From Urban Dictionary:
A friend who is only a friend when circumstances are pleasant or profitable. At the first sign of trouble, these capricious, disloyal friends will drop their relationship with you.
“I had thought Ted would stand by me when I was accused of theft, but it turned out he was only a fair-weather friend.”
A friend who is only around when they need you.
“Bill is a fair-weather friend because he only comes over when I have weed.”
A friend who is only nice to you when it’s convenient. Someone who’s wishy-washy. Someone who is a “backstabber.” Someone who abandons you in certain situations.
“Every time you’re with Bob, you won’t hang out with me. You’re such a fair-weather friend.”
The first definition seems about right to me, linguistically. I guess I have been lucky, though, because I can’t think of anyone truly “capricious” who simply used me for some type of profit. I’ve certainly been dropped by people, but generally they have been cases of just drifting apart, nothing really personal. I hope. Who knows?
The second definition is not right (although the usage example is OK) — it strikes me as the spot-on meaning of “foul-weather friend”. It’s important to me to distinguish between “fair” and “foul” weather for purposes of this post, as I will explain later.
The third definition is interesting, but again seems like another type of friend entirely. The usage example makes no sense. Who writes the stuff on Urban Dictionary? I suppose readers submit much of it, and this is a case where some dingbat doesn’t have a clue what the expression “fair-weather friend” means.
It doesn’t really matter, because my intent is not to pick apart other people and how they treat me. On the contrary, I would like to flip this whole thing around, take another look in the mirror, and encourage the reader to do the same. Like I said, this is my own and preferably somewhat original take on friendship.
My point is to pose these corollary questions: Whom do you turn to during fair weather when you have funny stories, jokes, or good news to share? On the other hand, whom do you lean on in foul weather when you have bad news or want to whine and complain? Is it the same person in both cases, or different people? Think about it. The answers may tell you a lot about what kind of friend you are to others.
It’s interesting to apply these questions to friends you have, of course. I have a few friends from whom I generally hear only when things are going badly for him or her. Not that they leech off me or ask me for money or anything like that. Basically they are human and need to vent a lot, and apparently I’m a suitable listener at times. In bulk quantities, sob stories can be annoying, no doubt about it, and it’s frustrating that I don’t seem to qualify for invitations to the more fun moments of their lives. I would say these people are examples of foul-weather friends.
I also have friends who do really well at sounding upbeat and nearly always act as though we all live in a sitcom — the emphasis is always on jokes, laughs, and success stories. This is another type of fair-weather friend — not someone who drops the relationship during tough times, but rather someone who does not readily admit that there is any foul weather at all. That is fine, in and of itself; we can all appreciate positive people who are fun to be around. However, no one’s life is perfect; everyone has burdens. The hidden downside, if I may call it that, is that I get the feeling this type of fair-weather friend is simply not comfortable confiding in me about the really nitty-gritty stuff. They don’t owe that to me, certainly, but it can feel like half a relationship at times. As in, what is deficient about me that they won’t open up about their troubles?
This whole post is largely prompted by the nagging feeling I have had for quite some time that I don’t know of anyone who would identify me as their best friend. I have best friends, but am I best friend material?
Which brings me back to the underlying question, what kind and what quality of friend am I to others? It can be difficult to get a handle on how I am perceived by others. Sometimes I don’t even think about it, because I am fairly secure in who I am, and I know in my heart I have been a very good friend to some people. Other times, when I feel dumped upon, I have to stop and wonder if I screwed up and carelessly wronged someone.
My best friends are those with whom I feel comfortable telling everything — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ideally the feeling is totally mutual. These are the relationships I treasure most.
Then there are those friends whom I avoid telling any of my troubles (unless answering a specific, direct question about an obvious matter they know about) — not necessarily because I don’t trust them, but perhaps because I have a tendency to be a chameleon. The vivacious, upbeat optimists seem to enjoy good news the most, so that’s what I give them. That type of thing. Whereas, misery loves company, and pouty, sourpuss types prefer to hear that others’ lives are rotten too — they do not like to hear that everything is going swell for me. There is yet another type of friend — the casual social acquaintance who requires lots of “small talk” but only on a superficial level, where nothing really personal is exposed — with whom I do not excel. I do not seem to have the skill and patience to maintain this type of friendship, but I could spend a whole separate post dissecting my shortcomings in that area.
The upshot is that I do strive to be an all-weather friend. I think I am loyal, giving and a good listener. I have a lot of room for improvement; there are plenty of times I miss the chance to help my friends. Sometimes the opportunities do not seem to arise wherein I feel I can truly demonstrate my best qualities, or maybe some people are so distracted that they don’t notice. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just not that fun to be around. I do know that it can be very difficult for me to find the really special, two-way connections with people that I love and admire.