The concept of the show Friends was founded on a group of friends so close they were essentially family. They did the things family did: Celeberated holidays together, attended the big moments together, relied and counted on one another as family does. Infact some of them even maried each other, officially becoming family.
But can you really become a family with people who are not? This question came up recently in my Family Law class as we debated the definition of family. Is it genetic or people who care for one another? Both do not necessarily correspond.
On one hand, family is blood and that is something factual, genetic, and you can never take away. On the other hand, you don’t choose your family, you get what you get, but you get to choose your friends so they are a more considered choice of company.
Now, my immediate family, there is no question about it, nothing can top the love between my immediate family and me (by which I mean my husband and the families in which we were directly raised). But can friends also become like extended network of family? Some of our friends like Aasem and Zainab, we can go to their house and just hang out without any fear that we are intruding, and they can visit without me worrying if the food turns out bad.. Just like family. In Tampa last weekend I spent one night with Auntie Shahin. She’s not my genetic aunt, but my mother’s close friend who knew me as long as I’ve been alive… that night as we sat around my mom brother and I, and auntie and her children just laughing and joking and teasing one another, I felt love… and a strong sense of family.
I’m not particularly close to most of my extended family. It can’t be helped, many of them live overseas and most I have never met. Not to mention that my mom was one of 8 children and my dad one of 6 who in turn had four times the number in children themselves, made it perhaps difficult to get to know each cousin, aunt, uncle intimately and form a bond that perhaps fewer in number could have provided. Ofcourse this is not to say that I’m not close to any extended family, I’d say one aunt is second only to my mother… but to be blunt, for the most part.. the connection is missing. In some ways I can say its sad. If my (hypothetical) children did not feel close to my brothers (theoretical) children, and if my brothers children were to never call me and feel no closeness with me it would be very sad… But then again, is it? We have no reason to be close except that we share genetic traits. Is that enough to make a bond? Why should the fact that we came from the same gene pool require closeness? or care? Why are we required to give a second thought to someone for the sole reason they share our blood line?
So then what is family? What do you think? Do you find that you are closer to your family or friends?