Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. What could be better than eating a feast with people you love, and taking the time to express your gratitude? For many years, my small family has been spread out over three states. We don’t convene for Thanksgiving, so it has become a ritual for my partner and I to break bread with friends whom we consider to be family. It is always a heartfelt and gratifying experience.
When I was a kid I used to feel incredibly special, based on how many friends I had. I’m not sure exactly where this idea came from. I always tried to have at least five or six, and I considered them all to be my best friends. The life expectancy of these liaisons ranged from a couple of weeks, through an entire school year. I remember loving it when I could race home to tell my mom about my latest buddy. She was both patient and kind, and didn’t try to use the opportunity as a teaching moment. She listened to me and allowed room for the innocent joy that I felt.
As I grew older, it was useful for me to learn that life is filled with numerous types of friendships, each offering us different elements, equally valuable. There is a richness, a fullness to be had in the experience of diversity amongst friends. Because of the work of Terry Gorski, whom I was fortunate enough to see in person in the 1980’s, I was exposed to new perspectives about friendship and acquaintances. At first I found some of his views to be distasteful, if not altogether rude. It was from Gorski’s presentation that I discovered several clarifying and wise distinctions.
We all have acquaintances with whom we have honest, yet superficial relationships, such as with a waiter or waitress or someone we work with. We may enjoy the familiarity these relationships provide, such as when we go to our favorite restaurant and the server greets us by name, or when a co-worker remembers our birthday.
Companions are people we share activities with. If we call a companion and invite them to join us to go to a movie, and they are not interested, we might call someone else who is interested in the movie. In this case, the activity is more important than the person.
Friends are people who are more important than the activity. If we call them about seeing a movie and they don’t want to go, we opt for changing the activity because we want to be with our friend. We may go out for dinner instead. Friends are people we trust, people in whom we confide and perhaps seek advice.
Intimate friends are partners whom we trust deeply. We may share physical affection and sex in these relationships; typically these people become our partners, our boyfriends, our girlfriends, our husbands or wives.
It takes more than one person to meet all of our needs. It is rich and fulfilling to explore all that others offer. Enjoy the buffet!
_Cindy Davis is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor.
She was an advice columnist for the Times-News, and is also a PFLAG Board Member.
Watch for Cindy's column each month on our Newsletter