Guest Writers

Acquaintance is not a Dirty Word: A #LessonLearned by Nina Badzin

Click on the teacher lady's hand to see other writers involved with this project.

It’s fantastic to have Nina here today writing about different types of friendship because Nina and I met through a “shadchan,” the Hebrew word for “unprofessional matchmaker.” Our pimp matchmaker was the fabulous Julie C. Gardner. Julie told me to go and check out Nina’s blog.

Best. Click. Ever.

Because when I landed at Nina Badzin’s Blog, suddenly I felt all shivery. Immediately, I knew I wanted to play Mah Jongg with this woman. Seriously, I loved Nina’s writing voice right away. She explained Why She Might (Or Might Not) Follow Me On Twitter and  Why Marriage Needs To Come Before The Kids. She even told me about Why I Needed To Eat Her Grandma Suzie’s Brownies. So my cyber-crush quickly developed into a collaborative project, and I am so happy to report I won her cyber-heart. Two months later, I was able to get Nina to commit to a date… to write a guest post. I’ll be at her place next week.

Seriously. I’m going to Minnesota.

If you aren’t following Nina, all I can say is big mistake. Huge.

(Actually, Julia Roberts said that in Pretty Woman.) But it applies here as well. Except Nina is not a prostitute who just bought a lot of clothes. Follow Nina on Twitter at @NinaBadzin.

• • •

Acquaintance is not a Dirty Word

Once upon a time (like a year ago), I over-analyzed the relationships in my life no matter how casual and fleeting. When I was an English teacher, for example, I worried about putting too much time into my colleagues since I knew I’d stay home with my kids within three years. I shied away from getting too chatty with the other moms in various Mommy & Me classes since I already had a few close friends in town. I wondered why I was still keeping in touch with long-distance friends when we would probably never visit each other now that we all had young kids.

It was as if every woman in my life had to fulfill all of my friendship needs. In the past year — probably the cause of having my fourth child and less social time than I had in the past — I’ve accepted that it’s normal, mature, and expected to have different friends for all kinds of reasons. Not everyone needs to reach BFF status. “Acquaintance,” I discovered, is not a dirty word.

Of course we should treasure the close, intimate relationships in our lives. I’m simply suggesting that a friendship is worth something even if it doesn’t fit the Oprah/Gayle standard. I’ve learned to enjoy each kind of friend.

There are friends of convenience.

These friends inhabit your space: co-workers, neighbors, yoga buddies, church friends (synagogue for me), parents with children at the same school. In the past I took the simplicity of these friendships for granted. Take my former colleagues, for example. I probably would have enjoyed our lunches together more had I not worried about whether or not we’d ever transcend the initial stage of friendship. The love of fiction, a hate of the vice principal, and fifth period free should have been good enough for me.

Look how cute Nina is! Tell me you wouldn't kill to be any category of friend to her.

There are friends we simply “really, really like.”

I consider myself extremely lucky to have many friends who fall into this category. Several of these women are people who would probably become even closer friends of mine if we ran into each other more, had more time to spend together, or if each of us had more openings for “very close friends.” See Rachel Bertche’s wonderful memoir MWF Seeking BFF for more on the topic of the “friend card” and when it’s too full.

There are “group friends.”

All of your friends are friends so before you know it, you’re friends too. Birthday clubs, cooking clubs, book clubs—these all have the makings of group friendships.  My mom has been in the same monthly bridge group for 40 years. Does she consider every person in the group her closest confidant? No. But she wouldn’t dream of missing the opportunity to help host their kids’ bridal showers, to attend the weddings, send gifts to the grandchildren, and organize the shiva meals for elderly parents and spouses. She wouldn’t analyze whether the friendship only exists because of the group before helping her friend celebrate or mourn.

There are friends bound to us by history.

She stood by you when you had acne, bad hair, embarrassing accessories, and strange taste in boyfriends. Bottom line: she got you through a more vulnerable time. You might not choose her at forty, but you’re friends for life –especially if you’re both on Facebook. But seriously, these friends are keepers no matter how infrequently you see each other and no matter how awkward those first moments of telephone small talk after months or even years of not talking. The quality of the sporadic phone chats or in-person visits with these friends are what help you accept the somewhat surface conversations with your friends of convenience. Different friends for different needs. That’s what I’m preaching here!

