Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Weekend Open Thread: How Many Friends Can You Count On?

A recent study claims that the average person has fewer than five friends he or she can count on in a crisis. Of course, I read that and thought about how many friends I could count on in a crisis, and then I wondered how we define “crisis.” I mean, what really constitutes a crisis? I locked myself (and Jackson) out of our apartment earlier this week. Is that a crisis? Or what about when I was hospitalized over the summer when I suffered a kidney infection and went into preterm labor? That’s a crisis, right? Surely, a death in the family is a crisis. A breakup? Yes. Getting lipstick on your wedding dress ten minutes before you’re supposed to walk down the aisle? Sure.

Obviously, there are different levels of crises, just as there are different types of friends. In my mind, friendships are pretty fluid. The person you can count on to hold your hand through a breakup today may not be around in three years to help you process your mother’s cancer (or whatever crisis you’ll be going through then). At this moment, today, if I needed something, I feel certain I have more than five people who would be willing to help me (but then again, I suppose it depends on the “level” of help that I need and whatever is going on in their lives). Some of those people have been friends for years and years. Some people I’ve known a few months. What about you? Whom would you count on in a crisis? Whom would you help? What are you doing to help foster a community it your life? It’s so, so important. The older I get, the more I appreciate the importance of having solid people in your corner you can depend on. It’s worth the investment!

43 comments… add one
  • SweetsAndBeats

    SweetsAndBeats April 13, 2012, 3:10 pm

    I have my boyfriend and his family who I can definitely count on in any sort of crisis, as long as they’re in town. The same can be said for my family, but we don’t live in the same country so it would be hard for them to attend to any problem with quickness. It makes me sad to admit it, but I don’t have any friends who I can implicitly trust, right now, to just drop everything and run to my aide. I hope to one day have those sorts of friends, because I’m definitely the type of person who would do so in kind.

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  • avatar

    ReginaRey April 13, 2012, 3:22 pm

    I’ve always felt a little self-conscious of the fact that I’m a person with few friends. I have two or three very close girlfriends who I could count on in any kind of crisis, as well as the fiance of one of those girlfriends, who is also a long-time friend of mine. But honestly, I’m caring less and less about having a ton of friends. I’ve always had a very small circle of friends who I’m incredibly close with. The people have changed over time, but the number has stayed the same. I don’t have any surface-level acquaintances, because I don’t enjoy that kind of relationship. I like to have a few people who you can share everything with, and be completely comfortable with, and who know you really, really well. It’s not easy to find that kind of rapport with someone, and I try to nurture it when I do.

    That, and I have a very dedicated family (including mom, dad, brother and two grandparents) who I could depend on for anything. Some, perhaps more extroverted people, might not like the size of my group of close friends and family, but to me it feels just right. I feel like my life is pretty full, and I’m never lonely (even when I’m alone), so I like to think I’m doing just fine.

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    • Brad

      Brad April 15, 2012, 9:24 pm

      I’m the exact same way. Outside of family I’m close to maybe 2-3 people? The only difference for me is that I do occasionally hang out with about half a dozen acquaintances couple times a year. I don’t think it’s something to be self-conscious about. It’s not like you’re incapable of making more friends if you wanted to—you just choose not to. And I’ve never heard any of my guy friends/acquaintances say they’ve rejected a girl because she didn’t have many friends.

      “I feel like my life is pretty full, and I’m never lonely (even when I’m alone), so I like to think I’m doing just fine.”
      Sounds like you are.

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  • JK

    JK April 13, 2012, 3:39 pm

    The subject of my lack of close friends has been popping up a lot in my life recently, maybe it´s a sign.
    The people that are closest to me in my life at the moment are my husband and brother (who is living far away this year, that is a total bummer).
    I do have several friends, but none that I could really say are unconditional that I could count on in an emergency/crisis.

    And now I´m sad.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray April 13, 2012, 3:55 pm

      We’re we just talking about this yesterday?! Yes. It’s been on my mind lately… which means I’ve been talking about it to a lot of people. (There are not a lot of thoughts in my head I don’t share immediately, haha.)

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      • JK

        JK April 13, 2012, 4:08 pm

        Yep, one of several conversations/chats, whatever that it´s popped up in.

