The differences between friends and acquaintances: Letters to my daughter

Dear Pup,

2017 is going to be a year of firsts for you! Big sister status becomes official in 2 weeks and you start Big School. 

Today, with those big brown eyes turned to mine, you rattled a list of names and asked me if they were my friends. Now usually I would simply say yes, but as you are now embarking into new territory I decided to be a little more real with you. And so, I introduced you to a new word: acquaintances.

Now, it’s a complicated word to say (and spell) but even more complicated in life because if you confuse these acquaintances with friends, it usually goes very well or very badly.

So, you said, “What is the difference my mummy, and who are your friends?”. I am pleased to say that I answer this much easier than I would have 1 year ago. My friendship circle is small, but strong. 

Some friends come into  your life later on like Bestie (who mummy met over cheesy samoosa orders). As you know Aunty Bestie and mummy are both pregnant at the same time and what mummy loves about her is her honesty and genuine loving nature. Also, mummy and aunty Bestie are very similar (same same). Not only is Aunty Bestie an amazing friend, she is more like a sister and proves that some bonds do not need time to develop.

Yolk (who mummy met while at her bucket list dream job and is also baking a proverbial “bun”) also became a friend almost instantly. Aunty Yolk is the ying to mummy’s yang. She is structured in thought, rational more often than not just the right amount of crazy. See, you dont have to be the same to be great friends. 

Some come to you earlier in life, like at a university welcome braai where this particular friend and mummy formed a friendship that has lasted years, and survived first loves, lots of heartbreak, fights and tons of adventures. This friendship truly has stood the test of time. Aunty Prof (you know who you are) recently became a mummy. Its amazing how friendships that are true can evolve  and change with people. 

Aunty Psychologist has also lasted from university years and again is a testament that distance and time does not break spiritual bonds – many adventures were had with her too and now conversations revolve around corporates, politics, economics and the like – but always come back to the funny years we’ve shared. 

See my baby, friends cement their binds in actions, acquaintances in words. Yes they fight and argue and don’t talk for days, but they do not aim to maliciously hurt or villianise. Gossip is a true determinant of friendships over anything else (oh yes mean girls exist, even as adults!) The difference is best summed up by a saying from Maya Angelou who said, 

“There’s a marked difference between acquaintances and friends. Most people really don’t become friends. They become deep and serious acquaintances. But in a friendship you get to know the spirit of another person; and your values coincide.”

As you embark on the next few years, remember that although everyone has the potential to be a true friend, many will not make the grade. 

Acquaintances are fantastic to interact with at work and at play but do not expect them to truly buy into or trust that they will always see the real you or care enough to find her when times are tough. They are often driven by their own version of you, which is not guided by an underlying committment to your well being so maintain a healthy distance with regard to matters of the heart and chose carefully how you share what to.

Remember to forgive fully when hurt and allow life to show you who’s spirit matches yours. Engage, do not shy away from extending that first hello or smile out of fear – both friends and acquaintances are needed and valued- for the unique roles they bring.

It’s is inevitable you will share many laughs and tears over this topic (we still do!) but true friendships (especially those formed with other woman) are worth all the steps you take to discover them.

Love you my baby girl,



6 thoughts on “The differences between friends and acquaintances: Letters to my daughter

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