Friendships

Will Rogers's assertion that he never met a man he didn't like may seem a bit Pollyanaish, but almost everyone possesses some characteristics of which we approve. However, the great majority of these individuals remain at the acquaintance or associate level, and very few become close friends.

Next to relatives, and often before them, friends are our closest companions and confidants (Dickens h Perlman, 1981; Larson, Mannell, & Zuzanek, 1986). Viewing our friends as honest, kind, sympathetic, and understanding, and like ourselves in many ways, we enjoy being around them and intimate even to the point of disclosing things about ourselves that we might never reveal to a relative.

As with love, friendship is most apt to flourish when beliefs, values, and personalities are similar. Beliefs and values are, of course, related to age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, proximity, abilities, and interests. With respect to proximity, friendships are more apt to develop between people who live and work in the same area and among those who spend a great deal of time together. Physical appearance is also a factor in friendships. Though we may appreciate and even desire beautiful people, we tend not to pursue them but rather to choose as friends those who are similar to us in physical appearance, so our advances are less likely to be rebuffed (Cash & Derlega, 1978; Murstein & Christy, 1976).

With respect to the give and take involved in friendship, equitability is important in that both parties must feel that the costs and rewards of the friendship are approximately equal. Perhaps even more critical for enduring friendships are feelings of mutual trust. Trust that a friend will not knowingly betray a confidence or harm you and can be counted on to be there when you need him or her can be even more important than similarity of background,

My Boyhood Friends

I had some funny friends when I was a boy. One might say they were superlative. Billy certainly was. At 5 he could ride a bicycle and a horse, throw a baseball over a two-story building, and "pee" across the road. Johnny was even more outstanding. He could stand on his head for hours, eat tobacco worms and light bulbs, and endure hard blows to the stomach without flinching. However, it was Stephen who accomplished the most dramatic feat of all. Like Sampson, Stephen had long hair which he seldom cut and from which he apparently derived great strength. Once, after a hurricane, Stephen lowered himself into the rushing waters of a drainage ditch on a dare, but was not able to extricate himself immediately. He held on to the side of the ditch for dear life, lest he be swept downstream and drown. After a half-hour or so of struggling and continually declaring that "nothing can defeat the Fuhrer!," Stephen rose from the troubled waters none the worse for wear.

My two best friends in high school were the Brainy brothers. They had moved down from Connecticut and lived with their folks in a trailer by the river. Their father was a practical nurse and something of a local character. He spouted poetry at the trees, solved geometry problems by scratching on the ground with a stick, and frequently screamed "Damn the neighbors!" out the door. I don't believe he ever be came rich and famous, but he and his wife eventually moved out of the trailer and into a house. The Brainy brothers represented my first encounter with intellectuals, defined as people who think they know more than I.

I moved away from our town after high school graduation, and I'm not really certain what happened to my boyhood friends. I was told that Billy was admitted to a mental hospital, Johnny shot himself when he mistakenly concluded that he could withstand a rifle bullet, and Stephen joined the Navy. The Brainy brothers were a bit more successful: They became university employees and were never heard from again.

Although my boyhood friends were all entertaining, they were never quite so available as my imaginary baseball team. Each member of the team was named after a variation of my own name: there was Little Lewis, Big Lewis, Little Roscoe, Big Roscoe, Little Junior, Big Junior, and three other players whose names I have forgotten. The opposing team consisted of fancied representations of people I didn't like. In any event, the nice thing about having my own imaginary team was that I won all the games. Unhappily, though, there were still occasional arguments concerning such matters as close plays and batting orders. Perhaps this is merely another example of fantasy being patterned after reality or art imitating life!

behavior, and interests. Feelings of trust encourage mutual self-disclosure, the sharing of private experiences and feelings that are a critical part of close friendships and love.

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