Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Friends With Benefits

Friend: –noun
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?

Of course, Facebook has turned the word into a verb, but I want to talk about the nouns. The people who can turn a crappy day into a good one with an email or a phone call or a spur or the moment invitation to lunch.

A good friend will listen to you whine (and then kick you in the butt when you've whined enough and help you fix the problem), loan you clothes, shoes, jewelry, whatever you need, help you pack and move, water your plants and pick up your mail when you're gone, read your latest masterpiece and be honest and drive you to the auto shop when you car's in for repair. A friend will also get up at 5 AM to take you to day surgery and then bring you back home and watch you drool in your drug-induced sleep. And they won't post photos on Facebook!

TV is full of famous pairs of friends -- Andy Taylor and Barney Fife, Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Starsky and Hutch, Mulder and Scully, Bert and Ernie. The movies have them too -- Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Bambi and Thumper, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Famous pairs appear elsewhere too -- Barbie and Ken, Barnes & Noble, Abercrombie and Fitch, Dolce and Gabbana, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, gin and tonic.

But there's more to friendship than borrowed jewelry and mail call. There's a big benefit from friends. "Feeling cared for and supported within a social network is particularly important for women in fostering self-care," says Todd Jackson, PhD, author of a 2006 study linking high levels of social support and community involvement with healthier diet, exercise and sleep habits, among other positive effects. A good friend will motivate you, support you and hold you accountable. They'll celebrate the most joyous of days with you and get you through the darkest times of your life.

I count the Playfriends among my dearest of friends. We've traveled together, roomed together, dealt with cut fingers and blown knees, helped each other move, advised about automobiles, insurance companies, plumbers and various other home repair situations. We survived the meth lab raid in the motel room next to ours, introduced Instigator to Krispy Kreme doughnuts (on the same trip as the meth lab raid), plotted books and accepted each other's quirks.

Oddly enough, my divorce has led me to a new group of great friends. We're all members of the Sisterhood of Divorcees and we've kept each other sane. These new sisters have been there to listen to me cry, they came to court with me so I'd have a friendly face in the courtroom and they've told me it's okay to be angry. Never once have they patted me on the knee and said "Just get over it," because they all understand you have to work through the pain, not skirt around it.

A world without friends would be a bleak world indeed, and I consider myself beyond blessed to have so many great friends.

Got friends? Tell me about them and one commenter will win a package of conference goodies and books from my stash.

And now my favorite "friend" song.


Liza said...

I have the best friends in the world. We met our freshman year in college(22 years ago) and have been friends every since. We all moved to the Nashville area so we could be close to one another after college. Been there through wedding, funerals, child birth, divorce, and anything and everthing in between. I know I could call on any of the other 7 women and they would be there in a hearbeat.

We call ourselves the Yaya and I know I'm blessed to have these women in my lives. Even have a big 40th birthday trip planned to Vegas. We all turn 40 this year and are doing it up right together in Sept.

Cheryl said...

I have friends, people who care and who listen to me whine. Yes, even stubborn, supposedly self-assured me whines and cries. Friends are what get you through it and help you make it to next day.

I have one very dear friend who has been with me for over twenty years. She is the one person I can tell about all my mistakes and my fears. AND not hear them repeated. She keeps me centered on what's important and agrees with me when I am on a rant. What more could you ask of someone? A friend is a rare commodity and one that should be treasured.

alinaduffer said...

I have three best friends. Michelle and I met when we were 6. Krista and I met when I was 7 and Kim and I met when I was 9. I turn 31 in a couple of weeks so yes I have known them most of my life. I know even though we live 2000 miles apart all three of them are there for me. They have all been there for me when I had my kids and visa versa, when my dad passed away they were there for me too. I am very blessed to have them all in my lives!

Have a wonderful day!!

runner10 said...

Great post! My mom and sisters are two of my best friends. I can always count on them for anything. I am lucky to have a husband who is a wonderful friend also.

Angel said...

True friends are something I've been very blessed with in my life. Even in the times I've felt very alone, I knew, deep down, love and support were only a phone call away in any of them.

The Playfriends are the best. One thing I find wonderful about our friendship is how different we are in personality, yet our core values are the same. We compliment each other, for lack of a better description. Love Y'all!!!