There are best friends.

These relationships rise above circumstances, convenience, group status, history, and distance. The only thing problematic about them is their potential to make you devalue the other friendships in your life. Not all friendships get to this level, nor should they. It would be impossible for every relationship to maintain the intensity of the “best” friend.

One last category to appreciate: Internet Friend

If you’re an active blogger and/or Tweeter, then you probably spend more time “talking” to your virtual friends than even your most beloved BFF. Internet chemistry can be felt across the screen, and it’s special. Renée and I clicked as soon as we “met.” And I’m so grateful she let me come here today to talk about valuing each kind of friendship for what it brings to our lives.

Do you appreciate having different friends for different needs? Or do you find yourself over-analyzing your friends?

89 thoughts on “Acquaintance is not a Dirty Word: A #LessonLearned by Nina Badzin

  1. Thank you for being here today, Nina. My son likes to remind me (with air quotes) that all those people on Facebook aren’t really my “Friends.”

    At almost 13 years old, he seems to inherently understand what has taken me 40 years to comprehend. Not everyone has to be your best friend. And that’s okay. Thanks for being here today, oh most delicious bloggy friend.

    What? I can’t gush over Internet friends? 😉

    1. Thank you and nice to “meet” you. I have so much more to say and I worry I didn’t get across exactly what I was trying to express. It’s a subject I could discuss forever, but I wanted to spare you guys. 😉

  2. I so needed to read this! I too tend to over-analyze whether people are really my “friends” – I have struggled over how to refer to people I don’t think of as BFFs. Are they “friends” or merely aquaintances? And what about all those people I am connected to through facebook that I barely talked to 30 years ago when we were in HS, but are now labeled as “friends”? Thank you for helping me see the value in different levels of friendship, and that they each have a place in my life.

    1. Glad to help! I tend to refer to any and all of the above as friends even if in our hearts we both know that we’re more like acquaintances. So while I don’t think acquantaince is a bad relationship category AT ALL, I wouldn’t exactly introduce anyone that way.

  3. Tell your son that at least you would recognize all your “friends” at Wegmans. Great idea to relax and just appreciate the people in our lives at any level.

    1. Hi David: In Wegmans, I keep my head down and move forward at warp speed. I have no friends at Wegmans! That place is a trap I tell you, a trap! 😉 {Wait, did I pass you or something? Now I’m all paranoid.}

  4. I’ve moved a lot and one of the side effects of that is having friends who are far away from where I live now. I wish they were close enough that we could get together for coffee or see a movie together, but that’s impossible. Thanks for the reminder that all of those distant friends are still “real friends” even though I don’t see them very often. Knowing they’re out there makes me feel less lonely.

    1. Yes! Just knowing they’re out there makes a big difference. I have several friends from college and high school that I speak to occasionally, but I know they “get me” and that counts for so much.

  5. The other thing I have found to be okay is the ebb and flow of friendships. Friends change, as do I. Circumstances shift. Some friends, at least in my case, move between the categories you laid out above. For example, some of my cyber-friends have become good friends. Great post, and it is good to see you here on Renee’s page, Nina. It reminds me that I need to jog over and hit the subscribe button on your blog. Have a good one.

    1. Very true and the subject of changing friendships (or ending them) could be another posts or series of posts. It’s sort of my favorite subject. I’m weird.

  6. I definitely think there are different types of friendships. Some last forever, some are fleeting, others are there just when you need them. I loved the book The Five People you Meet in Heaven. It shows how one little thing you say or do can have a profound, lifetime effect on someone’s life. It may be a person you knew briefly and never really considered a “friend”, but your presence in their life still had a great impact. Never underestimate an acquaintance.

    1. SO true! Speaking of internet connections as a category of that, someone recently sent me an email telling me that based on a post I wrote a year ago she decided to finally start sending out her stories and a lit mag accepted one. It’s a small thing but a good example of how our fleeting connection made a big difference for her writing goals.

