Part 1: Into the life of ABODO
In 1993, Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist decided to write down this question that had been nagging him for years: “Just How Many Friends Can One Person Have?” after a lot of ruminations, a more detailed version of that question came in: “What exactly is the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.?”
These two questions led Dunbar to spend his decades-long career studying the complexities of human relationships. These studies made him discover and make known the science that defines and demonstrates the magic number (of persons) we get to know and either consider friends, acquaintances or even loved ones.
According to Dunbar’s Number theory, there are six distinct groups in every human’s life.
- The first group is the tightest and most important called Loved Ones. This layer has to do with your romantic relationships and Dunbar says they can only be 5 people max in your life.
- The second group represents those we refer to as Good Friends. They are those who offer a shoulder to cry on. They are always prepared to drop everything to support us when our worlds fall apart. They are our core social partners ―our main social companions― always there to provide the context for having fun. This group can only contain 15 people max.
- The next group is that of Friends. Those we have during our big-weekend party. This group has a total of 50 people max.
- Then comes the group of Meaningful Contacts. This is our weddings and funerals group ―those who would come to your once-in-a-lifetime event. Dunbar considers this group to be the last with any sense of meaning. They are just 150 of them that we can have in a lifetime.
- The penultimate group is that of Acquaintances. We as humans can only have a max of 500 of them.
- He crowned it all with the final group called: People you can recognise and they are in total 1500.
Dunbar’s research states that there is a limit to the number of loved ones, friends and acquaintances the average person can retain. He arrived at this conclusion after observing that there is a ratio between brain sizes and group sizes ―through his studies of non-human primates. Another reason for the layers is that the trust and time we have for social interactions isn’t infinite. Most often, we have to decide how to invest that time, bearing in mind that the strength of relationships is directly correlated with how much time, effort and trust we give.
Meeting My Close Friend
It was a cold morning, back on October 19, 2014. Here I was finally walking through the walls of the ESSTIC, Level 1, Records Management classroom. I was the 3rd to arrive. No one likes to be late on their first day of school ―so I did all I could to be there on time. An added benefit to being early is that it grants you the opportunity to choose the perfect seat for that school year. Before this day, I had heard a lot of disturbing things about university life― many ex-Universitario that I knew told me that it was hard and that people there were intrinsically malicious. They continued their grooming by letting me know that the only way to thrive was by being so good that no one could ignore me, keeping my guard, being cunning, monetizing my skills etc.
A few minutes after settling, while still gazing at the beautiful walls, a light-skinned girl with a pretty face approached me and asked: “Is that seat empty?’ ‘Oh, sorry it has been taken” was my reply. I had reserved it for my preparatory classes buddy and friend: Guenole. Without moving too far, she spotted an empty seat ― the one directly to my left and went for it.
Some moments later, ―even though I am unable to remember what happened altogether― Abodo (her name) and I began to bond. We found ourselves Talking about high school, our different villages, our similar hobbies and all the small talk you can imagine.
At the end of the day, when it was time to leave, I noticed that something didn’t quite sit right: I could no longer remember her name. Imagine the hassle of having to ask a girl her name twice on the same day. I eventually mustered the courage and re-asked her name ―typical of Abodo with a silly smile― she said: “call me anything you want”. Sensing that she hadn’t taken it personally, without hesitating, I named her: “Ma Souris” meaning my mouse. Jokingly, she replied: “Oui mon Chat” meaning “yes my cat”. That there was the start of a 6-year friendship of fun, trial, bonding, trolling and eventual death.
Sometimes you meet someone new and know you’re going to be close friends. Other times, it takes longer to get to know someone until you (or they) feel comfortable enough to put your walls down. But once you find your people, life generally tends to feel a little fuller. Dunbar says to identify if a friend or connection is good for you, consider reflecting on how you feel after spending time with them. Do you feel:
- Natural or like you’re pretending?
- Connected or disconnected?
- Drained or energized?
- Excited or frustrated?
After meeting Abodo, it was instant chemistry. As if she was the one; that friend I had been waiting for. Of course, things weren’t always rosy: disagreements and dissonance did occur occasionally (some of which we shall see later).
Nonetheless, everything took a different turn when I saw Danny, her kid sister post this on her status: I can’t even spend a single minute without you… I trusted you more than anyone or anything in this world… I even looked up to you for each and everything… I thought you were flawless both physically and characteristically… There was a time when I thought you will be there with me till my last breath… RIP my sister.
When we lose a friend, it hurts. When we lose a good friend, it hurts even more. September 09, 2020, was the day I received the news about her death. As I pointed out that day, it was the longest night in history. Two years later and we are still mourning. It is only after Abodo’s death that I finally understood that movies do a terrible job of depicting the value of friendships. We are so caught up in the romance and the hero journey that we forget that friendships are as important or even more important than romantic relationships. They last longer than love relationships and our friends are those we turn to for hookups and help us when our relationships are going sideways. Abodo following Dunbar’s research was a good friend always prepared to drop everything to support me when things were down. She was a core social partner ―my main social companion― always there to provide the context for having fun
I was glad to find a close friend and sad to lose her. I hope you enjoyed this piece, it took me two years to muster the courage to write it.