The definition of “Best Friend” is “someone with whom one shares the strongest possible kind of friendship”. In the world of set theory, we can assume the set A is comprised of all friends, and there is a binary preference relationship between each pair of friends in set A. Therefore, by transitivity of preference between pairs, there is one maximal friend, where there is no other friend that more preferred. In other words, we can define one unique “Best Friend”, which is the most preferred over all others in the set of all friends.
This definition seems to be largely true for Non-Jews. Non-Jews are reluctant to admit strangers into the inner circles of emotional intimacy, and frequently prefer to keep a mental and physical buffer zone between themselves and others. In some extreme cases, particularly with WASPs, entire life-long relationships, even with close family members or spouses, can be based entirely on small talk. Therefore, Non-Jews typically only have one “Best Friend” of preeminent significance.
Jewish Young Adults, in contrast, disregard theoretical mathematics when it comes to friendships and categorize multiple people as “Best Friends”. They are able to do this because JYAs compartmentalize their lives into specified categories, unlike Non-Jews who observe an entire life span in full. Effectively, the JYA will have multiple subsets of friends, where each subset has its own specific local maximal friend. The following interaction between two female JYA’s illustrates such an effect:
“Tammy”: Me and my best friend Becca and went to Joshua Tree last night and these two guys were totally buying us drinks and we got so wasted.
“Rachel”: I thought I was your best friend?
“Tammy”: You’re my college best friend; Becca is my camp best friend.
In order to differentiate between Best Friends, JYAs use compound nouns with appropriate location-specific adjectives, like “my best friend from college” or “my best friend from Chi-O”. It is important to note that male JYAs will frequently use the word “bro” or “boy” in place of the descriptor “best friend”, as they believe the term “best friend” is too feminine. As JYA “Jon” explained: “I was at Joshua Tree last night with my boy from work and these two chicks were all up on us, but I was like, hell no am I shelling out my cash to buy drinks for these two skeezers, but my boy from work just kept buying them shots. I think he got a blow-jay from the fat one”.
The concept of having multiple best friends transcends age in the Jewish Community, with slight variation due to age. Instead of “my best friend from college”, Jewish Adults and Jewish Elders will use the term “my oldest friend from college”, or “my oldest friend from youth group”. Regardless of age, it is unclear whether JYAs have multiple best friends because they truly are more social than their Non-Jewish counterparts, or if JYAs simply like to pretend they are.