“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
--- Douglas Adams

Friday, April 5, 2019

On Friendship - The Super and the Superficial

Cliff and Norm were the best of bar buddies. All day long Cliff kept his community connected while Norm crunched their numbers. All day long they looked forward to spending the last few hours of daylight in an underground bar with people who were just as like-minded. They looked forward to watching whatever was playing on the muted TV,  and hoping someone else used their quarters wisely in the jukebox. They look forward to sharing a beer, and maybe a few shots with people who were just as beaten as they were. But were they friends on the outside? I'm not so sure. Sam, Coach and Woody weren't really your friends. Carla may have been sweet on a few of her regulars, but once she clocked out and counted her tips, all she cared about were her kids, and Nick or Eddie; probably both. Diane and Rebecca didn't care about you even when they were working, let alone when they clocked out. Nobody cared what Harry the Hat did to get "two to ten, with time off for good behavior." They were just happy he was there to entertain them and watch him cheat other people out of their money.

There is a bar I go to. There are people I really enjoy seeing. There are a few dogs I whose jowls I love to scratch. There are a few bartenders I really enjoy talking to. There are a few people I get to nerd-out about Star Trek with. There are a few people I get to talk about music with. There are a few people I get to talk about the neighborhood with. There are people I get to watch close-captioned Family Feud and Cash Cab with. The conversation is never very deep, and it is very seldom, if ever, personal. I know very little about the personal lives of my fellow locals and regulars, and I'm OK with that. My fellow regulars do for me what Cliff and Norm did for each other; they helped wash the day away. They are there to share a kind word, a funny story, neighborhood news. We all come from different walks of life, different religions and philosophies; different incomes, different stages in our lives. When we enter the bar, we are all equals. But our friendship doesn't often extend beyond the backside of the 21 and Over sign and into the street. That's not to say that any of these folks can't be my friends outside of the bar, however; a few of them are friends outside of the bar, but it's OK that not all of them need to be.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have an amazing group of close friends. We make up an incredible village. The strength of this village has been tested a few times, and I take great comfort in knowing that we can depend on each other and weather our storms together.   It's made us stronger, both individually as well as a group. We all played a role in helping each other through life's displeasures. I am thankful for my village and proud to be a part of it.

I write all this because I saw a video on the FB that someone posted the other day about friendship. I've been chewing on it because it made me kind of mad and thought, perhaps, that I had missed the point. I don't think I did.  On the surface, it sounded, well, sound, but then it didn't.  The speaker on the video said you will know who your closest friends are by the way they stick by you when you face adversity. While I do believe that is true, the person on the video went on to say that all friends who don't stick closer than a brother need to be cut out of your life, they are toxic. I don't believe that. I don't believe that every one of my friends bears the same responsibility or serves the same purpose.  I don't believe I have the right to discount a friendship because I don't feel comfortable divulging my deepest secrets to them. A friendship is a friendship. Sure, dump those who are dicks, but not everyone is a dick.

From the super close to the superficial, there are many other levels of friendships in between. Work friends, school friends, bar friends, neighborhood friends; they all lend different levels of support, different kinds of comfort. In the Venn diagram of my friendships, there are certainly overlapping categories and similarities. All friends enrich my life, but not every friend needs to know you at your worst. Sometimes the best friendship one can give you is consistency; knowing which friend to call for the comfort you are seeking. Having different types of friends is great. Sometimes all you need is someone to share a beer with and watch bad TV on mute with while rock 'n' roll plays in the background. Sometimes you need someone to help you out with your cell phone bill for the month. Sometimes you need a hug. Sometimes you need someone to hold your hair when you puke. Sometimes you need someone to housesit. Sometimes you need someone who really understands you to help you work through a problem. Sometimes you need someone to discuss the latest episode of The Orville with. Sometimes you need guidance from someone with a shared history. Sometimes you need to use your old best jokes on someone who has never heard them before. Not any one person needs to serve all those needs. It's not fair to your friends to expect them to give you everything you need.

It's just as OK and necessary to have casual friends as it is necessary to have close friends.

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