I have a handful of friends I could go months -- or even years -- not talking to. I can pick up the phone, punch in their number and start a conversation as soon as they answer -- as if we had just talked the day before.
I always lamented the fact they didn't live closer, that we no longer ran in the same social circles, that we never accidentally bumped into each other at the dry cleaners or shoe repair.
Until yesterday, that is. Yesterday, I caught up with a long time, very close friend, Rachel, who now lives 1,000 miles from me. And she provided me with another point of view.
"When you have good friends in the city in which you reside, often times you can't be completely honest with them about things going on in your life," she confided.
I pondered this for a moment. "I think I get it," I replied hesitantly. "For example," I surmised, "let's say your husband has a drinking problem, but he's your friend's accountant. This would be dicey to share and dicey not to share. Is that what you mean?"
"Exactly," she countered. "And here's a few more:
Your daughter barely graduated from college and you confided in your friend how difficult things are for her. And now your daughter is applying for a job and asking for a reference from that same best friend.
Your son got pulled over for a DUI last year. You called your best friend in hysterics. Now this same son is going to be a camp counselor for your friend's third grade grandson.
What if you confess to your friend about having a crush on your next door neighbor? Maybe your friend will think her husband is next on your hit list and pull back from making Saturday night couple plans with you and your husband. And your husband wants to know why."
Rachel tells me she can often be more honest and straightforward with a friend who lives out of town, whose paths won't cross with her professionally or socially.
This mindset can actually work quite well. As a matter of natural course, some of our most trusted friends may not be the ones who end up living closest to us anyway:
A sleep-away camp friend
A crony from third grade
A sorority sister from college
A co-worker or next door neighbor from before we hit age 30 and relocated
Rachel calls each one a BIFA -- Best Intimate Friend Afar.
I think she's got a point.
PS: The above picture under the headline is me with one of my best friends, who lives a few states away, and just happens to be my baby sister. I'm on the left.
And here's us 50 years earlier, same pose.
If you want more information about Iris's forthcoming book Tales of a Bulimic Baby Boomer, or to sign up for her weekly newsletter, visit www.irisruthpastor.com or follow her on Twitter @IrisRuthPastor.
You can find more from Iris on LinkedIn.