Over the Hills and Far Awry

2/21/05 by oldestgenxer

So. . .....

I turned 40 the other day. I now have a perfect right to have a full-blown mid-life crisis, as well as a colon exam. Prostate, too. Two birds with one hole, you know?

My family had a surprise birthday party for me, which I knew about. HOW can I be scheduled OFF on a SATURDAY in the restaurant biz and pretend not to know why? I played along, although several ideas came to mind. I thought of throwing a fit and leaving, just to fuck with them. Or not even showing up at the appointed time, and then calling from a payphone somewhere to tell them my car broke down, and then not being there when they come to get me. Or just going to a strip club, because I have never been. Yeah, I'm like that.

[And by the way, getting a man a garage door opener for his birthday is very much like getting a woman a microwave oven. "But we need one." Yes, I know. But I don't. I would have much prefered a table saw. Or a router. Or a combination table saw/router. The difference is subtle, I know. The difference between what I want and what I need. I need a salad. I want a steak.]

But at my party, it was all family. And not even MY family, but my wife's. And after all this time, I know them pretty well, but it was oddly like being a stranger at my own birthday party. My friends are mostly in the same field that I am in, and so how are they going to get a Saturday off on short notice? That is my life, by the way: nights and weekends I work.

So I started thinking about my friends. All of them. From growing up, to high school, to college, to post-college, to work, up to now. And what is a friend? Here's the thing: I don't mean the close ones, the ones that the smchaltzy Hallmark cards are written for. What I mean is, what separates a friend from an acqaintance? What are the categories, or levels, of friend?

Well, I had time to think about it, and I'd like to ask you all how you feel about this. I have discerned five categories. I originally had 8 or 9, but I consolidated some of them, because, although different, they were on the same level.

I am especially curious about how women view this. One thing that sticks in my mind is the cover of a Cosmo that I saw probably over ten years ago. I didnt read it, of course, but it just said "Why Men Don't Have Real Friends." It sounds exactly like the kind of crap that a women's magazine that doens't know anything about men would write. But it does show that men and women view friendship differently. One of my best friends is a woman, which my wife had a hard time with for a few years. But unless you are some kind of social freak, you probably only have less than 6 really, really close friends. The "Best" friend.

Okay, so here are the categories, tell me if this is right:

I Best friend --The one you can call in the middle of the night, and they come running. Must be reciprocal. One of you has to bury a body, you don't ask questions, you just help.

II Close friend/friend in family-- I know Keri may wince at this, but some of us have close family. My wife has NO friends, but her best friend is her daughter. I have become really close with my dad after I grew up (still taking place) I had a cousin or two that I hung around with alot as we were growing up. A good friend, but not a "best" friend.

III Friend--One step up from the next level down. These are the ones that you might get together and drink beer with, or invite over for a BBQ, or a rave. They are one step up because they are defined by that, as someone you see socially outside of that initial environment.

IV Opportunity-specific Friend--Friend from work, or church, or school, or carpool. You know lots of people in these situations, but these are the ones you seek out, or look forward to seeing. Once you agree to meet outside of that, generally they move up to the next level. Is internet friend on this? Is that what we all are? Are we friends? I was feeling a little insecure. I need daily affirmation.

V Acquaintances, coworkers, business associates--People you know, chat with, make idle converstion with. Very rarely share personal things, unless you are that kind, who must tell everyone everything about you. My advice is, shut up, they don't care.

I guess all these levels are dependant on how much sharing or personal information you do? I don't know, this is what I came up with. And friend-in-the-family is up near the top, because generally, if one of them needs to be bailed out of jail, you are the one they call. I wonder which nephew it would be? Scott? Or Matt?

I just had a Douglas Adams kind of thought: How close they are is directly related to how willing they would be to help you move, and in what order you would call them when you do move.

I just simplified my whole thesis.