Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ship of Friends

Everyone knows there are different flavors of love. The ancient Greeks even codified them, drawing neat semantic lines between Eros and Agape, Philia and Storge. Later, psychologist John Lee interviewed subjects to determine what love meant to them: he cataloged three primary and three secondary "colors" of love, based in part on the Greek archetypes.

In case you were interested, primary colors were Eros (passionate, physical, romantic and intense), Ludus (game-playing, love-as-conquest), and Storge (brotherly, constant, uneventful). Secondary colors were Mania (a combo of Eros and Ludus: possessive and anxious), Pragma (pragmatic, compatibility-focused partnerships), and Agape (selfless, giving love). Different people gravitate toward different colors: I try to be a Pragma girl, though I have to watch that Eros doesn't bite me in the ass.

What I wonder is why, given the extent to which we are willing -even eager- to slice and dice love, we treat friendship like one big hunk of meat. If you're going to introduce someone, you say, "This is my friend, X." Never mind if you've known him from childhood or if you kind of hate her or if your friendship is a combustible cocktail of intimacy and silence. No matter if he once stole they boy you loved, or you don't know her very well, or if, over the years, your friendship has flickered and dimmed like a dying bulb.

I spent time with five different friends this weekend. I've been acquainted with H for two decades. R, I barely know. S accompanied me a on a tour for prospective students of the college we'd attended for nine years combined, conversing with curious parents about our shared, and apocryphal, Delaware childhood. M laughs at all of my jokes, even the bad ones. B is my father.

The color of every friendship, the warp and weft between two people -or three, or four- is different. Sometimes, despite a wealth of good friends, I miss not-so-good friends, people with whom I'm comfortable but not too comfortable, people in whose presence I'm forced to be light and polite and happy. Sometimes I just want a smile from a stranger. Sometimes I miss a specific person, a specific texture of interaction, with all the fierceness of Mania.

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