Miss Ten has been quizzing me a lot this week on the nature of friendships, something I think a lot of girls her age begin to take more seriously as a measure of both the quality of their lives outside their homes, and of their perceived worth to others.

Miss Ten: Were you popular when you were a kid?

Me: Hmm...yes, I think so, maybe. At times. I never had any problems making friends, but sometimes my situations were such that I couldn't be as social or connected as I would have like to have been, or just didn't fit in very well with whatever was going on with a group.  I wasn't the most popular person, but I got along with a lot of different types of people. It's a little hard to tell from my perspective now, I guess. I don't feel bad about anything at all. A lot of times I chose to be by myself.

Miss Ten: I don't know if being really popular is important.

Me: It isn't. It's not always a reliable indictor. I mean, you can be really popular and be the nicest person ever, or be really popular and be a total jerk.

Miss Ten: Uh huh. Why is that?

Me: Some people are very charming or talented or exciting to be around, but they don't treat people very well. Their friends put up with them because they feel more important to be close to them. It's weird.

Miss Ten: Yeah.

Me: It's most important that you are kind and thoughtful to your friends, and that they are kind and thoughtful to you. Then you can have fun and no one gets too mad!

Miss Ten: Ha ha!

So, I got to thinking after this convo that I might write down a list (because People Like Lists) of How To Have Really Great Friends. It took a lot of years to nail this one down, but I GOT THIS NOW.

1. You cannot have Really Great Friends -- and by that, I mean people who are amazing and loyal and interesting and supportive and add incredibly to your life -- if you are not already a Really Great Friend to yourself. Sorry, but this is true. This whole thing will inevitably get completely messed up if you have negligible self-esteem, are self-destructive, have all kinds of unprocessed emotional issues that vomit up and over onto others, or if you don't know what is good about you to share with the world. You don't have to be all shiny and perfect, but you must be your own quiet lil' Best Bud. Reasonable confidence and happiness within yourself is very attractive to other people, ya know. Just keep hacking away at that as best you can.

2. Don't be afraid to reach out first. You cannot win if you don't play, as they say, and as always, they are right. If you think someone is pretty cool, talk to them! If they are crappy to you, they are Not Cool, and you can move on. It's sometimes hard to get a new relationship off the ground because it's far more awkward as an adult to get to know someone than when you were sharing shovels in the sandbox in preschool. But give it a shot. You will be surprised how often the other person will be delighted that you are interested in what they have to say.

3. Keep an open mind. It's really important that friends share common interests and beliefs, but you don't need to surround yourself with clones...unless you are a terrific narcissist and in that case should just buy a bunch of mirrors and make kissy-faces at yourself at home instead. Having friends of all ages and lifestyles is tremendously enriching. All those different perspectives can broaden your worldview, and make you a better person for it. Don't automatically count someone out, unless they are Not Cool To You or a Massive Tool or Hitler. Don't be friends with Hitler is Lesson One.

4. Realize that having Really Great Friends is something you have to work at. It's incredibly easy to let friendships fall by the wayside -- we are all busybusybusy allthetime, and there are so many things that pull at our time and emotional bandwidth. But if you want to keep awesome people in your life, you have to honor the investment you have already mutually made, and keep checking in. Even if you only have a few minutes to send your pal a funny Photoshop or ask how the new job is going or set up a 20 minute coffee date, just do it. Do it, do it, do it. You will be glad you did.

5. Do not keep friends in your life who are Not Really Your Friends At All. I swear, a lot of people do not even recognize that they do not truly like ANY of their friends. None of 'em. They are just the people they ended up with -- the obnoxious neighbors or the good-for-my-career co-workers or people who never think of you in terms other than what you can do for them. Some of the aforementioned Not Friends are in the special subsection of Toxic Friends. These are the people that, after you've spent any time with them at all, leave you feeling worse for it: exhausted, sad, pissed off, confused, sucked dry, defeated. Make no excuses for these people, and don't think you can change them, either. Listen to me, you: CUT 'EM OUT. You don't have time to swirl the drain with those who think nothing of dragging you down with them. Spend your time with people who energize you, make you smile, make you think in interesting ways, and who warm your heart. Anything less is a waste. You got time to waste? Nah, me neither.

6. Golden Rule it. If you, with an open mind and kind heart, can extend what is good about you towards someone else, if you can help them to have a better day even in a small way, you will most often receive the same in kind. It is a bit of real magic, but it doesn't work if you keep tabs on what you think a friend "owes you" or that you should get a medal or something. Be nice just to be nice. It is not a race or a game. It's just...nice.

And that's what I know. I hope Miss Ten can bypass a lot of the heartache and confusion that so many relationships can produce, but if not, Ol' Mom is here to talk it out and make a cup of cocoa.