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    • JK

      JK April 13, 2012, 4:26 pm

      What I do realize though is that I´m so reluctant to ask for help it´s not funny. Even when people offer it´s hard for me to accept.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark April 13, 2012, 3:41 pm

    I can tell you all one thing. Whatever your number? It’s actually far less than you think.

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    • SweetsAndBeats

      SweetsAndBeats April 13, 2012, 3:47 pm

      Unfortunately that seems to be true, sometimes. You shouldn’t base your number on how many people YOU would be willing to help in a crisis, but how many people who you can really see rushing to your side. I used to think I had a very close friend because I rushed to the hospital immediately when she let me know she had been in a car accident and also helped her kick out her POS boyfriend when she asked me to, but a few months down the road she couldn’t even be bothered to let me know that she wasn’t going to show up for TWO home-cooked dinners I made for her, in a row.

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    • FireStar

      FireStar April 13, 2012, 10:22 pm

      Seriously? You can’t be bitter about your friends too… No one is going to have 40 people that would drop everything for them if they were in need but I think everyone gets to a point where they know exactly who their friends are … and who they are just friendly with…

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark April 15, 2012, 6:25 pm

        Actually, I wasn’t thinking so much of me — but rather of my friends who’ve been faced with much more real and deadly misfortunes befall them and all those times where I (surprisingly found) I was the only one to show up… Those events were all pretty shocking, because many times, I would never have even said I was one of their best friends… Yet people have a surprising way of disappearing when the chips are down. You’ll understand one day. Trust me.

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      • FireStar

        FireStar April 16, 2012, 8:27 am

        And while I love a patronizing statement as much as the next girl, thanks but I’m going to trust in the friends I have who have already been there for me when it counted.
        Fair weather friends don’t just bale in a crisis – chances are they baled well before that but maybe none of your friends recognized it.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark April 16, 2012, 12:33 pm

        Um, okay, whatever. None of these offender would have been even remotely been considered fair weather friends until the crisis. (Not even by me — the world’s most jaded, impartial observer of all these relationships.) Again, I was often absolutely SHOCKED at who left who hanging… But hey, I’m happy you seem to know everything. Good for you. (No, seriously. That is a serious/not snide statement.) Obviously, I wasn’t posting for you then — but trust me, many on here don’t know everything. (Just, uh, reas through the letters.) And many on here will eventually be shocked by who leaves them high and dry…

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray April 13, 2012, 3:49 pm

    Wow, this open thread is very relevant to me. Just this morining I was talking to a friend about friendships and closeness and who truly knows us and who we feel “close” to, etc. I tend to compartmentalize my friends, which is good in that I seem to always have someone I can call up to talk to about something – and it means I can round up a shit ton of people for a trolley party… But then sometimes it leaves me wondering if anyone knows me through and through, or if everyone just knows a part of me. For that reason I’m worried that Quantity is trumping Quality these days. Sometimes I wish someone could just tell what I’m thinking, when I’m thinking it, without me saying anything, and then give me a big hug and say “there, there, I get you, you are fine, and things will be fine.” (Is that asking for the impossible though?) But that’s not to say I don’t have Quality. I do. If I were to count the number of people who love me to death and who would invite me into their homes and feed me forever if I needed it, the number would be pretty high. I’m really lucky that way.

    And now I’m rambling. And thinking too much about “the meaning of life,” violating my rule for the next few weeks, which is NO BIG THOUGHTS ALLOWED!

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    • avatar

      ReginaRey April 13, 2012, 4:05 pm

      I can do all of the things you mentioned, except give you a hug at the end! 🙂

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow April 14, 2012, 6:52 pm

      I tend to compartmentalize my friends too.

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  • avatar

    Anna April 13, 2012, 3:52 pm

    That’s pretty accurate. As far as in-person friends who live nearby, there’s really only one right now and I don’t see her very often these days…she’s very busy with a full-time job, 3 kids, and her new guy who she swears is just a friend (I’m not buying it). I have another bestie but she lives in Missouri so we see each other pretty rarely…talk on the phone or Facebook chat much more often. I have a few friends from work that I text with, chat with, and occasionally hang out with but I wouldn’t say we’re super close.

