My father-in-law once said, “The one thing you can’t make more of is old friends.” This was said in response to my pointing out that he was groaning about an impending visit from one of the same. The implications were that even though you may not have anything in common with a person any more, nor particularly look forward to seeing them, your shared history made them a forever friend. I’m not convinced.
When I complained about a friend who regularly made me sad and couldn’t commit to getting together, another friend said, “I tell my little girl that friends are nice to us and make us happy. Is she really your friend?” According to my father-in-law, the answer is yes.
And what about frenemies? According to Urbandictionary.com, the winning definition is, “An enemy disguised as a friend.” But I prefer this one (copied with all its grammatical warts):
The type of “friend” whose words or actions bring you down. (whether you realize it as intentional or not) The type of friend you ought to cut off but don’t cuz…they’re nice… good …you’ve had good times with them.
I had a very close friend in college; I’ll call her X. She was fiercely loyal to her friends and expected the same in return. The tiniest slight, perceived or otherwise, and she would cut you off and never look back. We remained close after she transferred to finish college in New York and through the years that followed.
During college, X. and I were thoroughly wrapped up in the underground rock and roll scene. It was the late seventies and punk rock ruled. Between The Rat in Kenmore Square in Boston, and CBGB’s in the Bowery in New York, it’s a wonder that either of us managed to graduate. But graduate we did, and then began the laborious process of growing up, building careers, and going to bed before 3am.
She came to visit me after I bought my first house. I was thirty, a responsible grown-up with a job and a mortgage. After admiring my home and catching up, she excused herself to go to the bathroom. When she’d been gone for a while, I tapped on the bathroom door and called, “X? Are you okay?”
She opened the door and I saw works on the bathroom sink. She had just finished shooting up in my bathroom.
I don’t remember the rest of that day, but sometime later X. sent me a card asking why she hadn’t heard from me in a while. I responded honestly with a letter about how sad I was that she was indulging in self-destructive behaviors, and how I thought she needed help. I told her I missed her, and would welcome her back whenever she was ready. She must have considered that disloyal because I never heard from her again.
I think about X from time to time. Sometimes I miss her. She was nice to me and made me happy. By one of the definitions above, that made her my friend, but was she also a frenemy? Her behavior wasn’t hurting me, although it did bring me down. At my age, someone I met in college constitutes an old friend, but if they stopped speaking to me along the way they probably don’t qualify.
I’m going to work on a word for someone you’re fond of that probably doesn’t care if you’re still alive. Suggestions welcome.