The 6 levels of friendship

By Eddie Hand

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Returning home is always a bit surreal for me because I generally imagine my hometown as exactly the way it was in high school. Time does not allow this to happen and I am always somewhat surprised by the differences that have taken place while I was absent, be it the opening of a record store or the retirement of a favorite teacher. Nothing is static; everything changes with the notable and somewhat surprising exception of key friendships that I obtained in high school.

I say that this is surprising because I was told by pretty much everyone I knew that had been through college that those bonds would go away, and that I would make new friends who would replace the old ones and the old ones would just fade out of my life over time. This isn’t to say that I don’t have new friends here in Amherst, or that I’ve lost touch with some of my high school friends, but they haven’t replaced the life-long ones and I wonder why this is; at what point does someone become irreplaceable?

I can’t answer that question. I don’t think anyone can.

This topic came up during a conversation with a friend of mine during last semester.. It was about four in the morning, and we were aimlessly driving, either around Concord or Lexington (at this hour of the night all roads look exactly the same) and what we did, for reasons that probably made a lot of sense at the time, was create a system in which we could actually place people in our lives.

As far as we could tell, there are 6 primary relationships you can have with a person.

A total stranger(1):

You have maybe seen this person on the train once or twice and have had a short conversation, and this is the extent of your experience with this person.

A colleague(2):

This can be someone you work with or go to school with. You know their name, maybe you’ve even worked with them on a project before or been to the same party, but that’s about it.

An acquaintance(3):

You know this person and you’ve spent a decent amount of time with them. You’d rarely go out of your way to hang out with them but you have no problem if they just happen to be invited too. This is the most liberal group because you don’t actually have to like these people but anyone that you’ve gotten to know well enough will fall into it at some point. Some will never leave it, some will move ahead, and some will go back and forth forever.  

A friendship(4):

These are the people that you know reasonably well, and you actively enjoy spending time with them. Sometimes they might annoy you, and you probably wouldn’t sacrifice yourself to save them in the event of a “Cloverfield” type monster attack, but you’d still totally go see a movie with them on Friday night or take care of them when they chugged down one too many Four Lokos. For some reason, most of the girls that my friends date were originally girls that held this type of relationship with me. Usually, these are the people that I hang out with but don’t put a lot of effort into seeing if they aren’t around.

A close friend (5):

The same as No. 4, but more-so. What is the difference between a “4” and a “5” is really in the eye of the beholder and very often the differences are so subtle that they meld into one group. For me, however, there are two distinct differences. The first is that I actually care about the feelings and actions of my close friends and the second noticeable trend is that No. 5’s generally bring out the best in me. Now, the latter isn’t exactly something tangible. It’s completely metaphysical, but that is why level 5 is such a wildcard. You might actually run into a burning building to save this person. There is a good chance that they will be the first person you call if you want to see the midnight showing of the latest teen wizard movie starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Family and Significant Others (6):

These are people that you can say “I love you” to and it’s not a method to trick them into sleeping with you or to get a work visa. Not really much more to say.

I find myself hooking up with No. 3’s more than any other number, though if you drink enough it’s likely that you’ve done that with a No. 1 at some point. I have never dated anything higher than a 4, and even that was questionable. I have been a No. 3 to someone that I thought was a No. 5. These things aren’t always mutual.

The high school friends that I mentioned are No. 5s, though some have trickled into lesser ranking territory. My college friends float somewhere between categories “3” and “4.” Although, my roommate is a solid “5.”

I recognize that these numbers are arbitrary because like most things, they change over time. I may consider someone a “5” one day, but if he were to seduce my girlfriend he’d go straight down to the lowest of “3”s and then after a long enough period of separation, all the way down to a meager “2.” What they do is serve as a measuring stick for how much one likes someone at an immediate moment.

Relationships may be intangible but there are still some we value more than others.

Eddie Hand is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]