    As far as people who are helpful and supportive that I haven’t met, I would like to say that I have a lot of friends here on DW! I’ve added many of these new friends on FB lately and I really feel blessed to have so much support. Thanks to everyone who’s been there for me sending well-wishes and thanks to Wendy for starting this site!

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  • BriarRose

    BriarRose April 13, 2012, 3:53 pm

    This is a tough topic for me because I also struggle with the number of close friends I have. I’m not close to my family, in both proximity and emotions, so they’re kind of out when it comes to emotional support or even watching my daughter so I can do something completely wild and crazy like get my hair cut. That said, I have two local girlfriends who I absolutely treasure. I can count on them for anything. There is nothing I would hestitate to ask them for assistance with (if I had to) and I know they would help me. We have seen each other through divorces, raising kids, deaths of loved ones, medical emergencies, and even just little emergencies. The close friendships I have with the two of them are what I always dreamed of for myself-comfortable enough to walk into their house without knocking (if they know I’m coming over), implicitly trust them with my daughter, telling them whatever I want knowing I will not be judged or anything. I feel so lucky to have both of them!

    I do wish I had other friends beyond them though. I have probably about 2-3 other local people I’m decent friends with, but I hesitate to ask for their help with most things (watching my daughter, feeding the dog if I’m out of town, etc) and don’t hang out with them as much as the other girls. I’d like to make more friends but it’s tough at this age.

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  • avatar

    bethany April 13, 2012, 4:03 pm

    I feel so blessed to have an amazing husband and family (as well as in-laws), who I know I can count on. If I really needed my mom right this second, she’d hop in the car any time of day/night and be there for me, and I would do the same for them.

    As for friends I can count on, I think I’d say there are 3-4 of them. Last fall when my wedding venue (on Hatteras Island in NC) was still under a mandatory evacuation order a mere 10 days before my wedding due to Hurricane Irene, and the fate of the event was up in the air, my friends were amazing. The calls, the emails, the invitations to lunch- they kept me sane, and they really proved to me that they were there for me and a time when I needed them. I’d like to think I’ve done the same for my closest friends. If I get a 3am phone call from them needing something, you’d better believe I’m going to be there for whatever they need.

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  • mandalee

    mandalee April 13, 2012, 4:19 pm

    JK, I think we discussed our lack of friends and awkwardness making them on a forum thread the other day. Having lost three close but shitty friendships in the last year that spanned decades, I began to realize that outside of my husband and my family, my group of friends are shrinking. I have four really close friends who I could count on but they all live 300-3000 miles away, not really convenient if I *really* needed them.

    I’ve put myself out there a lot in the last year, but still haven’t became close friends without anyone. I have a bunch of casual friends, but I always kind of hated that concept, so it ‘s not that great. I have someone I can go out with on a Friday, but not someone close by who would be there if I really needed them. So you’re not alone!

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    • JK

      JK April 13, 2012, 4:21 pm

      Yep, that was another of the times that the topic came up!!!

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      • mandalee

        mandalee April 13, 2012, 4:27 pm

        My post was supposed to be a reply to yours, I don’t know what happened but thanks for finding it! Haha Yes, it comes up alot, so at least we can take comfort that alot of people are in the same situation!

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    • avatar

      jlyfsh April 13, 2012, 8:59 pm

      and i have the opposite problem. i have people i can call if i really have a problem, but they’re not the type where we really hang out on a regular basis….i said it below but again making friends as an adult sucks!

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  • avatar

    redessa April 13, 2012, 4:56 pm

    I have 1 super close friend who I can count on for absolutely anything and vice versa. And I’m quite close with a sister-in-law. I also have a church community that, while I’m not best friends with anyone in particular, most all of the ladies would be willing to step up for each other in a crisis – esp things like a hospitalization where there are tangible needs of childcare, housekeeping or meals to be brought in. Mormons love taking people dinner, it’s our go to service for pretty much everything. Have a baby? Let’s bring in food. Someone died? Here’s dinner. You’re having surgery? How many nights do you need meals brought in? Long term medical problems? They’ll set you up for months. LOL

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  • Crochet.Ninja

    Michelle.Lea April 13, 2012, 4:22 pm

    I have about 3 friends in the city I could 100% count on if I was having a crisis other than my fiance. My family is always there for me, but they live in the US, so while they would love to help, distance prevents some things.

