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Michelle Turnberg, Published December 02 2011

Turnberg: True friends go beyond Facebook

How many friends do you have?

I’m talking real, true friends. Ones who you would trust with a secret you know they would take with them to the grave? Ones you know have your back and would do anything for you?

I have four.

I’m talking friends here. Not parents (although mine have been with me through thick and thin and they always will be ... even though I’m sure I’ve given them a few gray hairs) or family members. Look at it as quality, not quantity.

Four. I don’t consider myself as someone who has a lot of friends. I know a lot of people. I have a lot of Facebook “friends,” and most places I go I run into acquaintances. But true friends are hard to find.

My closest friends I have known almost my entire life. We grew up together in a small town and spent our childhoods together. These are friends I know would do anything for me. I could call (and I sometimes do) any time of day or night. If I need them they would come.

We have seen each other through it all: growing up, marriage, kids, divorce, jobs, breakups, depression, death, road blocks, sickness and surgeries. They will hop on a plane or drive through blizzards to be with me, listen to my doubts and help set me straight. They will tell me the things I don’t want to tell myself, and help me put things in perspective.

The older I get the more I appreciate having these people in my life. Making true, close friends as an adult is difficult. It’s a lot like dating. You have to meet, see if you’re compatible and spend some time together. That’s easy as a kid but try finding the time between a spouse, kids, school, work and the kids’ activities. And if the prospective friend is a single parent, finding “girl time” is nearly impossible. The courtship period for friendship at 39 is a lot different than when I was 9.

Developing friendships is not easy. It’s difficult to find compatibility and genuine mutual trust, since so many previous experiences have resulted in disappointment. When a person you thought you could trust lets you down, it’s easy – perhaps even human nature – to become jaded. It also makes me realize just how important my true friends really are.

Even though we’re far apart it never matters how much time goes by. We always pick up right where we left off. And this year when we celebrate the big 4-0 they’ll be with me – older, wiser and honest as always.

“Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they are there.” Thanks guys.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column for The Forum.