I recently fell into a conversation with two people who were discussing the difference between friend and acquaintance. Until I listened to them, I would have referred to both of them as friends – but now I see the distinction.
Googling friend turns up a definition of “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.” Right away I balked at this because I count my stepdaughters as friends, beyond our familial relationship.
One person in the conversation said he had friends, but he also had acquaintances – and I am an acquaintance, but not a friend of his, despite us knowing each other well enough to have exchanged greetings for years. Google defines acquaintance as “someone recognized by sight or someone known, though not intimately . . . casual . . . .” He also classified the other conversationalist as an acquaintance, to which she disagreed and fought for a closer designation, such as buddy. (I’m definitely an acquaintance, and not a friend or even a buddy, of his.)
Decades ago I met a happy man – he sang at weddings, he loved his wife, he and his neighbor had keyed their house locks alike. He told me he had five friends on whom he could count for anything. I’ve never forgotten him. I know a few single people who have built a tribe in lieu of traditional family and view them as fortunate beings, with a tightknit network of friends on which to lean in difficult times.
Since Rick’s death my friends and acquaintances have shifted like the desert sands. Some have blown away of their own volition; others I’ve jettisoned. I’m thrilled with those who remain and who I’ve found. In earlier years, I am not certain I knew anyone who was a close enough friend on whom I could count for anything – maybe for some things that didn’t interrupt/disrupt others’ lives perhaps – but not like that fortunate, happy man. Today, I have a few woman friends (including stepdaughters: see second paragraph above) on whom I could call 24/7 for help or even just an ear. There is a new man in my life who is developing into a constant, supportive presence, too.
I’ll take my friends with gratitude and look for more among my acquaintances.