Do you have a best friend?

…dear polymaths?
I don’t, now, and I wonder if I ever did.
I always say a gent now dead ten years was my best friend. Then if I’m saying it in company, i self-deprecatingly laugh and say I reckon he still is— no one else is clamoring for the honor!
It’s not as awful as you may be thinking: I know that the man I’m referring to would love that as a memorial—whether or not we WERE more, or less, than “friends” doesn’t matter now. (Does it?)
But since that’s a vexed question, I began wondering: did I, before or after him, ever have a “best friend”?
I assume my sister ,and my husband, are not to be counted because of the unique nature of those relationships.
Aside from them, at this point of course I know lotsa
people… I’d say I can think right now of…five whom I “really” like, I’d be disappointed if they didn’t show up at my parties…but I’m… …judicious about what I tell them; certainly not everything.
My “oldest” friends, from college, abandoned me en masse over political differences, so I now think those were never real friendships.

So what I want to know, dear polymaths, is,
do you still have a best friend?
If not, when was the last time you did? Is having a best friend only for adolescents?


Thank you for this very unique question.

Before COVID this was a straight forward question with an easy answer (I think).

Now it is more nuanced.

What I would call my close friends, is with persons that I have a spiritual or inner link, however COVID did change something.
With some, because we are on the same side of the fence, we can discuss everything BUT for other, due to the COVID separation, many things cannot be discussed HOWEVER the inner link is still there.
This is very new and somehow a bit strange but it is nice to see that the inner spiritual link is stronger than the COVID noise.


In my case, yes. Though I sometimes wax sentimental about former friends, this never led me to maintain the friendships. I just let them dissipate, usually with geographic relocation. I don’t know why, but my friendships, I treated as disposable. Similarly with ex wives - two of them. I can’t say I’m proud of this aspect of my nature.


An expatriate in England once commented to me about the English definition of friendship, which seemingly revolved around beery camaraderie in English pubs. A person you share a social occasion with is just an acquaintance, he said. A friend is the person who will come and dig your garden for you when you are sick, without being asked.

A few years back when I was overseas, my wife was stuck at home due to a sequence of unusually heavy snowfalls. Two individuals whom I would have characterized as pleasant acquaintances rather than good friends came – unasked – on separate occasions to plough her driveway. Maybe we don’t know who our real friends are?


I have a similar experience, although I never intend to treat my friends as disposable, but I can understand how an outside observer might draw that conclusion. In my experience, the cost to benefit ratio to maintaining friendships just isn’t there…and it’s not like I’m being selfish or think that having friends is all about me or what I can get out of them…but if a friendship is a net drain on your mental and emotional energy reserves, it’s easier to just let them slip away. I’m an introvert by nature and am totally content being alone—I would be a perfect candidate for a one person manned mission to Mars. I hope that my not needing friends is because I’m an introvert and not a sociopath.


I could never, ever bring myself to tell another human being—no matter their relationship to me—“everything” about me, and I never understood why a person would want to do that anyway.


Or maybe we only find out when the $&!# hits the fan.


I love all of these replies from my new “best friends”—from what I know (and/or what I’ve wondered) about you each from your writing, these are the quintessential “you”, respectively.
Scott Fitzgerald wrote (paraphrasing from memory) “It’s in your thirties that you want friends. Then you realize that they won’t save you, any more than love did.”
Lots to unpack there. “Save you” from what? I reckon just from existential despair, from the famous “crackup” he later experienced and wrote about. And then, the great love of his life, Zelda, was a schizophrenic….or became one, some say he drove her to it but no, it doesn’t work like that, I think. Also he gave up on love kinda early if he hd no more faith in it after 29….
To me, a true friend is someone who cares bout WHATEVER happens to you, only because it IS happening to YOU.
But friendships are ephemeral, yes, dependent on time,place, shared experience. Which is OK ultimately, as Edna St Vincent Millay put it:

“I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day
Your little month, your little half a year
Till I forget, or die, or move away
And we are done forever. By and by
I SHALL forget you, as I said—but NOW
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie,
I shall protest you with my favorite vow!
I would, indeed, that love were longer lived,
And vows were not the brittle things they are,
But—so it is, and Nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far.
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is…idle, biologically speaking.”


