Do I Have Enough Friends?

Illustration: OWN Digital

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Do I Have Enough Friends?
We've known since childhood that you're not supposed to use people, but I happily admit that I use my friends all the time. I've even cultivated friendships to serve specific needs. When the rigors of parenting are getting me down, I call an emergency lunch with my mordant friend Michele, who always knows where to find the funny. After a particularly punishing day at the office, it's a vat of Chardonnay with Deborah, while Anne absorbs the details of my ancient father's decline like no other—she's known my family since we were in kindergarten, after all. Schadenfreude-immune Alison is my go-to with bad news, Lisa takes unalloyed pleasure in the good and soul sister Beth just embraces it all. The liberal supply of lobster rolls and intricate conversation at her place up in Massachusetts is my idea of a spa weekend.

While some people entrust their deep, dark stuff to a superspecial bestie, I spread the burden over many. Partly because it would be unfair, I think, to saddle one person with the time-consuming—and oh so enjoyable!—task of providing me with a constant sense of well-being (just ask my husband, who's very happy for the help). But also because different issues and moods require the ministrations of different friends. It's a little like selecting the right vacuum cleaner attachment for the job, and I mean that more lovingly and admiringly than it sounds. Sometimes all your psyche requires is a pleasurable buffing with a soft duster; other times it calls for a probing instrument to get at the really hard-to-reach schmutz. How many friends are enough? As many as it takes to give you a sense of being known.

When I'm feeling needy, I try to be mindful of who can handle what. Tom tolerates a level of whining that I can't imagine visiting upon any other friend; in exchange, I spare Tom, who doesn't have kids, the more gritty and granular tales of child-rearing (I have a veritable SWAT team of mom friends for that). Mark and Jim provide ample space, psychological and otherwise, for my id to roam free during our epically decadent weekends together. And I can hardly believe the embarrassing tidbits I'll bestow on Dana, but why not? When you're sorting underpants together in the laundry room of the summer house you share, things quickly get intimate.

I hasten to point out that these friendships are a two-way street; all of the above know I'm open for business day or night, whenever they may need me. And I don't take offense if on some occasions I'm not their first call—not the perfect tool for the job at hand—although I'd like to be. Because when it comes to friends, I just want to be loved. And used.

—Lucy Kaylin O's Editor In Chief