      I loved that book too!

  7. If this were written a couple of years ago, I could’ve used this as artillery in discussions with someone very dear to me who genuinely believed that every friend had to fulfill his every emotional and entertainment need. I tried explaining what you did here, though not nearly as eloquently (“You really have a checklist?! Really?!”).

    I’m grateful for all my friends, regardless of how we interact. In my BFF’s case, her online presence helps us to keep up near daily conversation despite our physical distance now.

    It was hard realizing my real, live girlfriend time was going to be diminished dramatically after I had my son, but it’s prompted me to set up Sunday morning as girlfriend time. I don’t always use it, but I’m happy to know it’s there for when my girlfriends and I–good, group, or acquaintance–both have a few hours to catch up.

    1. I think I forget to mention that in this post–how GRATEFUL I am for the various friends in my life. Already this morning I got a text from a friend who read the post and it reminded her that we hadn’t seen each other in way too long of a time. So we set up lunch. We both know that we’ll have a great time, have TONS to discuss, then probably won’t get together again for another three months and there are no hard feelings. Those kinds of friendships are important and special no matter how much time passes between catch ups.

  8. Friends are so important no matter how close. The connections we make are vital to our well-being. The best are the friendships where we just simply understand each other.

    1. Yes and yes and yes! I’m loving the chance to get to know new internet buds today today and will be checking out your blog and others today. I’ve dedicated my writing time to discovering new people today!

  9. Agree 100% to the theory of “different friends for different needs.” And if I were to evaluate my current situation – I definitely have all of the above. The WORST scenario is the “new town-no friends” scenario. When I moved to Phoenix, sixth largest city in the US, you’d have thought friend-making would have been easy. It wasn’t. So many transient folks and folks from all over the country – with different values, different interests — and lacking those ‘shared experiences’ that often bond women together. It wasn’t until I moved to, ironically, a TINY town that I found MORE friendships – and meaningful ones. Working from home in freelance, of course, didn’t help me make those ‘friends of convenience.’

    When I moved to Small Town, AZ, I actually went on a “friend hunt,” introducing myself to neighbors. Best thing I ever did. Friends of all types are integral to a woman’s sanity!

    1. It’s so hard moving to a new town, as you and I have discussed before vis a vis Rachel’s memoir. I love that you introduced yourself to people. The truth is that the onus is usually on the new person. We might not like that, but accepting it is THE KEY to making friends in a new town (in my opinion).

  10. For me, I would probably add a group called “kid friends.” I find I “know” people through my son as we branch out to different play dates or kid friendly events. I love my Internet friends, too. I appreciate how they add to my life in ways that some real life friends don’t. Great post.

    1. Thanks Stacy! Good point about kid friends. I guess in mind that falls into the convenience category . . . the moms we sit with during dance class, etc. Sometimes we see those people more often than anyone else! Or at least we see them regularly.

  11. I enjoyed reading this, if just for the fact of getting some validation for my own thoughts on acquaintances. There’s no shame in thinking of them as friends … some people find I bandy the term “friends” around too loosely but I figure it’s way easier to think of people as friends and describe them as friends than to have to explain the terms of every relationship when I’m talking to someone. In my head and in my heart everybody knows where they are and where they belong, I make sure of that.

  12. As someone who, at 29 (30 is still a long 2 months away), is just starting to re-discover herself, I’ve just begun to go through this process of accepting relationships as they are. I’m a stereotypical right brained, type A personality. I love lists, I love to analyze, and I love to stress about everything. I’m starting to get over that and it’s great. Most of my friends right now fall into the group friend’s category. And I have to add that the majority of my new friends have moved from the “Internet friend” group into one of the in-real-life groups! Twitter has connected me to some great people here in SLC. Now if only I could convince Nina that Utah is amazing we could go from twitter bffs to IRL friends!

    1. In my dream I would have a book deal one day that would at least bring me to Utah to visit and I could meet you and all your friends! (Though we’d for sure have our quality one-on-one time). It’s an elaborate dream.

      I’m as type A as you . . . and we’d analyze stuff for hours. I know it!

