Friends on the Fringe

My-Best-Friend“A friend is someone who understands when to comfort you. A best friend is someone who knows when to leave you alone.”

I don’t have a best friend. If I was pressed, I would probably say that my wife is my best friend, but I think that would be cheating, right? I mean, she’s more than a friend, so I don’t think I can honestly say that. Regardless, my wife does have a best friend. In fact, she has a whole crew of friends that go back to childhood. They’ve kept in touch throughout the years, our kids play together, and no one really has to go to the reunion because no one has really left. Not really, anyway. And I’m amazed when she talks to them, or talks about them, because I didn’t have that. Sure, I had people who were around, what I call the “fringe friends,” people who happened to be in the same place at the same time, and often, but who I would have never considered friends. But I found out later that maybe it was just my definition.

Fringe friends can be defined as people who:

  • Know you by name
  • Share at least one mutual activity
  • Do not know your middle name (unless they’re also Facebook friends and you use your first and middle names)
  • Have never seen your home

These fringers are the type of people you wouldn’t mind becoming real friends at some point, but you’ve just never really considered it because they serve a purpose in your life already, and you in theirs. They’re the people you talk to about the weather. “Looks like rain this morning.” “Sure does.” They’re the ones who laugh at your passing jokes even if they aren’t funny because it’s the polite thing to do. Fringers are always looking for acceptance from whomever happens to be around, and they will often round out impromptu football teams or bachelorette parties. In fact, in some ways fringers are miles better than best friends because you honestly don’t have to do much to maintain the relationship.

76493696Now, don’t get me wrong. I would kill for a best friend, and yes, fringers also do take some time and energy from you. But just think about the amount of time you talk with your best friend, all the activities you do together, all the texting that goes on back and forth between the two of you, and you’ll see what I’m saying. Sometimes fringe friends are the best when you’re tired and you just need an empty conversation, and you serve that purpose for them too. It’s okay to be on the fringe… unless you want something more. Have you ever had a fringer try to get into your inner circle? It can work out on occasion, but usually they fit into the fringe for a reason. Either you have “enough” close friends, or you just need that kind of marginal relationship to fill space and time in your life.

The more fringe friends you have, the more popular you seem to others. When you walk down a hallway and everyone says hello to you it can be an empowering feeling. When people come to you because they know you will always have something interesting to say it can make you feel good. But don’t forget that they need the same from you. Every relationship is give and take, and fringe friendships are no different. Don’t just use your fringers for what they can give to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired or not feeling like it, they’re not your best friends so they’re not obligated to leave you alone when you’re in a mood. In fact, sticking to your proper etiquette and shooting the breeze with them when you’re in a mood can be the perfect thing to get you feeling better again. So make sure you give back to them as well.

Keep in mind, too, that you make an impression on fringers, and you never know when they might be in a position to help you. I know a friend of mine who had a fringer help get her a job just because she was nice to her in passing. You honestly never know when someone else might be able to help you, or when you could help someone else. And don’t think of fringers as the lowest level of friends either. Think of them as just a different type of friend that is good for a different type of interaction. Which is fine, and which can be amazing given the right circumstance.


The Friendship Archive


11 thoughts on “Friends on the Fringe

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  1. Ooooh you’re like me! I have two friends who I would call true friends. Apart from that I have a heap of fringe friends too. The ones that come and go with mutual interests.

  2. This was interesting…I think I have several “fringe friends” then. I have two best friends, BUT to be honest I still get lonely sometimes. I understand the spouse best friend thing lol. But I do cheat and say he’s my bf, not one of the two I mentioned though. I guess I still want friendship like it was when I was younger, but that seems way less possible at my age.

    Did you ever have a best friend? Or do you feel you keep people at a distance?

    1. You know, that’s a good question. I think I do keep people at a distance. I’m accessible, but just when I want to be, and only as far as I want to be. I put up walls, even though they’re thin, and I hide behind them or behind a smile and some meaningless words. I am at my most honest and most vulnerable when I write. Hence, some of my best friends are people I write regularly to and with.

      As for friendships being less like they were when we were younger, that’s the joy of growing older. I said at some point that we don’t grow apart. We just grow, and life happens, things cram in one by one, and it’s hard to maintain a friendship that strong and constant. We’re lucky if we can do that.

  3. I don’t have a best friend either. I think it’s something life does to you. You’re close at one point and then… Things change. You have to have things in common and shared experiences to stay close. I have different close friends from different points in my life… Can your wife count as your best friend, though? Or does it have to be someone outside of that immediate inner family circle?

      1. Mmm, I don’t know. I feel as though someone you’re dating or married to ought to count, as they are not blood relatives. But I see what you mean.

      2. I guess there are enough spouses out there who are not best friends, who honestly don’t share their hopes and fears with each other. You’re right, if they are actually best friends they should count.

    1. And yet for some people things don’t change like that. Things stay the same, and they have a best friend from the ground up. Is it better to have that safe and secure world where nothing ever happens or changes, or is it better to be where you and I are?

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