Knowing you can always count on me, for sure.
That's what friends are for."
I actually liked this song—the first 8,237 times I heard it. Heck, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight? Decidedly two of my top ten singers of popular music.
But I think the tune is a total falsehood. Or a flaccid rumor at best. It's an excuse for people who don't even know each other to form a circle at weddings and join hands in a supreme expression of flimsiness. The song reminds friends to keep reminding other friends that they are friends.
- "You're there for me."
- "I've got your back."
- "What would I do without you?"
- "S/he's my best friend."
People who frequently express these platitudes rarely actually mean them. "Friends" may be one of the easiest ships to launch in the lexicon.
Less often do you hear:
"I really can't call that person my friend. I don't know her that well."
"Yeah, I hang out with her, but you really couldn't call us friends."
"I have a few close friends. I really couldn't call any one of them 'best.' You can have only one best friend."
I am gifted to have/had many good friends in my life. I really couldn't sieve it down to one person. In fact, the more I ponder this, the less possible it looms.
Here's my definition of a solid friendship. True friends ...
- Do not need to keep reminding each other of their status.
- Rarely have to thank each other.
- Can go for months without talking—and then pick up right where they left off.
- DO NOT work with each other.
- Can miss each other in an adult fashion, without getting all Hallmarky about it.
- Might forget birthdays, anniversaries, phone numbers. No big whup here.
Now, I offer a shallow probe into sitches where women whip out "friend" in a totally different sense. This appellation springs from females who are pushed into a corner by douchey guys who pursue relentlessly. When such women say the "F" word, they really mean, "Look, jerkoff. Leave me alone. I have turned you down for a date [probably for the umpteenth time] politely, using the word 'friend.' Actually, I have no desire to be your friend. Your nail-care regimen sucks. You like white zinfandel. You wear Yankee boxers, which are too easily visible. NO!"
If you are one of the eight percent of guys who are not douchey, when she says "friend," she means, "I truly think you are a nice guy but would prefer not to date you." Cut bait. You are in Friend Prison, from which there is no escape. Done.
Friends are like my boy Frac. I haven't seen him in years. If I was in a bind, I'd still call him. Eons ago, he unwittingly embodied the true essence of a friend. I stopped by his office to see him on a day when things weren't going my way. He took a gander at me and simply said, "What do you need?" Yes, dear readers, that is a friend.
I met Towser in 1976 (!) in my musical travels. She is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. She's learned, brilliant, hilarious.She tells memorable stories. And, on that subject, I will engage in the superlative: She has a better memory than anyone I have ever met. We have ridden each other's rollercoasters—ones that would give MC Escher pause—enough to make a die-hard Six Flags freak lose his caramel corn. Our actual get-togethers seem to be millennia apart. Then one of us will call the other. And I will need to have my phone charger at the ready. We'll bash it about for hours. And it's all good.
I decry the Harry Burns mantra, "Men and women can't be friends, because sex gets in the way." Then again, my love for Billy Crystal could be slipped through the gap of a Mosler.
You don't have to reach out for your true friends. They are right there when needed. Gather them, celebrate them, winnow them, leave them be. If you question any of this, said person is not your friend.
And sometimes—and rarely, rightly—a friendship can blossom into love. This happens only to the very lucky.
We all should be so lucky.