      I keep forgetting how young you are!

  13. Wow! You’re thinking what I’m thinking, re: friends. But – I have a need for another category, and don’t know what to call it. So, help me out, Nina. I haven’t seen my high school classmates since graduation day (1987) but some of us are on Facebook together. I’m not sure some of my classmates and I would qualify as “acquaintances” back then, we just kind of breathed the same air and got through a class together or something. In present day, I’m finding my classmates are people who are going out of their way to be supportive of me in a very difficult time. Some of them offer support online, others do stealth missions to my house and leave dinner on my porch (and call me, worried about disturbing me, but worried still that some wild animal will claim that wonderful – and still hot – meal). Is there a category for such people, whom one didn’t know well or spend much time with “back in the day,” and still haven’t seen face to face – but who go out of their way for you? Are those angels? Or something slightly less other-worldly?

  14. Wow, I’m really inspired by this and it’s in the spirit of what i was trying to express though not sure I did. The idea being that we don’t have to be full best friends or even close friends with someone to play a role in their lives. I’m sure that if one of those people were in need you would do the same for them. There’s something about having “breathed the same air” in childhood that bonds people. I’m not sure what I’d call the category either though.

    I’ve had the same experience of connecting with people through Facebook that I wasn’t all that close to in high school or college. I just loosely use the word “friend” and I mean it sincerely.

  15. Nina, as always I follow you like I might follow the Pied Piper. Well maybe not that way. Yes, the word friend gets tossed around, especially in this cyber-techo-world we live in. Those instant breakfast gadgets of the cell, iPod (harkens the image of “pod” people) of the Facebook Gen-X and Y population posting their lunch and pics of the kiddies. Then there are the others you mentioned. I am not surprised that you even organize and categorize friends … however … though I might often be guilty of using the word, the real meaning is quite a different thing. The friend … tht kindred spirit, be them near of far … is such a rare and beautiful gift and one I hold for very few. The best one? I looked at the last picture you posted of your kids … three boys and a girl. Kids are great, boys all cuddle and awe with mom … but when we give birth to a girl, we give birth to our real BFF … and she is so much that to me. The closest to compare? My only granddaughter 🙂

    1. Thank you! We ARE Internet “friends” however overused the term. ;). As for kids, I have 2 boys and 2 girls! It went boy, girl, girl, boy. Hoping at least one of the four still likes me when they’re older!

  16. I love my Imaginary Friends. I only call them that because they’re “invisible.” Nina’s name, Internet Friends, is more accurate and complimentary.

    I am a person who knows a number of my suburban neighbours. In spite of this, though, I find suburban living lonely. Blogging and writing have introduced me to a number of people in my city which is helping. But it’s the chats on Twitter/IM/email/FB with my invisible friends that keep me sane on cold dark wintry Canadian nights.

    1. Shirtsleeves: I am proud to be one of your invisible friends. Many of my real life friends do not understand this writing thing we do, and it is so nice to have blogging buddies with whom I can call or Skype when my tank is feeling low.

      Please know I am always here for you.

      It is also reassuring to know that when I am cold, you are generally colder-er. 😉

  17. Color me verklempt (what color would that be, exactly?).

    I am thrilled beyond words that you two have become friends (of any category) and consider you both two of my dearest “finds” in the whole wide internet.

    I love your words, your support, your discerning taste (in all things); you are both so very special to me.

    So I guess I was able to find the words after all.
    And cheers to friendship.

    You made me think about and appreciate mine right now. On a Friday. Which is a gift by itself.

    Thank you.

      1. Only depressing thing about Julie’s eventual and inevitable book tour is that Minneapolis and Rochester are probably not high on the publisher’s tour lists.

        Julie, you DO have an usually good command of Yiddish for a non-Yid.

  18. Excellent post! Really, you hit the nail on the head on all the various classifications – friends are so important to our self-esteem and overall well-being, no matter where, when, or how we come across them. Plus, we’re never too old to make new friends!

    1. Dawn, excellent point about new friends. I think that’s actually the underlying key to what I was trying to say . . . that since not everyone has to be a BFF, it’s okay and GOOD to let new people in too.

