Friends are sometimes ephemeral, sometimes reliable, generally amusing and hopefully sympathetic. Actually, friends can be a lot of surprisingly different things, from truthful and kind and absolutely selfless to manipulative and needy and dishonest. Some might disagree, and say that they’re not really your friend if they’re manipulative and so on, but I usually consider those people to be wrong. Human relationships are odd things – it’s often difficult to understand the varying relationships of the people around you, precisely because they’re so complicated and individual. I’ve had friends I didn’t like much because circumstances dictated we should be friendly. We weren’t close, of course, but in most senses of the word we were friends. We did things together, we laughed, we shared things, and then behind each others’ backs we complained and whined and that was that. We had to be friends, so we were.
I’ve also had friends who I did really like, wonderful, amazing friends, who were nonetheless dishonest or unfeeling or insensitive or careless. In one sense, it’s a little like having a friend who’s really bad at maths. It’s pretty damn irritating that when you go out, she can never get the right change ready or whatever else, but you can deal with it, and try and help them. You don’t just declare them a complete waste of your time. So if you have a friend who’s mostly quite alright, and who you get on with, then sometimes you can just put up with the way they tend to point out flaws or remind you of things you’d rather forget. Obviously you’d be happier if they didn’t do that, but life isn’t about ideal situations. As I’ve said before, it’s about compromise.
I’ve been forced over and over to make new friends because I’m constantly moving around, and I really, truly think I value friendships very highly. In fact, though this could simply be a result of my unfortunate tendency to believe myself superior to others, I think I might often value friendships more highly than the average, random young person. And while I half-jokingly attribute that to wanting to be special, I do think it’s more likely just because of the way I’ve been raised and my own personality. I’m not particularly at ease with large groups of people. I move around all the time, and I want friends who I can talk to 3 months after I last saw them and still have the same or at least a similar relationship with as when I saw them every day. I understand why other people prefer to have many friends, because I observe it around me a lot, and I have no problem with it. That’s wonderful, if that’s what they want and what they have. I just don’t want it for myself. And that means that I also tend to have quite selective criteria when it comes to finding a friend from the masses of humanity that I am forced to engage with, and thus often take rather a while to settle in to a new place, and find myself new friends.
Which leads me, of course, to what those criteria might be.
I don’t pretend to have some careful list detailing the exact attributes I require – that’s obviously quite foolish. But there are many things that I look for – I have to be able to respect them, for one. As I get older, I do seem to be getting more accepting, but I have limits, and while I do my utmost best to never change my treatment of people – it is my aim to be perfectly polite to everyone, unless of course they do something directly rude or cruel – I still don’t think there’s any reason I have to make them my friend and confidantes.
But one of the most important things in a friend, to me, is that they entertain me, and keep me happy. Honestly, as far as I can tell, that’s the main reason we have friends. It’s certainly the main reason I have friends. I want people who make me laugh, and stop me from being bored on a 2 hour train trip, and that’s probably how I judge how well I’m friends with people. When we laugh often, and I don’t feel uncomfortable, like I’m faking it, or like I’m overeager for friends, I feel secure in my relationships.
I don’t mind a bit of dishonesty or selfishness. I would far far rather my friends weren’t selfish or dishonest, but I try to be a realist. No one is perfect. I’m not. It would be odd for someone as imperfect as me to always have perfect friends, wouldn’t it? And I’m dishonest sometimes too. I lie because I’m a private person and don’t want to share everything about myself. I imagine my friends do too. Same goes for being selfish, or rude, or insensitive, or lots of other things. Sure, I want my friends to be honest and kind and sympathetic and selfless and caring and all these positive qualities. But most of all, I want them to make me happy, to make me laugh, to cheer me up when I’m sad. The kind of friends you can enjoy yourself with in imperfect situations, like when it’s raining and everywhere is closed and you end up in the cold wet park but it’s OK, because you’re with your friends and you can laugh about it tomorrow over hot chocolate in the warm.
I want friends who make me laugh.
That’s what I value most.