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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sailing the Friend Ship

Most people don't know what they want out of life.

This is why there's lots of fast food restaurants and different cuts of engagement ring diamonds. We say we want this, but it changes. Maybe, later, we'll want that. Tacos might be fine on Tuesday, but, come Saturday, you might find yourself wanting Indian.

Last night, Saturday, I found myself having Indian, alongside my wife, and across the table from an old friend of mine and her husband. I hadn't seen this old friend of mine in eight years, and we dined happily on Boti Kabab and Navratan Korma and chatted away like no time had passed, even though, for my wife and my friend and her husband, there hadn't been any time to have passed at all.

When I came out of the bathroom (where I had to go immediately upon entering the restaurant) I blurted out something patently ridiculous. "I had this idea in the bathroom," I said to my dinner party, "about a sketch I wanted to write about a guy-- who-- you know how sometimes you get distracted in the bathroom," I said, now to my friend's husband, to whom I hadn't exchanged seven words with since we arrived, "and sometimes you come out without having done up your fly?"

He nodded.

"Well, I wanted to write a sketch about a guy who's so distracted in the bathroom, so haphazard, and he's in there peeing and his phone rings and he's answering it and washing his hands and everything, that he comes out of the bathroom without remembering to put his penis away."

Hi, friend I haven't seen in eight years and new husband I've never met: I'm totally inappropriate and bizarre. Who wants naan?

Making friends, being with friends, reconnecting with friends, going out with friends-- it isn't easy. Not for me, not for anybody, I don't think. After you graduate from college, the rules all change. It's no longer acceptable to sit around in a small room with clunky wooden furniture and talk about bullshit until four in the morning. There are no more groups of six or eight or twelve people to bum around with, to go en masse to a shitty local diner-- there's no more of that. It's different.

While my wife and I were driving to the Indian restaurant and were stuck in merciless traffic, I turned to her and said, "Why are we doing this? I just want to be at home snuggling with you on the couch under a blanket watching the Olympics." My wife said, "I know-- me, too. But we have to make some sort of effort to get out there and be at least semi-social-- not all the time. But sometimes. When we're sixty, I think it will level off and we can become hermits."

I nodded. Sixty. "I suppose I can endure thirty more years of this."

Because I felt so comfortable in the company of my wife and my old friend and her husband, and because I have no concept of how the things that come out of my mouth might effect other people, I turned to my old friend and said to her, "You know, on the way up here-- I told my wife that I'd rather be at home with her watching the Olympics."

She smiled and her eyes widened in identification.

"I know! Me, too! No offense, of course, I'm having a wonderful time with you guys-- but we're just such homebodies, and we love being together at home, and that's kind of the whole point, isn't it? Falling in love with somebody that you just want to be with all the time."

It made me feel good to hear her say it, too. It is the whole point. It really is.

Maybe I'm just saying that as someone with no real, true, consistent friends in his life, or maybe I'm saying it as someone who played the slots and came up a big winner in the wife department. But it's a constant struggle. "Friends require a lot of maintenance," my mother warned me a few years ago, "that's why Daddy and I don't have any."

And she's right-- you have to constantly worry about when you last called so-and-so and whose turn it is to do thus-and-such and who last paid for dinner or who last Facebook'd whom. That shit takes a lot of work. And you only know it's time to call a friend when you get that guilt pang in the back of your brain that says, "Oh, shit, it's been a month since we last spoke to Schmenkman and Blatsdorff-- I wonder if they hate us?"

Well, Jesus Christ-- that's exhausting. It's even more exhausting than getting stuck on the highway on the way to get Indian food.

I don't particularly know what friendship is anymore. I feel like someone who's been stuck on a deserted island for twenty years and has forgotten what Lobster Thermidor is, or what vinyl car interior is-- or Smart Start. I know it changed somewhere along the line, and I know it's different for everybody, and I know I have to leverage going out and socializing with my immense, overwhelming desire to putter and putz around the house, to sit and write while my wife sews, so that, every so often I can turn and steal a glance at her and smile and be thankful for what my life is, even though it is bereft of so many of the people who used to know me and count me as their friend.

It's funny, though. I had a great time last night. And I'm thankful for that, too.


  1. That sketch idea must be realized! You must call all the relevant comedy sketch shows to make it happen!

  2. Hey- I just posted about my night out last night and I feel the same way. If this had been 8 years ago, I would have been looking forward to a Saturday night at teh bars with friends. Now? Not so mcuh. I like the friends, I like getting out once in awhile, but damn. It's hard work to be engaging and fun with people you don't really know. And then to watch the other people, younger than you, at these places? Just pisses you off because they seem like social rejects. BUT that just means that we were at one point to and that only leads to feeling old.

  3. I only have a couple of friends I really call on and rely on. I too know how tiring it can get constantly wrecking your brain over who its time to contact, or who I have to send a message to next.

  4. My very best friend is my hubby--I think that love is simply friendship caught on fire..sounds like you DO know what friendship is--but it just takes on a different look right now--Indian and princess cut and all!

  5. Juliana--

    "Love is simply friendship caught on fire."


    You'd better copyright that before some bastard like me steals it.

    How beautiful.


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