  19. Nina- Great, great post! I haven’t had a chance to start reading Rachel’s book yet, but after your post about it, I started to think about these same things (not quite as eloquently!). My initial response was that, yes, it’s indeed hard to make close friends as adults, but I started to think about all of the other “catergories” of friends I have, and I feel very lucky! Thanks, as always, for your wisdom!

  20. Okay, I have a new category: Old College Friends Via Internet Friends.

    I received an email via Facebook from Danielle Weinstein. I have known her (and her family) forever. She told me you went to college together and says to say hello! 😉

    So our worlds continue to collide.

    Small, small world.

    1. Oh funny! Well, the Jewish world is crazy like that. I think we’re all cousins three-times removed or something like that–hence the need for genetic testing before we procreate!

  21. Great post, NIna! It took me a long time to come to these conclusions. No one person can fill every need in your life. We can have different friends for different reasons. When we try to shoehorn everyone into the same box, problems arise.
    I have one more category for you: Long Lost Friends Who Return on FB. 🙂

  22. Wonderful piece, Nina. Life is beautiful when it is filled with all of these different kinds of friends.

    Renee, I know Danielle Weinstein, too. Grew up in Syracuse with her. Her delivered two of my brothers. Would love to play Jewish geography with you!

  23. Nina, I think Renee would agree that it’s high time you revisited your Rochester roots. Bring the family and you won’t regret it! (Right, people?!?)

    Also, this is a timely and important post to me. I found that my relationships with friends either grew stronger or just fizzled out once we had kids. And now that #3 is on the way, I’ve made the decision to try to quiet the little demons that make me feel badly about not keeping in better touch with people who I was once close with. Shabbat is about being with family and friends we love; I try to be thankful for the people who’ve drifted in and out of my life, bestowed on me some lessons, and made it such a cool ride.

    On a side note, meeting you and Renee through blogging has been a joy. Woot-woot for the bloggamamas who also have lessons to impart (even if one considers herself a “twit”) and who edify me and others with words and humor!

    1. Yes, quiet the demons! Demons are bad.

      I say we skip Rochester and skip Minnesota and all go to a conference somewhere fabulous once your baby is old enough to have you leave (and by then mine will old enough too!)

  24. Darn you, Renee, another blog I now must follow (and now am following)!! 😉

    I really appreciated reading this, Nina! There are times I feel so guilty for distancing myself from past co-workers or friends that I used to spend gobs of time with, but I think it’s natural that circumstances change, and as a result, friendships do, too. I think I’ve mostly come to terms with the fact that not everyone needs to reach a certain level of friendship, but it’s difficult if the other person isn’t on the same page. Last week at a bridal shower for my husband’s friend’s wife, she gave me a passive-aggressive guilt trip for not seeing her since the summer! Erm…huh? Wha-? But…but…isn’t this relationship clear?! LOL

  25. I can totally relate to your post Nina. I let myself get disappointed when I meet people that I can tell I don’t click 100% with, but I can still be friends with them.

    And I can relate to you, Renee, about loving Nina’s blog when you found it! I so happy to find another great blog here! Great stuff, ladies!

  26. Take two! This is such a great post Nina and Renee so lovely that you hosted Nina today. I have friends I am so happy fall into all of these categories. They each fill different parts of my heart and give so much to my life in so many ways. Funny that my Internet friends have helped to make me a better friend in my life with my other categories of friends. The perspective and healing have meant such growth for me and my family and I would have never known that was possible without a foray into this bloggy world. I consider the 2 of you part of this, so my friends I thank you for this post and your support and friendship! You are both amazing women, mothers, people, authors, and former teachers:). I look forward to Renee appearing on your blog as well Nina.

    1. Thank you, Shannon! That’s a really good point about internet friendships teaching us something about how to treat our “real life” friends. There is a certain intense generosity of spirit in the blogging world that can take YEARS develop in the “real world.” I wonder why that is . . .