    I’m not a very trusting person, so it’s possible there are a few more that would help, but I never count on others to help me. I’m too afraid of being let down. (i’m much better than i used to be at trust, but still have a bit to go personally)

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  • landygirl

    landygirl April 13, 2012, 6:51 pm

    Friendships change over the years. The 4 or 5 people I was friends with when I was younger are still in my life but we aren’t as close as we used to be though I know I can always count on them. My husband is my best friend and the person I rely on the most. I rely on my family and know I can count on them. I’ve always been shy so I don’t really feel the need to have a lot of friends. I’m happy being a homebody.

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  • katie

    katie April 13, 2012, 7:53 pm

    ugh. this is very appropriate right now, as i am moving to chicagoland tomorrow (omg, tomorrow???). i invited my friends out to just have some food and drinks at a local place (no downtown driving, easy, ect), and none of my girlfriends showed up. none. we have been drifting apart now that everyone is in college and doing different things, but it seems to me, in this part of my life that i am in now, that about half of us are really striking out on our own, getting jobs, getting degrees, doing cool stuff, and then half of us are living with our parents, taking half the credits you should be per semester at the local community college, working a menial job just to have money to blow on alcohol and drugs….. and increasingly, the two groups cant see eye to eye anymore. my mom even said that they might just be so intimidated by some of our successes that they dont even want to be around us anymore… and i will never understand that mentality. its sad. seriously, we were so cool in high school. we always had atleast 30 people in our group for dances. we did EVERYTHING together. i thought that they would be the people i would be with for my lifetime, especially after not really clicking with people in college…. so. theres that. i have no idea how many people i could really, truly count on. i dont even know.

    the silver lining? i have friends in chicago, a family, who i have known since i was like 5, and i think that they are those people for me, or atleast they were and will become them again. they are seriously so excited i am coming back. and also, i have a cousin who i dont know who I will hopefully get to know a lot better. so maybe i am just trading one set of people for the other…. i dunno.

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  • AKchic_

    AKchic_ April 13, 2012, 7:35 pm

    I think it really depends on whether or not I decide to reach out to anyone. I’m usually self-contained as far as my problems. If I’m having one, usually I play it close to the vest. If I need help, then I reach out to those people that I think can actually help me, rather than a blanket “help! help! SOS! save me” post on any social networking site I’m on. I’ve seen a few acquaintances and family members solicit money, airline miles, gifts and goodies (multiple times each) after a weekend of debauchery when they knew rent was due the next week and they weren’t working. It sours me. I never want to be compared to that example. Ever.

    I think I have a pretty decent network of friends. Between my old IRC contacts who I’ve kept up with, the few (3-4) I’ve kept up with from my one year of high school, the 3-4 from jr. high and the 2-3 from elementary school, plus old friends from my youthful indescretions that have cleaned up their acts as well, adding to my “grown up” friends that I’ve met through work, other forums, other jobs – I’ve got quite the network. Even if I tend to be a loner until I’m needed, or I need them. We stay in contact, we just don’t get together often.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh April 13, 2012, 8:57 pm

    well i have a lot of people who i can count on who don’t live very close and a few who do. my two friends who i am closest to are the kind that i can call at 3 am if i need to. and i know if we need each other we’ll drive to see each other. for example a few years ago my friends boyfriend broke up with her (they were talking about marriage and then he decided that he wasn’t ready at the last minute, like we already picked the ring out) and she was having new windows installed the next day. she couldn’t do it, so i drove up and took care of it. and about a year later i was going through some stuff and dealing with depression and she drove down (2 and a half hours) just long enough to have dinner with me and share a pint of ben and jerry’s. she’s moving to london soon and i don’t even want to think about that! and my family is always there if i need them, all of them.
    after moving last year i’m still working on making a core group of friends. i do have some coworkers who are always there. they’ve helped me deal with my sick dog, dropping and picking up cars from the shop, etc and are just a phone call away if i need them. but, we’re not to the friend stage, i don’t know if that makes sense. making friends as an adult just sucks sometimes!

