Friday, February 11, 2011

Friend v. Friend

Friendship is far less regulated and in some ways far more important than other social relationships to everyone. For an example, consider this hypothetical statement:
My best friend Bob has been my rock through each of my five failed marriages and divorces. 
A realist might acknowledge even on their wedding day, in their heart of hearts, that their marriage might not last, that 50 percent of marriages these days end in divorce, and that their own marriage might eventually unravel. The same person will have the same feeling about any of their friendships, but find the eventually ending of a regular friendship far more hurtful than a divorce. Indeed, divorce does not mean that the former husband and wife hate each other. Divorcing couples may still remain in close contact, for various reasons -- joint custody, say, and they may still be friends: "My ex-wife is one of my closest friends" is by no means an impossible scenario to imagine.

I have been hurt when a friendship has ended or when I have drifted apart from old friends. One friendship ended in the last two years with a sudden and total termination of contact by someone I considered a very dear and close friend: not a romantic connection, but a close, good friend. I am happy -- selfishly happy -- to say that I believe the other person ended the friendship because he was a total weirdo, and not because I (hypothetically) ate his bicycle, committed adultery with his wife, stole his cat. But his being a total weirdo was one of the reasons I liked him so much!

I just picked up the above book and hope to learn more about this topic and its increasingly legal ramifications. In our times, when the size of one's social network can be a matter for boasting (Facebook cuts you off if you add more than 5,000 people as friends), and when the word friend has of course become a verb: "Friends, Romans, countrymen! Friend me your friends."

I am astonished to have to tell you that on the dust jacket of this book, an Oxford University Press publication, there is an incredible and egregious typo, which to my even greater dismay, is repeated on the web page for the book, namely:
Friendship is one of our most important social institutions. It is the not only the salve for personal loneliness and isolation; it is the glue that binds society together. Yet for a host of reasons--longer hours at work, the Internet, suburban sprawl--many have argued that friendship is on the decline in contemporary America. In social surveys, researchers have found that Americans on average have fewer friends today than in times past.
How could that get past the editors?!