"Friends are the family we choose for ourselves," writer Edna Buchanan once said. I consider the "family" I've gathered—with five kinds of pals I count on for completely different things—among the wisest choices I've made. If you can find even one who embodies any of the characteristics that follow, you can consider yourself fortunate.
1. The Uplifter
This woman's favorite word: yes. You could tell her you're trading your six-figure income for a career in offtrack betting, and she'd barely pause before yelping "Go for it!" Don't you need someone who looks past the love handles to notice the extraordinarily gorgeous you?
2. The Travel Buddy
When the hotel in St. Lucia is a bust, one characteristic becomes all-important: flexibility. This agreeable companion need not be the girl you traded pinkie swears with on the playground; it's enough that she's comfortable with quiet (between gabfests) and is a teensy bit mischievous (as in tequila after midnight).
3. The Truth Teller
Intent is what separates the constructive from the abusive. Once you've established that the hard news is spoken in love (not in jealousy or malice), you'd be smart to seek out this woman's perspective.
4. The Girl Who Just Wants to Have Fun
One Saturday a pal and I—and yes, we're both over age 12—pored over every glitter lip gloss in a drugstore aisle for an entire 45 minutes. Forget the crisis download (for that, see the Uplifter); this partnership is about spontaneous good times.
5. The Unlikely Friend
"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive," Anaïs Nin wrote. My friends—some twice my age, others half, some rich, others homeless, some black like me, others Korean, Mexican, Caucasian—have added richness to my life that only variety can bring.