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What About Your Friends?

Diriye Osman

My beloved friend Isabel is my definition of a superhero. Eighty-something young, she is the most self-actualised human being I've ever met. Isabel goes to the gym several times a week, goes for long walks every day as a contemplative act as well as exercise, lives on her own, drives her own car, and has an active social life that would make most twenty-somethings salivate with envy.

I call Isabel almost every day and we shoot the breeze, talking about everything and nothing. Even though she's not a didactic person, Isabel subtly encourages me to be my wildest, most inventive self.

On numerous occasions we've talked about what constitutes friendships, and the difference between friends and acquaintances. Isabel laid it down for me, politely but firmly, saying that over the course of her long, fruitful life, she's had hundreds of acquaintances - people she meets up with for coffee, and interacts with on a social level - but she's only ever had a handful of friends; her reasoning being that proclamations of friendship shouldn't be handed out willy nilly, that 'true friends' are simply friends, and everybody else falls into the acquaintanceship bracket.

There's a wonderfully straightforward through line to this thinking, and it got me contemplating the ephemeral nature of friendships in the digital age, and the language that accompanies said friendships.

Young folks are quick to call one another 'bestie' on the internet whilst knowing nothing about said bestie. This is not an original thought, just an observation.

A psychologist called Daniel Marston, who specialises in supporting autistic people and folks with borderline personality disorders — individuals who generally struggle in terms of sustaining friendships — came to the conclusion that one doesn't really need friends.

He posited that even though we're a social species, understanding the fact that we don't need friends is a psychological salve that can make us all feel slightly less alone in the world.

And isn't that what this grand experiment, this business of living, is all about, in large part? To feel less alone in the world?

I'm far from a fully self-actualized individual, but I'm clambering up the mountain one inch at a time, and part of the joy of this experience is to reach out to others with arms outstretched in love, and connect either digitally or in real life.

I'm here for all of it.

I send nothing but love and wondrous energy, beautiful reader.



Song of the moment: 'A Telephone Call Away' by GEORGE BENSON and LALAH HATHAWAY


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