    2. I’m with you Shannon! And you are definitely one of those woman who I’d love to meet IRL. I don’t feel like that about everyone, but I’d love to sit down for a few hours with you! And I love that you were following Nina before I was! So cool how the blogosphere seems so huge, but our worlds collide!

  27. Great post! I love the collaboration between two of my favorite bloggers! I’m going to put in a few more exclamation marks here to show my excitement !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’ve moved so many times in my life that I’ve more or less mastered the acquaintance thing, but haven’t had such an opportunity to develop some of the other friend categories. We just moved to a new city 8 months ago, so I’ve started over. Again.

    Because of the constant flux, I’ve found that much of my interaction with friends has been online. Many of my IRL friends are in the little-kid stage, so phone conversations are hard or unlikely at this point. The internet has been a phenomenal way to stay in touch, as well as a great way to make new friends (like Renee and Nina!).

  28. I find that I back away from all of my friends when I feel that I have nothing to offer them. If I’m a little down, low on cash or just plain worn out I tend to become a recluse…which doesn’t make me a very good friend much of the time. I’m trying to learn that my friends love me for who I am, not for what I can do for them.

    1. KD! I often feel the same way (about not being a good friend, never doing enough, etc…) but your real friends just love you. They stick with you and pick up where you left off no questions of heckling. Maybe time to check the friends list. I have a thing at Nina’s about “toxic friends” coming up.

      You know, the people who drain you?

      Yeah. You have to cut those people out.

      Easier said than done, but it makes for less angst. 😉

  29. Renée, I first heard of Nina when you told me to go check out her site during HanukkahHoopla. You’re right. Best. Click. Ever. =) She makes me smile.

    Nina, I appreciate the breakdown of the levels of friendships. I’m definitely an over-analyzer (it’s the math teacher side of me). I think I’m a lot like you, thinking that it’s all or nothing. I like the idea that there are different shades of friendships, though, and if I look closely, I see that playing out in my life.

    Thanks for the paradigm shift! I guess I’ve got another thing to analyze…sigh. =)

  30. If ever there was a post that reminds me of how different men and women are this is it. That is not a value judgment at all, just recognition that we think differently.

    I don’t think I have ever classified my friends like this. There are the guys that I have known forever and like hanging out with and then there are the few who I am really tight with,

    After that it is just acquaintances and or colleagues. But I do have to add that your definition of Internet friend feels spot on to me.

  31. I used to also struggle with the fact that I cannot keep all of my friendships up at once. I would stress over not having called Susie or not having visited Beth’s new house when I was just at Meredith’s, ect. That mentality can be exhausting, and it is truly wonderful once we realize that the true friendships will always remain no matter the distance or time lapse in between meetings.

  32. Hi TJ! I didn’t remember that it was Renee who brought you to me. Thanks Renee! TJ, question, what is the difference between Tumblr and a blog? I’ve been meaning to ask you!

    1. Ummm…I’m not sure I completely understand all the tech stuff, but in a nutshell, Tumblr is just another blogging platform.

      I’ve never used anything else, so I don’t know how it compares with other platforms like WordPress, but it’s free and simple to set up, customize, and use. You can post text, photos, quotes, links, audio, and videos easily.

      I follow other Tumblr blogs–which is like subscribing to them through Google Reader or friending them on Facebook–and they show up in my Tumblr dashboard, where I can reply or “like” their posts. The only downside to it is that you can’t reply to a reply, which is why I have Disqus for comments on my Peanut Butter Cup Moment blog.

      The only reason I use Tumblr is because my sisters and cousins were using it, and one of my sisters set up the account for me a year before I actually started using it as a personal blog (–that’s the Tumblr that posts to my Twitter account). I guess you could say that I’m with Tumblr because it was my first love. =)

      Hmmm. Does this answer your question? It’s probably more than you needed to know, huh? =)

  33. So very true! I can see the different types of friends I have in all categories, and I appreciate every one. Amazing how in the last ten years “internet friends” have become such a special group. When I first met other women planning their weddings over ten years ago, on a wedding message board, we were embarrassed to tell “real people,” how we’d met. But internet buddies can become “real world friends,” and I’m no longer embarrassed about that!

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