Two years back, Amanda went through a phase of mistaking every smiling stranger for a friend. When I bought her a pair of pink Croc gumboots from the Croc store in Chadstone, Melbourne, she wanted to invite Mimi, the salesgirl, along with us for tea. She kept saying to me, “Let’s go and say hello to Mimi.”
“But Mimi needs to work,” I said.
“But isn’t she our friend?” asked Amanda, her eyes pools of confusion.
I decided it was time to have the “friends vs friendly” talk with her. In explaining to her the difference between the two, it became clear to me why some of my associations are more fulfilling than others.
“See here Amanda. A friend is someone who we see all the time, speak to often and whose food we eat. Do we see Mimi all the time?”
She shook her head.
“Do we speak to her often?” Well, let’s face it, if people don’t want to hear about you or from you, they’re probably disinterested in being your friend.
As I had expected, she shook her head again.
“Have we eaten at her table?” The last is for Asians the acid test of relationships: if I haven’t shared a meal with you, it’s highly unlikely that I’d call you up to hang out with.
Amanda eyes held that look of sudden knowing. “Oh, oh, I know now. She’s not a friend because we have never been to her house or speak to her or eaten her food.”
“Exactly. A friend is one who you can count on to feed you.” My friends at least get a cup of tea when they come visiting, if not a hot meal. “A friendly person is simply one having a good day.They’re in a stellar mood, that’s why they’re friendly.”
The distinction is important because if not, one goes through life cultivating relationships that have no real chance of blossoming while allowing those that can thrive to wither from neglect. Having said that, friendly people can and do become friends, just as friends sometimes, for whatever reason, become friendly people.