There’s a reason the term “twentysomethings” connotes the stereotype of a permanent state of flux.
Twenty-year-olds are essentially baby grown-ups (I’m 26, so I should know). No matter how Type-A or on top of things you happen to be, the narrative of your adulthood is still riddled with loose threads by virtue of the fact that there are so many chapters of your life that have yet to be written.
Of those threads, I’ve found those involving friendship to be some of the squiggliest. When you hit your 20s, the bubbles of school and childhood burst with appropriate fanfare, exposing your friendship antennae to new spaces and people and ways of forming connections. There are so many different kinds of friendship that cycle through this particular decade of soul-searching and self-building as a result.
In the name of anthropology, I categorized what appear to be the most common friend varieties* you might encounter in your 20s based on a combo platter of my personal experience, keen observational skills and simply asking around. Scroll down to see which ones you’ve collected (they’re a lot like Pokémon in that it’s way more fun if you catch ’em all).
The friend with whom you shared a brief, dizzying closeness in high school and now only text occasionally to say, “Miss you!”
Part of me thinks it’s a shame that the potential for friendship of the dizzying closeness variety is (primarily) relegated to the fleeting four years of pubescent intensity known as high school, because wasn’t it such a thrill to be consumed in that way? To lie on a twin bed in a room that smelled like a mix of B.O. and cookie dough and get drunk on secrets? To give bad crush advice and pop each others’ zits and cut photos of David Beckham out of magazines to tape onto the ceiling?
Like all obsessions held together by circumstance, though, this one is easily harpooned with a change of location or sports season or homeroom class. The occasional “miss you” texts exchanged in subsequent years are bittersweet scraps overshadowed by the memory of yearbook signings that spanned paragraphs and paragraphs.
The college roommate who’s still your roommate
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This maxim certainly applies to the prospect of finding a living companion after college. Why would you initiate the stressful endeavor of trying to unearth a brand-new responsible human who’s your same kind of messy and gives you the last third of her or his avocado and pays her or his half of the rent on time when you already know a person who does all of these things and she or he happens to be moving to the same city? You wouldn’t, obviously.
The work wife
My preferred term for this particular friend is “human-resources-approved hunny bunny,” but I supposed work wife will do. Either way, in addition to being your go-to source for AA batteries in a pinch, he or she is also the guardian angel steward for your middle-of-the-day laughs, vents, crises and victories — and vice versa. This is the person you get lunch with every day, Monday through Friday, who will generously experience sympathy pangs if you suddenly decide you hate salads and want a sandwich instead. You’ll grab drinks after work, too, if there’s stuff to discuss that requires the lubrication of margaritas. If not, Gchat is your other favorite third wheel.
The FUN friend who always gets you off the couch (or at least tries to)
Though I’ve never been a fun friend, I’ve certainly had them, and they’re terrible and wonderful at the same time. They’re terrible because they hound you to put on your silver sequin going-out top even though you’d rather be wearing cotton cashmere sweatpants and beg you to call an Uber even though you’d rather be calling it a night and urge you to take a shot of Fireball even though you’d rather be drinking a hot toddy. They’re wonderful because you’ll probably end up having the best nights of your life with them.
The friend you pick up hobbies with
This friend is highly utilitarian in the sense that if you ever need a support buddy for your first time attending the slightly questionable-sounding belly-button workout class that nevertheless received a favorable review in New York Magazine, he or she is SO. THERE. The hobby friend’s hobby loyalty extends beyond fitness, though, accompanying you with both in-person and texting support through your knitting phase, your music festival phase, your dive bar phase, your intense skincare phase, your Riverdale phase and even your “I think I might stop eating cheese” phase despite a longstanding and well-documented love affair with lasagna.
The “we’re only friends because you’re friends with my friend” friend
Heaven forbid you run into this friend on a 40-minute subway ride from Soho to Harlem with too many open seats, lest you find yourself in the position of having to make small talk about the one friend you happen to have in common for precisely five of those 40 minutes and the remaining time discussing the weather while simultaneously trying to remember where he or she works (despite the fact that last time you attended a group dinner with this friend and the mutual friend your conversation flowed like fine wine at a bachelorette).
The social media friend you’ve never actually met face-to-face
This friend likes all your photos and quippy Tweetisms and sometimes DMs you to ask where you got those shoes. You may or may not have spotted him or her in a Duane Reade one time, but you hid behind a tampon display because you were wearing dirty sweatpants and dirtier hair and everyone knows the dress code for meeting a social media friend face-to-face for the first time is the same as the one for meeting Queen Elizabeth.
The friend you always make plans with that never happen
Bless this friend for maintaining a very solid co-appreciation of the euphoria that emanates from plans made and subsequently canceled. You probably met him or her at a work event, or maybe attended the same elementary school and lost touch but ended up moving to the same neighborhood and swear oaths to grab coffee every time you run into each other at the Starbucks on the corner. Either way, you like each other, but you’re not super-close, so the plans you promise will happen inevitably get de-prioritized behind finishing a deadline or sleeping an extra hour or watching Father of the Bride with your college roommate who’s still your roommate.
Did I miss any? Tell me in the comments.
*If you’re my friend and you’re reading this, you fall into the secret ninth category of friendship: The Friend Who Reads Harling’s Stuff on Man Repeller Even Though You Could Be Reading More Objectively Thrilling Material Like Harry Potter or Amelia’s horoscopes. I like you the best.
Illustrations by Ana Leovy.