Yup, you’re my friend — how I know it for sure

By Caitlin Kelly

They help push the van in 95 degree heat!
They help push the van in 95 degree heat!

Now that “friend” is a verb — (no, it’s bloody well not!) — how many of us really have people who fit the bill, old-school?

You know, people you sit down with, (or stand up with or run or walk or go fishing with), face to face.

People you actually talk to in the same room whenever possible.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, and have decided there are a few ways you can separate the wheatΒ  from the chaff.

They share a cup of coffee and a great adventure!
They share a cup of coffee and a great adventure!

They’re really your friend if:

— They know your parents, your siblings, your pets and their birthdays

— Your parents ask how they’re doing and vice versa

— They know the exact brand of hard-to-find bubble bath/liquor you love and buy it for you for your birthday

— They pick up the tab

— You each dated two men who were best friends, both of whom broke your hearts

— You each dated two men who were brothers

— They traveled from the furthest reaches of northern British Columbia to your suburban New York wedding,Β  then came to Toronto for your second one

— They help you pack up your home, load the truck and (yes, I did this once, in summer), drive you from New York City to Washington, D.C.

— They climb a hill in a snowstorm at 6:00 a.m. when the taxi can’t go any further, to accompany you to the hospital for surgery

— They catch you as you fall backwards into the toilet door, woozy from anesthesia, before you concuss yourself after surgery

— They can share a bed with you platonically and don’t find it weird

— They’re the executor/executrix of your will

— You spend Christmas with them, since they’re more family than yours is

— They have keys to your home

— They named one of their children after you (or vice versa)

— They go with you to chemo

— They attend your loved ones’ funerals and wakes


My best friend, my husband, Jose
My best friend, my husband, Jose

— They never forget your birthday

— They send you a condolence card when your beloved pet dies

— They send you a congratulations card the day your book is published

— They know your — ahem — romantic history before you snagged the husband/wife and will keep your secrets safe

— You might, just possibly, have shared a few of those adventures, and partners

— They remember the night you…possibly in far more detail than you do

— They share your deepest geek/nerd passions

— They know your PIN

— They know your childhood nickname

— They know what you’re allergic to

— They make you laugh so loud people stare at you in public

— They’ll hold you tight if you need a good cry

— You can lend them a bathing suit and it somehow fits, even if they’re a whole lot smaller and younger

— You can ask for/offer explicit sexual advice/instruction and not get get laughed at/grossed out

— You know they’re who they are because they’ve battled mental illness or addiction in their family and they’re a survivor, not damaged

— You know their flawless public appearance is a little more complicated than that

— They remember things from your distant past that you’ve totally forgotten

— They love you, in spite of yourself

— Whenever you see them or talk to them, even after months or years of absence, you pick up as if it were 10 minutes ago

— You’ve traveled together and not killed one another


— They stood in on your wedding day for your absent mother, helping you with your makeup and keeping you calm

— You’ve helped them survive their divorce/infidelity/a natural disaster/becoming a crime victim — or all of the above

With love and gratitude to some of my many treasured friends: Cadence in London, Marion in Kamloops, Leslie in Toronto, Suzy and Salley in D.C., Jennifer in Maine, Molly, roaming about Laos, Cambodia and Thailand this summer and Pam across the street…

50 thoughts on “Yup, you’re my friend — how I know it for sure

  1. Love this Caitlin! I’ll always remember our open cup of coffee on that little plane in Nicaragua where seatbelts were optional. So glad we met and had that amazing experience together. Here’s to many more!

  2. Julia

    I am so happy that you posted about friendship. I’ll just add one thing to list: You can pick up a conversation easily after many years absence.

  3. Good friendships are so important. I think I need to nurture more close friendships in my life. I mean, I’m friends with people from my course at university and we meet up for coffee and a chat but I wouldn’t say I’m close friends with any of them. I guess it is something that happens organically, when you click with someone.

    1. Ohhhh, you know it when you click. It’s immediate and so lovely — but it doesn’t happen that often. I feel very lucky to have found just a few new friends in the past few years and the comfort you feel in their presence is key. I hope you do find one or two; the Marion I refer to I met in my freshman English class…in 1975. We just spoke last week and I hope we’re friends forever.

  4. You don’t ask for much, do you? If I had to write a list on friendship it’d be much shorter. Not because my expectations are low. Not at all. My expectations of people (and myself) are sky high. But you have to tailor the cloth. And whatever you do (same goes for marriage) don’t expect ONE person to deliver ALL.

    As to being “in the same room”, Caitlin: Two of the most precious people to me I have never met in the flesh. Yes, really. It happens. To me. Naturally. Who else.


  5. What a meaningful list! Don’t know about that PIN one though, must be a holdover from my CIA (currently independent, alas) days when as a single lass I kept it all to myself. By the way, I adore your photos of your hubs–what a warm smile. It must be a reflection of a generous soul.

      1. That would make sense. You are like me in that my hubs, the MEPA (Most Excellent Personal Assistant) is my best friend. More so now that he is retired. As for me, since I’m still working, I’m just tired again and again.

  6. Outstanding post, almost a “Millennials guide to friendships.” I have a very, very small Facebook friend list, reserved for people who I know will call, pick up the phone and when I am in their corner of the map, meet me for coffee. I may let the occasional fellow alum in for a bit, but even then, I cull the list down every year. Social media has really damaged the concept of a friend, but if used right, can simply help real friends connect more often….in person!

    1. Thanks…although I am far from being a millenial! Like you (I think) I am a Boomer…

      I recently culled more than 60 people from my Facebook “friends” list — and made explicit why: 1) they never posted; 2) they were boring or 3) I have never even met them (i.e. friends of friends.) Life is too short to follow the antics of people you don’t care much about or vice versa.

      1. Being boring is an perfectly fine indictment, as is perhaps proselytizing. The latter has happened to me; a seemingly nice former classmate friends me, only to turn my poor Facebook news feed into the second coming of Jerry Falwell. As for the age thing, I love the boomers, but I am an old soul GenXer. The age gap between my millennial youngest sister and me is very palpable, the divide more serious, I believe, than the one that separates GenX from their parents or grandparents.

      2. From everything I’ve read about Millennials, I fit the bill psychographically…and I have much younger friends, so it’s all good.

        I can’t stand people who use Facebook as their bully pulpit. BORING.

    1. Dennis — as I said to Ursula — it’s not meant to be literal for 100% of people who read this blog.

      The larger point is that friendship, in my view, is action, not just endless yammering on social media or a postcard or Christmas card. It’s sustained intimacy and my examples (all of them from my own life and others I know) are real.

      1. I understand. It’s just that it takes a great deal of trust for people to get that close. There seems to be a certain level of paranoia that keeps people from getting too close to each other. I don’t know what the cause is, but is seems to be very prevalent.

      2. That’s sad. I don’t have dozens of people I consider my intimates and I lost three female friends in the past decade I thought were friends for life when we each hit an impasse and we could not (or they refused to try) resolve the source of conflict.

        Life without people who trust one another deeply has got to be very lonely! I am grateful indeed for these people; it’s my family I have never been able to trust and when I have, am usually betrayed. πŸ™‚

  7. Grace

    Hi Caitlin. Thanks for always writing about beauty and truth! I love your blog. Have been a follower for years. Also, just nominated you for One Lovely Blog Award (I think you’ve been nominated before but I just find you so inspiring!!) Thanks again. Luv, Grace from NZ πŸ˜€

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