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  • FireStar

    FireStar April 13, 2012, 9:22 pm

    I can always count on my mom and my husband but I’m very lucky in my girlfriends too. My best friend has been with me through all of life’s ups and downs for the last twenty years and whatever problem either of us might be having – by the end of the conversation we are laughing and on to figuring out a solution. We have made it through break-ups, broken engagements, deaths, miscarriages, surprise babies, weddings, business problems, badly behaved family and confusing husbands. I have about 5-6 other close girlfriends – all but one scattered around the world – some that would get on a plane if I said I needed them but mostly my friends offer me counsel when I need it, support and laughter. My girlfriends span high-school, undergrad, law school and articling so girls I’ve known 10-25 years. I haven’t seen some of them for a couple of years but whenever we meet up it is just like we were never apart.

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  • avatar

    RhyanShae April 13, 2012, 11:17 pm

    The only ones in my life I can count on no matter what are family. My friends? It all depends on the what and the when, and the way. I also have to be capable of asking for help or expressing that, which, it seems, is incredibly hard for me.

    I wonder on this question so much, though. Not because I necessarily think my friends are lacking, but I wonder if they actually will see or get when I need the help without my crash first.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina April 13, 2012, 11:34 pm

    I have a lot of friends and several acquaintances–but quite a few are spread across the country, and a few on the other side of the world. So when it comes to a crisis, I say I would have 5 friends I can count on besides my family. But only one of them lives near me, and I can count on her to drop everything for me in a crisis (which has happened).

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  • avatar

    LANY April 14, 2012, 1:46 am

    I suppose I’m lucky… I can think of many who, if i articulated, “I need you” would be there as quickly as they could. My parents and brother. The wonderful boyfriend. 2 girlfriends from grad school. 2 from college. An ex boyfriend (it’s platonic, really! We dated over a decade ago)… An old teacher. My best friend from high school. Some friends from workplaces past… Every single one of them would do anything they could if there was a *real* crisis…. I’ve always made a huge effort with my friends – you reap what you sow, I guess… But I also realize how lucky I am.

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle April 14, 2012, 1:35 pm

    My friends are generally flaky, & I know this– they’re great to talk to and hang out with, but in a crisis? There’s probably only one girl I can count on, and another who used to be my friend but isn’t so much anymore. But I do know if that I called her, she’d be there for me. Other than that, there is one male friend of mine who is great in crisises (I’m always there for him also). Annndddd, that’s pretty much it.

    I feel like the people you THINK you can count on turn out to be unreliable, mostly. Not to be grim– it’s just how it is. When it’s a hypothetical crisis, you can name a few people off the top of your head like “Yep, ______, ______, and _______!” But when something ACTUALLY happens, you’ll probably think of 3 completely different people. Someone from your past, or who you don’t know that well, but you just KNOW they’ll pick up the phone at that moment & help you out.

    Sorry if I’m not explaining this well. I guess I just mean…it’s never who you think it is, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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  • Lyra

    L April 14, 2012, 2:14 pm

    I’m very fortunate to have some amazing friends. I can think of 9 who would drop everything to help me in time of need. 4 high school friends, 3 college friends, and 2 friends from the summer camp where I work every summer. Unfortunately, 4 of them live pretty far away, but if I need to talk to someone, I know they will be there.

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  • avatar

    quixoticbeatnik April 14, 2012, 2:19 pm

    I have several close friends, but unfortunately most of them don’t live in my hometown right now because of school. I do have friends here that I am very close to that I know I can call on if I need help, or if I need to talk about something really, really badly.

    I don’t get to see them often, though, because they are all super busy working, trying to make ends meet, and just being awesome. So I am trying to make more friends at the school that I go to and I am slowly succeeding. It takes time, sadly.

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  • CatsMeow

    CatsMeow April 14, 2012, 7:08 pm

    I have a few close friends that I know will always “be there” for me if I reach out to them – although not literally, since we don’t live in the same town. I’ve known my BEST best friend since pre-school. We were inseparable throughout our entire childhood, high school, and even college (we were roomies). While we’re not as close as we used to be (she got married pretty young, I moved away), I know that we will be best friends as long as we’re both alive.

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  • avatar

    Nadine April 14, 2012, 10:48 pm

    Loving the weekend thread topics, Wendy!

