There are the people who make your long days in the office feel just a little bit shorter, and there are people who know every detail of your life. What makes one person a friend and another just a coworker? According to Judith Viorst in her article “Friends, Good Friends – and Such Good Friends” it’s not a matter of difference so much as degree and function. She provides seven categories of friendships: convenience friends, special-interest friends, historical friends, crossroads friends, cross-generational friends, part-of-a-couple friends and men who are friends. Presented as a list of varieties to consider, Viorst does not limit her categories as a comprehensive list, leaving the impression that these are simply the types she has noticed in her own life and observed in others. Having been born in 1939 and written this article in 1977, it is worth exploring whether her categories show the full range of friendships, whether they are applicable for all people and whether they are limited by her gender and generational differences.

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Taking a look at the seven categories, it may seem like more than enough. Certainly it must be more than most people ever consider. Yet some of the categories might include individuals one might never see as a friend at all, with some people viewing their fellow employees as merely coworkers and people occasionally spoken to in class or at social events as the all-too-distant acquaintances. On the other hand, one might not know where to place a new, blooming friendship within these seven categories and a coworker can easily share the “public face” type of conversations described under convenience friends that go far beyond the “special-interest” conversations of the workplace.

Further, when she speaks of couples’ friends, she does not make mention of the other “sort-of” friends category of “friend-of-a-friend,” which may also be a person only interacted with at a party or a friend only made through an introduction. In some ways, then, Viorst seems to both cast her net too wide in her failure to define what makes somebody worth considering a friend at all, too narrow in her consideration of close friends who are neither historic or forged during a crossroads, and too confined in that she did not describe any possibility of overlap between the categories. A convenience friend may certainly share special interests, but the conversation and willingness to help each other out need not be limited to those interests. Likewise, cross-generational friends could overlap with any of the categories, as could men who are friends.

Clearly Viorst chose to provide a list of friendship types to consider, rather than wording it as a full list, because with such a wide variety of people in the world, it is likely that others might view friendship differently than she does and have experiences that she may not share. With the idea of experience in mind, it is important to consider whether all people can relate the categories she has set forth. Considering her age, it can be expected that Viorst might have more experience with convenience friends and special-interest friends, when one considers that she was middle aged at the time she wrote this article and makes use of the examples of the wide variety of social activities mothers participate in for the sake of their children. This, in comparison to childless college-aged adults, might create such specific categories that are more important or apparent in her life than they are in others’ lives. One might claim this, too, of part-of-a-couple friends, as younger generations may not be at the point where their friends are pairing off in significant ways and parties are based more on groups of friends than “couples’ parties.” When viewing the list from the perspective of where people are in their lives, it becomes clear that certain categories may not have emerged in the lives of the younger demographic of readers, with this article first printed in a magazine aimed at women from 25-35. Other considerations when considering whether these categories are applicable to everyone might be relationship status and level of social involvement. Certainly extroverts might experience all of these friendships and more, while introverts may not or are less likely to view people in their lives who fall into the more distant levels of friendships as truly being friends.

From a generational standpoint, it is clear that Viorst has categories that might not be yet be applicable for young adults, but could apply later in life. Cross-generational friends may or may not occur when a person is in her twenties, but that same person could take on the “mother” role later in life. Rather than looking at it only from the spectrum of age, but from the difference of someone born in 1939 versus a millennial, one category in particular stands out as something that might not exist as separate for young readers: men as friends. While certainly flirtation is a possibility in any friendship between people of opposite genders, modern men and women are unlikely to see this as making it worthy of being a category wholly on its own, with the addition making it appear as if men couldn’t fall into any of the previous categories. Though it is noted that the article was initially meant to discuss only friendships between two women, this does not become entirely apparent until one reaches this category.

The way this article is written, too, seems to suggest that these sort of friendships are rare, but can happen and be just as dear as those with women. When Viorst writes, “It is only in the past few years that I’ve made friends with men, in the sense of a friendship that is mine, not just part of two couples,” it becomes blatantly obvious that for her this might be true. Viewing opposite-gender friendships as expected to be rare, when looking at the friendships of younger generations, suggests that this category is particularly out of date. When one looks around at groups of friends socializing in public, it is now clear than many friendships are formed between genders. This, now, is expected and some people find they are more comfortable with the opposite gender. Whether at school or work, people of opposite genders are expected to socialize individually, and therefore form friendships outside of “couples’ friendships.”

When taking into account the modern reader, it quickly becomes clear that while Judith Viorst lays down a good foundation of categories for friendship, her essay is out of date. While she did write with categories to consider, rather than a comprehensive list, she did leave out the possibility of overlap and only wrote of intimate relationships seemingly grounded in the past. With the advent of social media, there is room to create more categories that fall within the spectrum of distant friends, with people staying “available” in others’ lives long after the real need for communication has died out. In 1977 this technology clearly was not available, and it might make a large impact on any future article that attempts to categorize friendships. Other changes would likely center on the “group of friends” way of socializing that occurs for many people in their youth, different levels of modern day workplace friendships, and more analysis of opposite-gender friendships.

Considering that there is less of a taboo on people of the opposite gender forming strong friendships, it seems unlikely that a modern essay on this subject would focus so primarily on categorizing only friendships between women. A look at the bond formed between two men, two women and two people of the opposite sex might provide further insight that this article did not offer. While the foundation this article set forth in categorizing friendships did form a good foundation, there are still many areas that could do with further exploration.