My girlfriend and I have been having a rather circular argument lately. Let’s see if I can tell you why without offending anyone. She feels that she has no friends in her social group. And, as I’ve gone on and met a few people in her social group at parties or at the school we used to attend together, at least two have come to me since to hang out or talk or stuff. Ailish says this is me making friends with the people she should have been friends with. I don’t see it that way, but it’ll take a lot of explaining to get to why.

Friendship is a shifty thing for most people, but it never has been for me. This is perhaps why I’ve experienced so little of it in my life. Like science fiction, I’ve never thought about defining what makes a friendship different from other relationships in life. A romantic relationship, at least in my very square portion of the West, is defined by fidelity. You stay faithful to one (or however many) person(s) from the day you swear to be faithful to them. Sure, that definition’s a little graceless, but it’s also a little accurate. Romantic relationships can be tumultuous if they’re never defined by the people in them. Or, if those people in that relationship abuse the trust established between the partners. Relationships have definite beginnings and almost always have definite ends; at one point, one of the people involved will simply call it quits.

There are the relationships we have with family, which feel so often like romantic relationships without the physical intimacy or ability to opt out. You also don’t opt in, which means that sometimes, you’re saddled with people you might not get along with if they weren’t family. There are casual friends, who often occupy a group in your rolodex and have the option of opting out of you before you have the ability to opt out of them. There are business relationships, wherein certain people keep in contact and go out together occasionally to keep business connections open. There are open romantic relationships, on which I have little to no authority to speak of. I’ve never been in one, but I’ve also never thought of them as disgusting or immoral. Some people love differently, is all, and if all partners and participants are satisfied, I can’t knock it.

Friendship has no definite opt-in date. Sure, there might be times you look back on as the moment you decided you were friends with someone. I remember Dan and I were hanging around quite a bit around class hours–we’d gone to see the play Fibber together. But no, The Hooker Story is not the moment I knew Dan and I were friends. That moment was when he and I went out and got Wendy’s for lunch, and I went to sit in the lower court. He stopped me from doing that, saying we should go to the balcony “so [he could] people-watch”. I’m pretty sure it was that day that he told me about The Room and since then, we’ve been bros. Even after I kinda spoiled Braid for him.

Friendship has no opt-out clause. Well, it’s there, but it takes a damn lot to invoke. I don’t remember telling any friends I had that I was through with them. Maybe any jilted ex-friends can speak up in the comments. If you’re truly good friends with someone, you will put up with a lot of ill-behaviour before calling it quits. I’ve forgiven friends for canceling plans on the day to do the exact same thing with some dude they wanted to bang (no one in particular!). I mean, we argued it out, but I still forgave her far earlier than I’d intended to, cos she’s my friend. Those don’t come along every day, and you get used to forgiving a lot of dick moves. Theoretical-person-who-is-no-one-in-particular, you can weigh in below.

Friendship is staying up at all hours, arguing opposing viewpoints with great passion and not being mad the next morning. The DNA of my I’m not that good at video games. duology was borne out of a long argument with Chad the week prior, wherein I called him and his community the scum of the new media Earth. I thank him deeply for forgiving me that, as it was the dickiest of moves, but I’m also glad that we’ve listened to each others’ point of view with more patience than would be due a man at the bar. The same goes for Dave, though he has never had to put up with the “grr I hate gamers!” argument for more than a half hour at a time.

This is the kind of friendship I call friendship. There are many kinds, including the types I listed above. What Ailish and I were arguing however, is the relationship-sort-thing I’ve had with two of her friends now. Let’s call them Miranda and Jessie. Miranda is an eighteen year old girl who threw a party in the summer that Ailish and I attended. While I was dealing with Ailish and getting her home safely, I struck up a conversation with her in the cab. Then, a week or two later, she came to me for romantic advice with her girlfriend. They were having a bit of a domestic situation, and she said she needed a mature and sensible viewpoint on the matter.

Jessie, however, I met in high school. We didn’t quite get along back then, for whatever reason, but since contacting her for some business in the summer, we’ve sort of been texting occasionally. We had lunch and went to the mall yesterday, where we talked about girls, music and other things. I don’t see these girls as friends–yet–because friendship is a two-way street of all the things I’ve said here. Sure, friendship involves being forgiving, but it also involves trusting that you’ll be forgiven. It means receiving advice you ask for, but it also means giving advice you’re asked for. Both of these girls have sought me out not because they’re deeply interested in my problems, but because they think I can help with theirs. Hey, no skin off my back–I rather enjoy the company. Either relationship could turn into a legitimate friendship, but I wouldn’t say they have yet.

Well, Ailish? That‘s why that was too long to text.