My other best friend is my mom. I can talk to her about anything, and she's been a rock of support for me this past year. I can only pray that one day I have the same type of relationship with my own daughter.

My twin sister too. Our relationship is different from any other in my life. We've always been together, and often feel the exact same way about things. I can't really describe it. Having an identical twin is a mixture of mirroring, rebellious independence, comfort, and closeness. See, told you I couldn't describe it well. :)


(and now I'll have the song from Toy Story stuck in my head all morning)

Jean Hovey said...

I read somewhere a long time ago that a true friend is someone who knows all about you and is still your friend. There are friends and there are what I think of of as friends of heart, who have withstood the test of time. Both are precious because the former can turn into the latter. Friends are the people you want to share your good news with; friends of the heart are the ones you call with your bad news.

Playground Monitor said...

Liza, how cool about the Vegas trip! Can I be your friend too?

Cheryl, I agree that true friends should be treasured.

Alina, isn't it great that between cell phones and the internet, that 2000 miles seems to disappear?

runner, I can count on my mom and sister too. They've been right there for me just as I am for them.

Angel, I *heart* you guys too! And I think you described the twin thing very well. I almost used a video clip of the song from Toy Story but went with James Taylor instead (who is going to be in Birmingham on May 24 by the way).

Jean, I've heard a true friend will also be right there with you in the jail cell saying, "Damn! That was fun!" I like your "friends of the heart" distinction.

Problem Child said...

"A good friend holds your hand while you cry. A true friend is standing there with a shovel demanding to know who is to blame for your tears."

RedPeril said...

I would say my hubby, I'd guess you're not really referring to that form of relationship with all of it's complicating responsibilities.

The second thought that comes to mind is my long-suffering mother. That sounds a little sad that my two best friends also happen to be bound to me by blood or legality. >.> Let me try again.

Okay, so I've never really connected well with the rest of humanity. I didn't keep in touch with the surface-level high school friends. I think it comes back down to that accountability thing. I don't feel close to anyone unless I can trust them to call me on it when I'm screwing up or being destructive...and who are willing to take it without offense when I love them enough to return the favor. Friends who can give AND take constructive counsel are few and far between. In the last few years, I've decided that they're a bit like an endangered species I have to deliberately hunt for. But it's been worth the effort.

Playground Monitor said...

PC, are you telling me you have a shovel? ~grin~

RedPeril, I think the absolute best friends in life ARE an endangered species and well worth the hunt. The surface level friends you mentioned seem to float away with the tide. If they were really important they'd have put down anchor (or we'd have done it for them).

Smarty Pants said...

PM, I think my old car still had mud from that shovel on the floorboard.

It takes me a while to make friends. I'm 'different' and most people don't know how to take me at first, but if you're willing to stick it out, you'll be rewarded. I have learned over time to tone myself down. You'll be surprised to know you're friends with the watered down SP.

Instigator said...

Friends are important, and I'm lucky to have some of the most wonderful women in my life. I'm with PC...the important thing is who is going to be there for you when you really need them? It's easy to be a friend when things are going well, when they aren't is when you find out who really cares about you.

Love you guys!!


Playground Monitor said...

Absolutely, Instigator. Who's going to be there when the weather isn't so fair? That's the friend you want.

You guys have been through a lot of rainy days with me.

Amanda said...

I love that James Taylor song. And I have a group of friends my age who are just the best. I'm divorced too and I swear they'd have done evil things to my ex if I hadn't stopped them. I didn't want them to have criminal records because of that jackass. We shop together, chat on Facebook, spend a long weekend in the mountains each spring, go see chick flicks and just generally make each other's lives better in the process.

You are indeed lucky to have such great friends.

catslady said...

I didn't meet my best friend until my youngest daughter was in brownies but as moms we clicked and our daughters too. I guess the best thing is just being there for each other and listening to our ups and downs. We help each other in many ways without even thinking about it. Last year her daughter tried to commit suicide when she was away and luckily I was able to take care of things for her and all ended well. She would have done the same for me.

Lois Sloan said...

I have been blessed to have several best friends. At this time in my life, I'm 82) my best friend is my daughter. I have always been her Mom but now we have become best friends. We communicate well, we love each other and respect each other. But one of the best things is we have laughter. I have only lived here in Huntsville 2 years so it is a blessing to live near my daughter, my friend.