The Definition of a Friend
I googled friend today. And Google told me that the definition of a friend is:
1. a person who one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations
2. a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a Quaker
1. add (someone) to a list of contacts associated with a social networking website.
"I am friended by 29 people who I have not friended back"
Umm, thanks Google. I think. Wish I had googled this years ago when I gave a toast at my friend Kelly’s wedding. It would have been so much more...accurate.
"To Kelly - the person with whom I have had a bond of mutual affection for years, and, uh, not in a sexual or family relation way, and also not just because we're Quakers. Which we're not. Here, here!!"
As for social networking...well, you know what you've done! You, social network, have single-handedly downgraded the word "friend" to that of a well-worn, meaningless, ego-driven verb.
"Would you friend me on Facebook so that you can learn to love me through my posts about working out, the funny things my kids say, and my favorite dinner? Plus, also, you'll get to see close-ups of me ONLY from my good side while standing in different places. It is sure to be a great friendship!"
I think it's actually quite challenging to come up with a single definition of a friend. But when I googled inspirational sayings about "friends," I found loads of pictures of kittens in various states of happiness. Kittens snuggling with each other, or with a newborn, or cuddling with large vicious-looking dogs or gorillas. So I wonder, in my friendships, am I the kitten or the gorilla?
Fifteen years ago I was a bride in white arranging flowers, making critical decisions between two disturbingly similar shades of cream, and choosing a capped-sleeved bridesmaid dress in pastel green. To this day, one memory stands out. Other than marrying the love of my life, of course.
It’s this. My friend, Taryn. Taryn, who has particular aversions. Like shredded meat, Broadway musicals, swim goggles, and anything that limits her physical movement. Like capped sleeves on a pastel green bridesmaid dress.
The idea of Taryn wearing fabric across her upper arms…two pieces of fabric designed to give the wearer a beautiful neckline, but ultimately, with the unintentional side effect of severely restricting upper arm movement. Today, thinking of the hours spent posing for pictures, walking down the aisle, dancing, arms mummified to her sides throughout it all, and knowing that inside, and not even deep inside, she was probably panicking and using early stage labor breathing to deal with her rising hysteria…well now, that’s what Google would call a true “bond of mutual affection.”
Friendship is this and so much more. It really can’t be captured in a single definition or event because it is layer upon layer of capped sleeves, honesty, forgiveness, laughter, tears, encouragement, embarrassments, sacrifice, and shared time.
Being a friend is not about the number of phone calls, texts, emails or Facebook comments we make. Those are just the icing. The cake part is the sincerity, the joy we feel at a friend’s success, the sadness we share at a failure. It is the ability to truly want the best that life has to offer for another person, a person who is (now I get it Google) outside of our blood-ties or our marital bed.
So, why am I all concerned about Google's opinion on friends? Well, school has started. Which means my kids have left the safe cocoon of home where family ties are strong and forgiveness comes easy. They have been thrust back onto the playground where everyone is learning how to navigate the tricky world of social interaction. So I am taking the time to think about the people in my life who have taught me how to be a true friend. And I will share these stories, these friend definitions, with my kids, in the hopes that one day, they will wear capped sleeves for someone else.
(Psst...share your friend definitions with me. I'd love to hear more!)