Ouch!

I

started this little story about DKLA by sharing a bit of myself regarding friendship. I defined friendship–true friendship–rather narrowly, but got my head bit off in the process by a student of mine, the mongoose.

if those are your criteria for friendship, then it’s no wonder you feel you don’t have any friends around you. if i apply those to my life, i might not have any friends at all…. what about m? isn’t she your friend? relegating people to the position of “acquaintance” simply because you would not reveal all of your deepest secrets to them is quite harsh, and quite inconsiderate, in my opinion. i would certainly hope that your students rank at least slightly above the near-total stranger at glory days. and saying that you “interact with them as friends” is just plain insulting, and smacks of dishonesty. friendships can be slow or fast to form, depending on the people and the circumstances… you can say that you have a heirarchy of friends, some closer than others, and i would say that’s perfectly natural. you can say that your best friends are all living far away from you, and i can say that i understand, because mine are too, but saying that you have no friends around you is bollocks, and you know it.

Whew! Cool your jets, girl. My definition of friends is my definition. I reserve the right to define who I call “friends” and who I refer to as “acquaintances”. To me, a true friend is one who will have my back when I need it most, one who will cover for me and defend me. And honestly, there are few who would actually go to the mat for me.

And students? Puleeeeeeeeeeeeze. I give my students a big hunk of myself. You know this; they know this. I believe anyone here who participates in the senryu salon may have an inkling of this. In the past 8 years, I have had hundreds of students, but how many of them keep in touch with me after graduating? I mean, besides those who contact me for a letter of recommendation? I can count them on one hand.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not upset or bitter or unhappy. Far from it. I love my students unconditionally, but I’m just elucidating the reality. This is the way of the world. Besides the difference of 20+ years between us, there are few who would want to consider me a friend. The student-teacher relationship is very comfortable: easy to establish, easy to end. So I would be deluding myself if I thought that most of my students regarded me as their buddy, more than an AIM buddy, that is. Certainly, I rank my students higher than anyone at Glory Days. Geez, I rank them higher than my colleagues at work. Seriously. Haven’t you been to my house? YES YOU HAVE! How often do you think I invite my colleagues? Less than you guys. Way less. To think that you would EVEN question my feelings for you. Grrrrrrrr… wait… was your outburst… are you perhaps… jealous? Hahahahhahahahah. Just kidding…

Anyway, I think the problems is purely semantics. You seem to define friends very broadly: Those who are close; those you can joke with but perhaps not entrust with a secret; those you can talk to after years have gone by even though you have not kept in touch in the interim. That is for me a very broad definition. Conversely, you define acquaintances narrowly: people you barely know. I am the opposite. I define friends narrowly, and acquaintances broadly. While you choose to create a hierarchy of friends, I would rather have a hierarchy of acquantances. I can’t rank a friend, for a friend is a friend is a friend. Maybe we should have more words to help us define the differences.

In Japanese, there are a number of words:

  • tomodachi 友達 Friends: This is the most prevalent word. But it is thrown about so casually that I use it like I use the word acquaintance. You will often see mothers tell their children on the first day of school to play with their “tomodachi” even if they had never even met them before. In this sense, it is used to mean “those of the same status as you.” Certainly, drunk people throw the word around as if it was worth the price of one karaoke song.
  • yuujin 友人 Friend: This is the word I use when I refer to my good friend in Japanese. There is sense of true friendship in this word.
  • houyuu 朋友 Classical friend: I refer to this as classical because it is used in literary Japanese to infer a close friend. The character hou 朋 represents two bodies close to each other 肉肉. Yes, that is not two moons, but abbreviated slabs of meat. But this is the word for tomodachi in Chinese, pengyou. But maybe a Chinese speaker could shed some light as to the depth of friendship in this term..
  • shiriai 知り合い Acquantaince. As the characters suggest, it is a person you know 知りand match well with 合い. Indeed, a lot of people would probalby fit this description. Indeed, the word in English derives from the word acointe (OF) which means familiar.
  • UPDATED friend: shin’yuu 親友 Close friend: How did I forget this one?!? The characters literally mean familiar friend, but the meaning is the same: one with whom you are closely familiar like family. It is not surprising that the same Chinese character is used to mean “parent.” Thanks to Taku and ZettonV for reminding me.

In English, I also use the term buddy. This is a person, usually of the same sex, with a shared interest who I meet on a regular basis. This might be close to the word tomodachi in Japanese. Drinkng buddy, study buddy, game buddy. Also, a “person I know” is definitely one who is lower in the hierarchy, and indeed I discriminate between the use of casual acquaintance and acquaintance. Ultimately, it is strictly personal preference. I see myself in an uncertain world where friends–true friends–are people I can count on. This is more realistic than believing that it’s a comfortable world in which I am surrounded by many “friends”. So call me a pessismist… Although I must admit my views have changed a bit since I’ve been on Xanga. This is indeed an incredible place.

Finally, M is my wife, my lover, my soulmate. This transcends a friend in my book. I would never introduce her to anyone as my friend as some might. So while our relationship encompasses the parameters of friendship, it’s boundaries go far beyond it…

BTW: What are “bollocks”? Is it related to buttocks?

NOTE: The mongoose is a good student who is just trying to get my gander up. She can get away with this because she IS my student, and an attractive one at that… that is if you like women who are six feet tall and regularly make comments about short men.

Anway: How do you view friendship vs. acquaintance? Do you use different words?

The Aye‘s STILL Have It!

Story will continue tomorrow–Flame Out

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