This originally appeared on Mamamia. Republished here with permission.
You need six friends. Count them, six. Each must serve a different purpose, and together, they should meet all your friendship needs. I read that online this week so it must be true. I’m not sure who came up with the magic number six, possibly the producer of the show Friends but it’s an interesting idea regardless.
You see, apparently friends are like food groups. You need a variety of them to stay healthy. “Different types of friends serve different purposes and nourish and enrich our lives in different ways,” explains Domonique Bertolucci, author of The Happiness Code.
So here they are. The six friends you need:
1. The Friend Who Is Cooler Than You
2. The Friend Who Is Up For Anything
3. The Friend Who You Aspire To Be
4. The Friend Who Doesn’t Know Any Of Your Other Friends
5. The Friend Who Is Painfully Honest
6. The Friend You’ve Known Longer Than You’ve Known Yourself
I might show this list to my daughter. Right now I’m teaching her that it’s good to have lots of different friends. This is a guiding principle at her school—the kids are encouraged to have a large circle of friends instead of just one Best Friend Forever, because as a strategy, BFF’s are high-risk. “Forever” can end abruptly when you’re 7.
I wish someone had mentioned the six friends idea to me when I was growing up. From as early as I can remember, I loved my friends singularly hard and with laser-like focus. Though the role of My Best Friend was played by several different girls through my school years, at any point in time there was always one who wore the BFF badge (or burden) of my devotion exclusively. This didn’t always work out so well because girls can be fickle and melodramatic, which is a lousy combination when you have no playground backup plan.
Female friendships at any age can be highly combustible. Just ask a married woman how many of her bridesmaids she’s still friendly with. Every woman has a story about the friend who was once like a sister and is now a stranger. Conversely, men don’t tend to fall out with their friends so much. In fact, the number of men I know who are still incredibly tight with the same group of friends they had in high school is uncanny. Either they pick and stick or they just can’t be bothered making new ones.
My eldest son chose his first friend aged 4. They picked each other at kindergarten and that was it. More than a decade later, they’re still best friends and have never had a fight or even a cross word. They have other friends and mix in different concentric circles but they remain as close as brothers.
Having sons has shown me the extraordinary simplicity of boys’ friendships; their lack of complexity is breathtakingly beautiful. And having a daughter has reminded me that the risk/benefit analysis of female friendship is extreme. I was woefully unprepared for this when my daughter began making friends. The first time we had some girls over for a playdate and one of them cried because someone had hurt her feelings, I freaked out. Who cries on a playdate? Having sheepishly spoken to friends with daughters, they assured me this was normal. “Oh there are always tears and fights when girls get together,” they laughed. “They’re drama queens.” Really? OK.
Whoever came up with the checklist of 6 Friends You Need only told half the story. What about The Friends You Don’t Need? The ones who don’t add much value to your life. In fact, they subtract from it.
Here’s my own list of 10 people you should consider deleting from your contacts:
1. The Friend Who Isn’t Really A Friend But Who You Slept With Once A Long Time Ago And Who Found You On Facebook And You Accepted Their Friend Request In A Weak Moment
2. The Friend Who Always Cancels Right Before You’re Supposed To Meet
3. The Friend Who Constantly Bitches To You About How Unhappy They Are In Their Relationship But Refuses To Leave It. Like, Ever
4. The Friend Who Always Says “You Look Tired” With Passive Aggressive Faux-Concern
5. The Friend Who Only Contacts You When They Need Something
6. The Friend Who Uses The Calculator App On Their Phone To Work Out Their Exact Share Of The Bill Because They Did Not Have An Entree And Only Drank Half A Glass Of Wine
7. The Friend Who Only Ever Calls To Dump Their Problems On You And Drains Your Energy Like A Blood-Sucking Vampire
8. The Friend Whose Hair You Still Have To Hold Back On A Regular Basis Even Though You’re Both Over 25
9. The Friend Who Derives Secret Schadenfreudian Pleasure When Something Crappy Happens To You
10. The Friend Who Tags Unflattering Photos Of You On Facebook
Right, with that bit of emotional spring-cleaning done, I’m ready for another weekend playdate. Tissues? Check.
Mia Freedman is the editor and publisher of Mamamia.com.au, the website she founded in 2007 when she left traditional media and didn’t quite know what else to do next. You can follow Mia on twitter @miafreedman.