    I feel very blessed in how many people know and love me, especially as I remember being an anxious kid who felt so lonely and unappreciated. Now, I have a marvellous boyfriend who loves me and will always look out for me, a relationship with my parents and brothers that truly makes me joyful everyday (although I am currently far away from all of them), and a few friends who really have shown me that it doesnt matter where I live, they will always care, and come to visit me when they can. My very best friend is the same one I’ve had all my life, and although we drive each other mental, I know she would take on anything for me, and I for her.
    Its difficult being on the other side of the world from all of these people except for one (boyfriend). When get sick, or down, all I have is him, and people on the other end of skype/email/ whatever. But I know that without a doubt, if something terrbile happened, I would have plenty of support.

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  • avatar

    mBookish April 15, 2012, 1:13 am

    Outside of my family and my boyfriend, I have three super close best friends that I can really count on. Too bad they’re all 4 states away. My best friend Kim and I have been friends for 11 years. One time, I had been dropped at the airport, only to realize as soon as my ride left, that I had left my apartment keys at my folks place an hour from the airport. Kim rushed to try and make it before I had to board (a total trip of 1.5 hours) and then when she didn’t make it in time, she overnighted my keys to me.

    I call her my true blue friend, because I know no matter how old we grow, how far apart we live, or how long we go without talking, we will always be super close and have each other’s backs.

    I know it’s only three, but I feel incrediably lucky, as I know without a doubt that I’ve got three amazing ladies in my life who always have my back.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph April 15, 2012, 2:57 am

    I think I probably have a few friends I can count on. I’m planning my wedding and none of them live in the same state… but so far my 2 best friends/bridesmaids have spent more than a little time on the phone with me, so that’s probably a good sign.

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  • Brad

    Brad April 15, 2012, 9:50 pm

    For me I know a pretty good number of people, but I’m not really close to most of them. I’m really only close to my best friend P. and my family (brother and then parents). Most of the people I know I’d say are either casual friends or acquaintances and they fit into many different categories. I know about half a dozen geeks for when I’m in the mood to do really nerdy things (like board-games, video games, or card games), I know several jocks for when I’m in the [rare] mood to watch sports, I know some people that are always up for a happy hour, etc. I probably only see most of them a few times a year. Truth be told most of the people I interact with when I’m out being social aren’t really my friends, but are the friends of the friend I’m seeing. My best friend P. is about the only one of my friends I see with any regularity. I’ve recently (as in like 2 weeks ago) started attending a weekly happy hour with one of my friends from college on Thursday nights but that will stop once my summer school classes start.

    Overall though I’m pretty happy with the way things are. I like having a small number of close friends as it leaves me more time to just relax. I wouldn’t mind having a girlfriend but that’s about the only thing I’d say my life is “missing” (well that and a winning lottery ticket but I digress…).

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  • avatar

    Kimothy April 16, 2012, 5:29 am

    I honestly only think that I could rely on family in an emergency, and even that’s saying something considering half the time my family is the problem I need help with. I’ve found out that it’s a lot easier for someone to say that they will help you no matter what than to actually do it if requires some effort on their part. Or I’ve just made some really bad friend/partner choices.

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest April 16, 2012, 12:49 pm

    I’m happy and grateful to say I think at my ripe old age of 30, I have perfected the amount of and (more importantly) quality of friends in my life. I very recently turned 30, and as I’ve cried about on here before, my siblings have all moved far away in the past couple of years. I was really sad about not being able to be with them for my birthday, as well as wishing I’d planned something and not being able to see my beloved friends more than I’m able to now (just becase of work, mommying, etc.). Any time anyone asked what I wanted for the big 3-0, all I said was just to have everyone together again.
    Well, my SO and my daughter got all dressed up on my birthday evening and told me to do the same for a fancy dinner at my favorite restaurant. I’d resigned myself to a lovely evening with the 2 people I love and thought it was cute my little girl wanted to dress up so I obliged.
    We got in the car, they blindfolded me and a little while later, I walked into a (ugh, crying) massive hall filled with literally every single person I love, including every one of my siblings who all flew in for 24 hours just to celebrate with me. It was the most touching moment.

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