Thank you for that very poignant quote (or paraphrase)…some people just have a magical way with words.


Here is an interesting view: find some “useless friends”. I am still not quite clear on this one, but here we go:

Starting with the Carter stagflation’s wage controls it became necessary for those trying to get a leg up on the cost of family formation to frequently change jobs. Employers were flush with an inrush of boomers, females and immigrants. Employers, used to the “company man” era of the GI generation where lifetime employment was available outside civil service, had a gold mine. They’d use Carter’s policy of wage freeze to justify not providing raises even as real estate prices (immune to Carter’s dictum) were skyrocketing.

This is one of the things that made going to the largest metropolitan areas seductive so long as you were competitive in a competitive job market. You could change jobs and not lose your social network: The real flesh and blood kind. Those who moved to silicon valley early benefited from this – at least until Indian ethnic nepotism and their advantages with affirmative action as a “protected group” gave Boomers the boot when the DotCon bubble burst.

The first time I heard someone complain about the destruction of their social life was in late '80s San Diego when a teacher I was in a relationship with began talking about how people kept moving away and as a consequence how lonely things were becoming.

This has now reached crisis proportions as people are fleeing to the hinterlands to escape these metropolitan areas. My experience, having been given the boot 2001, moving to a small PNW town was that some people who were fleeing California were intent on bringing the gospel of California to that small rural town and some in that small rural town were intent on living down the “hick” reputation of small rural towns that had been blared at them by mass media during their entire lives.

This is one of the many reasons why I am so insistent on sorting proponents of social theories into governments that test them – including exile and border control to defend against the aforementioned vermin. If you can’t have lifelong friends then can you at least have a community of people that share your strongly held beliefs about what forms a community? Must the destruction of social capital barely admitted by Putnam in Bowling Alone continue unabated?

But of course as I’ve often pointed out: our zookeepers are most inhumane.


Very few of my friends have been able to stay in a metropolitan area unless they’ve inherited real estate there. That’s how it typically plays out:

Yet, the new moths get attracted to the flame. It’s until later that the moths realize that the flame is other moths burning up.


Regarding ephemerality, I have friends I’ve known for fifty years (a little over). We haven’t lived in the same location for about 40 years.

I have a few friends from my youth (becoming friends in grade school, junior high or high school). I have a few friends from my college years and a few friends from my working years and I hope a meet a few people as good as these in my retirement years.

I lost a friend from high school going on 10 years now. He died of early onset Alzheimer’s at 46 and it still brings tears to my eyes thinking of him which I do quite often. I rarely saw him after I graduated from college, but obviously the bond never broke.

I never really thought about friendship in terms of what they do for me. I always think of them as really good people. They, like my wife, are better than me in most ways. The type of people I like to be around.

They make me think, laugh, feel energetic, etc. Thinking about it now, they do something for me emotionally.

Maybe the lesson of my friend who died ten years ago is that a friend is someone you will miss.

But you don’t have to wait until they die. Over the last couple years, I have reestablished a relationship with a friend from long ago. When I thought of him versus other friends from long ago, I knew there was a difference. I missed him.


If there were a feature in this software that would allow marking an entire thread as favourite or most loved (not just a particular post in a thread), then this would be one of such threads and this quote would be the heart of it.


Whaddya think of this idea: that the law should deal with friendships? Let friends sue for loss of consortium, grant tax deductions for friendship expenditures, impose a “duty to rescue” upon friends. Why all this? Well, cuz friendships are very important to us! Therefore, OF COURSE “the law” should horn in to fuck it all up. Believe it or not I have read legal articles seriously proposing these ideas for legislation.
(It reminds me of how I felt maybe, 20 years ago, when I read about people hiring attorneys to write “ethical wills” for them. I mean CTFO, if you can’t trust yourself to compose your own last words, what CAN you take responsibility for? )



Yes. That’s what they don’t get. It’s a blind spot: neither friendships not communities can result from coercion. Simple. Fundamental to human nature. They won’t have it! (you know who I mean).


Oh that is SO perfect!