my way. Decades have passed since we last evaded corporal punishment or constructed a Lincoln Log fort on the living room floor, yet I still recall him fondly.
Today, my relationship to friends is very different. I have many, yet I have few, and I´m not sure to which friendship I might refer to in the superlative as being the “best.” How do we even define what a friend is, anyway? One response to that question I once heard is that if you´re at the airport, and you see someone you know, would you go out of your way to get their attention and to say hello? Still, even that explanation falls short for me – when is my flight, and am I in a social mood? When did I see them last? How much of a surprise is it to see one another?
I imagine that many people have bosom buddies; others with whom they chat on the phone, or meet up with at least every week. In this regard, I´m deficient. I don´t have that friend – or if I do, it isn´t for years upon end. And when I think about those people that DO have such friendships, I conclude that we´re a little different. They are like farmers in neighboring properties, that whenever they can, they come together and break bread and share stories, and endeavor to do so frequently.
Me? I´m a bit more like a goat herder, who is out in the hills for long periods of time, alone with my work. When I do get together with old acquaintances, it´s like yesterday, and we pick up where we left off. Perhaps it´s a part of the difference in being, mildly, an introvert. I need that time to recharge. But I cherish that time I share with the people I love.
For many years, I was in digital marketing, and knee deep in social media marketing in particular. Part of my life, then, was going to various events and conferences around the world, where quite often, I would meet up again with the friends I´d so often come to know at other conferences. We shared stories about our lives and our families, and catch up on the big news of the day with one another, and then go our ways. I don´t think it made us less genuine in our affection for one another in whichever way that can be measured – it´s just that, perhaps, we were all goat herders in our way.
All of these thoughts have come about because someone recently asked me about my friends. I´ve moved to another country, a country, no less, in which social and family ties are paramount. In this age of Facebook, I´m able to keep up with the comings and goings of all those friends back in my previous home, and I´m able to foster new friendships here.
Montaigne wrote of a sort of total friendship that was unique, almost more of a marriage than a marriage itself, saying that “each one gives himself so entirely to his friend, that he has nothing left to distribute to others.” This doesn´t ring true for me; I don´t think a large network of friends is any less than Montaigne´s idea of a one-on-one relationship.
Perhaps this whole idea of a “best friend” is a cultural construct – or perhaps we people are just of different sorts – farmers and goat herders. Or perhaps it´s bound to be different in different times in life. I was married for over 25 years, and in that time, I can easily say that my wife was my best friend. Different types of relationships for different parts of life.
I have friends that are far away, in both distance and time, and friends near at hand; friends with whom I´ve bickered with, or loved; shared experiences and dreams. I think of you, all.
Very nicely written. For me best friends are a collection. Someone at play, someone at work, at home…but is that what I should be calling best friend? I still search for the answer. 🙂
Loved reading your piece.
Thanks so much, Sanjay, for the lovely comment, and for sharing on Twitter. Much appreciated. Hopefully will someday visit your part of the world!
Blair Glaser says
However you see your friends, whatever place you put friendship in your life: You are missed. Thanks for this lovely musing and window.
Can´t tell you how much it means to hear from you,Blair. Yeah – you´re one of those people, for sure, that when I see again, it´s like slipping back into a lovely place. Big hug to you and Aaron.
Renee Martinez says
I think of this from time to time as well and also view friends as collections from different times and places in my life journey. Best friends on the other hand, while they also represent various times in my life, the term “best” suggests that I shared a deeper connection on some level and therefore it’s a term I wouldn’t typically use frivolously. In fact, regardless of how long it’s been since last communicating with a “best” friend, I find that reconnecting often feels as comfortable as it did when our lives last collided. I suppose, that’s how best friends should be.