The Evolving Face of Friendship

Ask 100 people to define friendship and you’ll get 100 different answers. For some it is an intimate term used only to describe those closest to them whom they trust implicitly.

I use the term generously when describing the various people in my life. From the old guys who hang out at the coffee shop that I like to sit and chat with on occasion to the woman I’ve known since I was 4 years old, each of my friendships is defined at a level most appropriate for our relationship. I wouldn’t discuss my sex life with the old men at the coffee shop any more than I’d limit my conversations with my friend of 39 years to tales of fly fishing.

There are only a few people I trust with everything and anything that goes on in my life and my head. Most of my friends get part of the picture and we move through our lives comfortable in that knowledge. An enriching friendship doesn’t have to include the baring of souls at every juncture. Sometimes a friendship is just lunch or a mutual interest.

In the last few years, I’ve made several new friends that I’ve never met in person. With the advent of the internet, I’ve forged several friendships with people who share interests and struggles similar to mine. Our communication is based on what we write on message boards and in email.

For instance, my best friend, my husband, can’t understand what it’s like to be obese and struggle with losing weight. That’s an area in which I rely on my Weight Watchers online friends. We talk about food and exercise sometimes, but mostly we talk about our lives. Obesity is with us 24/7, whether we’ve lost all the excess weight or not. And how obesity impacts our lives, our loves, and daily interactions with others is the basis for many of our conversations. As one woman reminded all of us in a thread after another woman chastised people on a particular message board for talking OT (off topic), everything in our lives relates to weight in some way or other, therefore all subjects are on topic.

The support gained through these friends is immeasurable. My skinny friends don’t know how to respond when I say, “I can’t get the fat chick in my head to shut up today.” My WW friends do.

While we share our gains and losses, celebrate non-scale victories, try to decipher the logic of the Points system (at Weight Watchers, one plus one often equals three), we also talk about our jobs, our families, fights we might have had, the illnesses and deaths of family members and other friends, sex, lingerie, vacations and television shows.

In this company of people I have learned more about myself than if I’d simply gone the weight-loss route alone. Through sharing their experiences, I am willing to challenge my body to workouts I never dared do in the past. They’ve taught me to listen to my body and recognize when it needs protein, carbs, water or chocolate. Through their posts and emails, these friends have taught me to trust myself and to trust them. I am comfortable in their presence online and in real life, having met seven of them in face-to-face meetings this year.

We’re sometimes catty, bitchy, snarky and loud, but we’re always there for each other. And in the end, that is the basis for any definition of friendship.

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