Yesterday’s Sasha-breakup recriminations got rough at times. Many French grenades and shells were lobbed at the German trenches and vice versa. I fully realize, of course, that it wasn’t Sasha talking as much as her loyal surrogates. her attack dogs. Anyway, I imparted a skeptical view of friendship as embraced and practiced by under-35ers, and before you knew it guys like Ghost of Kazan were writing that I’ve put “people who think friendship is important” on my disdain list alongside those who take long showers, wait for photo takers, wear sandals and recline in airline seats.
There is almost nothing I’ve ever written in this space, good or bad or silly or profound, that hasn’t been absurdly, ridiculously misinterpereted by the scrambled-egg minds of HE commenters.
What Ghost of Kazan said isn’t even occasionally true. I greatly value my friends — old, new, casual, business-oriented, developing. I just don’t bank on them as much as I used to. I take them as they come and I always offer a warm hand, a friendly wink and a nice pat on the back from time to time. But I am the captain of my ship, and there are very few people I can really and truly count on to take the wheel when I need to take a nap or hit the head or grab some grub. Especially in rough seas.
Investment in friends is absolute in your teens, when they are as vital as breathing. And friends are very, very important in your 20s when you need allies and comforters because life tends to kick people around a bit more during that period. But gradually friends thin out. They get consumed by this or that, move to other cities, have kids, become despondent or less attentive or ardent (sometimes due to alcohol, other times over some spiritual crisis or aadness that comes along). I hate to break it to the 20somethings out there, but a lot of them disappoint and lose faith and fall away.
Thank God for the ones who stand by you through thick and thin, but they are relatively few and far between. It’s hard for 20somethings to foresee this, but this is how it goes.
Ask anyone who’s been around the track a few times long enough to suffer bruises and an occasional laceration or scar…anyone who’s been used, sued, abused, subdued and tattooed…about the value of friends, and he/she will probably say “as far as they go friends are great…great nourishers, great comforters, wellsprings of joy, providers of warmth, balms for the soul.” It’s those first five words that separate the men from the boys. Friends are rainwater as far as they go, but many of them are fair-weatherish and they all have problems of their own. They will listen and smile and invite you over for dinner, but they are grace notes. They will not save you.
The older you get, the more you take it as it comes. And the more you listen to the hum and act accordingly. There is a cosmic hum within and without, and that sound, that well, that vibration, that universal rumble of the ship’s engine not only tells you everything you need to know, it pretty much gives you everything you need to know. Especially if you write for a living. I will extend all the good will and good cheer I can share with friends, acquaintances and strangers alike, but I do not live for whatever profound comforts they may offer from time to time (which they do, of course), and I certainly don’t look for them to make things right in my corner. That’s on me.
I said yesterday that “I have two sons, good friends, my sweet mom, girlfriends, chums, old friends, tons of friendly business-level acquaintances, ex-girlfriends, healthy alliances and two great cats, but the days when I defined my self-worth and feelings of satisfaction and emotional comfort based on inter-personal alpha contact with intimate friends and pallies (‘does he/she like me as much as he/she did last year or five years ago?,’ ‘what’s that vibe about?,’ ‘should I have handled this situation differently?’, blah blah) have been over a for a lonnnng time. That way of processing life peaked for me in my 20s.”