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    Your friends’ friends: who are these people?

    It’s hard to get a handle on people you see once a year at holiday get-togethers.
    Rich Legg
    It’s hard to get a handle on people you see once a year at holiday get-togethers.

    Jewish people have a great Yiddish term to describe one of life’s important relationships: the parents of your child’s spouse, or your co-in-laws: machatunim. There’s no good English word for it. Our language also lacks a term to describe another sometimes-tricky relationship: the friends of your friends, those people you see once a year, at your pals’ holiday parties.

    Who are these people? And why do your friends like them? Or, conversely, why do your friends like you, when the rest of their pals are such winners?

    With the air thick with air kisses, we caught up with some experts on this strangely understudied subject.


    “People’s little groups of friends that you only see at that once-a-year party are like people’s backpacks,” said Julie Klam , the author of “Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can’t Live Without.” “You don’t always want to look inside.”

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    That said, Klam acknowledged that occasionally she’s the gunky thing on the bottom of the pack.

    “Sometimes you meet a person you’ve met at [the party the year before], and you’re thinking they’re really great,” she said. “Then you remember that you exchanged information with them at some other point but when you e-mailed they never got back to you.

    “I always assume I’m not cool enough for them,” she said. “That’s my thought process.”

    Jen Mann, author of “Spending the Holidays With People I Want to Punch in the Throat,” has a different take.


    “I dread going to holiday parties because it’s the same people you saw at the PTO meeting or on Saturday at soccer, but with drinks,” she began.

    “Suburban moms are on an endless loop of how busy we are, what the kids are up to, etc., but it’s seasonal, so at Christmas parties, there’s a new loop: I haven’t even begun shopping yet, I haven’t started wrapping, I haven’t baked, my decorations are up but my house is a shambles. . .”

    The good news, she added, is that thanks to her rant-y best-selling book, “After this year, I won’t be invited to any more parties.”

    But that’s not ideal, either. If there’s one thing worse than being bored by — or boring — your friends’ friends, it’s having no friends at all.

    Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.