We absolutely need a new word to replace “friend.” Several words, actually. Maybe hundreds. Somehow, we have about 500 words that refer to coitus and 275 for breasts and about 950 for men’s, um, lower brains, but we use the same term for a person we would die for as we apply to a bot on Facebook.
This is crazy. Every so often someone comes up with a modifier like friends with benefits, or bff, but mostly we use the word “friend” as a generic reference to any humanoid we have ever met, even if we know them only on social media. Or own them, as in “man’s best friend.”
I’ve always been very demanding of the word, which has led me to suggest that some people are acquaintances and not friends, but that always sounds like I’m rejecting them. And, based on my social skills, I’m not exactly in a position to reject anyone.
Still, it seems like there should be different terms to describe different types of relationships. Does anyone have a really good word that describes someone…
…you’ve known for a long time, but see seldom, and yet it’s always like you’re just picking up on an ongoing conversation every time you get together?
…you’ve known for a long time and see all the time, but you can never seem to get past the weather and traffic before running out of things to talk about?
…you know from work, or the neighborhood, and you’re okay with them on a short elevator ride, but you could not survive lunch with them?
…you knew in high school, or college, and you have nothing you can talk about other than “remember that time back in school?”
…you know only through connections on Facebook or LinkedIn or some other site that refers to everyone as friends, even though you have never met them IRL and they might actually be a Russian troll or, worse, a blogger?
…who is a parent of your kids’ friends, so you socialize with them a little bit while the kids are at Little League or the school play, but you don’t spend time together otherwise?
The list grows as I slice and dice the weird relationships I’ve established over the years and try to figure out what to call them. Perhaps I should refer to them as “friend-ish” or “future friends” instead. “Future friends” sounds much more hopeful and it would give them something to strive for, but only if they earn it. Of course, if they knew I was waiting for them to earn it, they might decide it’s not worth the effort…and they’d be correct.
Maybe my definitions are too strict and I should simply adopt the standard of calling everyone a friend unless they are actually convicted of trying to kill me. Maybe it’s time I make the switch from my Damon and Pithias standard to a less demanding Damon and Affleck.
That might be the safest course, since specificity is a double-edged sword. What if I think someone is a friend I would die for and she thinks I am good for a short elevator ride? What if I consider some guy a great pal and he thinks I should be a third-level contact on LinkedIn? If we used more specific words, those differences would be revealed and somebody—probably I—would end up in tears.
Hmmmm. I think I am beginning to understand why we can have nearly 3,000 synonyms for “drunk” and only one for people we have met. Maybe it’s much better this way.
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Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.