Everybody knows that friendships are an essential part of a healthy, happy life; but in this age of Facebook, the word "friend" just ain't what it used to be. When I was growing up, only a small child would refer to someone they'd just met as a "friend"; nowadays, many of us have "friends" we've never actually met. But in a way, this redefinition of the word friend has highlighted a fact about friendship that has always been true: It is no one-size-fits-all affair. Yes, we all need that "BFF"* relationship, the one where you can pour your heart out and reveal your deepest darkest secrets and laugh, cry and stuff your face, all within the sanctity of a judgment-free zone. But just because all of our relationships don't meet this standard, it doesn't mean they are not friendships. It just means that the different people in our lives speak to different aspects of ourselves, and all of those aspects should be honored. Here are 10 kinds of friends I think everyone needs:
1) The Funny Friend: Hopefully, you instantly identified this person in your mind, the one who can always make you laugh, no matter how bad your day was or what else is going on in your life. I am lucky enough to have a couple of these friends, people whose razor-sharp, lightning speed wit can take my breath away and make me forget, even if it's only for a minute, why I was ever feeling sorry for myself at all. The funny friend is often not so much a person you spill secrets to; this is more the place you go when you need an instant lift. Funny friends are the coffee (or wine) of the friendship world!
2) The Shopping Friend: I use the word "shopping" here as an example, but this is the friend who gets you out of the house, whether it is to go shopping, see a movie or even go for a hike; mutually enjoyed activities are a crucial part of this friendship. Most women have a "shopping friend", but can also have "book club friends", "coffee friends", "yoga class friends", you name it. The bonding is over something that maybe your BFF isn't into, or a very specific hobby or interest. I actually have "horror movie friends", because I LOVE horror movies and both my BFF and husband HATE them; I need to channel my enthusiasm somewhere! These sorts of friends allow us to express pieces of ourselves that might get denied otherwise.
3) The Motivating Friend: You know the one, your friend who probably wears a cape and a mask in some alternate reality. This is the person who has actualized their dreams and encourages you to believe you can too. The best part about motivating friends is that because they are secure in themselves, they never use shame or belittling as "motivating tools." They genuinely see the potential in every situation and are more than happy to help you see the potential in yours. This person is crucial to have in your life.
4) The "Lazy" Friend: The counterpoint to the motivating friend is your friend who calls (or texts) you to announce that they have just eaten an entire box of Pop-Tarts while watching a marathon of The Good Wife. This person is comfortable with mess, both theirs and yours, and is there to let you off the hook on days when you know for a fact you are going down. The coolest part about our "lazy" friends is that they are not actually lazy -- they have jobs and raise children and do all the things your motivating friend does (although without, perhaps, the same Martha Stewart flair) -- they are just more comfortable with down time and relaxing than most of us ever will be. And in this way, they are superheroes, too.
5) The Old Friend: Not chronologically (necessarily), just a friendship of a long enough duration that no period of your life is unknown to this person. Like an old couch, an old friend is a place you can flop down and reminisce or rehash or sometimes just complain without having to complete hours of backstory. This person is a witness to all you have been through, and while you may have grown apart geographically or even ideologically, they are in your bones and always there when you need them.
6) The "Artsy" Friend: "Artsy" can mean a million things, but you know one of these people the minute you see them; whether their art is music, painting, dancing, crafting, whatever, this is most likely the person who will push you out of your comfort zone. These people see the world with different eyes than most, and they will encourage you to do the same. Your "artsy" friend might introduce you to opera or ballet or Van Gogh... or maybe just encourage you to wear a new color or try some exotic food. But "artsy" people explore their creativity and inspire you to do so as well.
7) The "Friend From Another Place": In the old days, this might have been someone you met at summer camp or on vacation, an exchange student or even just a pen pal... I once corresponded with a girl I met on Cape Cod for a year just because we had the same first name! Now with the internet and Facebook, our opportunities to make this friend have exploded; you can "friend" someone who lives halfway around the world. The key piece of the friend from another place is this: They have lived a very different life than you and broaden your horizons. This friend is extremely important in order to expose you to new ideas and a culture (or cultures) other than your own. Even if that culture is the culture of Wisconsin, when you live in Maine! Nowadays many of us have a lot of friends from other places, and this is a very, very good thing.
8) The Tedious Friend: Come on, you know you have one! The tedious friend is the one whose name makes you wince when you see it on caller ID, but you pick up anyhow. I don't recommend having a lot of tedious friends, but one is helpful. Because our tedious friends are usually extremely well-intentioned, good-hearted people who nevertheless do an inordinate amount of complaining, or relating of insignificant detail, or sometimes even bragging... our tedious friend teaches us patience and let's face it, they make us feel like we are a good friend. And that is a really great feeling.
9) The "Crazy" Friend: This is the one you have been waiting for, am I right? All along you have been worried that I wasn't going to mention the "crazy" one because this is the friend EVERYBODY definitely has. And ALL of your other friends know who your crazy friend is. "Oh, he/she is the crazy one" is the response you will get to any mention of this person's name. But you LOVE your crazy friend like crazy. Our "crazy" friends are more daring, ruthless, spontaneous, adventurous and "out there" than most of us could ever dream of being. They inspire us to take risks and live it up on occasion. They remind us that life doesn't have to be such a serious affair. They allow us to own our passions and maybe, just maybe, live them too.
10) The BFF* (see above) You are the one, dearest, I absolutely cannot do without. Aren't you glad I have all these other friends to take some of the pressure off of you?