Friends are one of the most underrated commodities we can have. Yet we treat them like fossil fuels: use the shit out of them, wonder why we’ve run out, and end up having to live like vegans who never had any in the first place. Yet, as one who is unbelievably still employed, I can fully understand that life moves on. Yet, for years we had our pick of friends and however you went about it, at the start your life, friends generally just happened. And spending time with them was as easy as leaving together after class. You wouldn’t always end up some place fun, but it was almost always good company.
Not all people made friends so seamlessly, but there’s no doubt making them was easier when you were younger. Just someone being your gender was enough for them to be your buddy. Kids would even blatantly ask to be your friend. Come high school, we all unknowingly honed in on this homeboy Darwinism by hanging around those we liked and avoiding those we didn’t. But high school was a bit more complicated as the prospect of mating made being cool suddenly important. Throwing someone under the bus seemed less important than expanding the gene pool. (Me, I preferred to walk anyway.) So we get sorted into our groups. The American high school stereotypes aren’t as black or white as they used to be (see 21 Jump Street), and at least it all evens out in university. Partly, because being cool takes on a different meaning to different people, and mainly because of alcohol. Finally, Marinus who played first team for Menlo is at the back of the queue because a drunk poppie has decided to ask me why my hair is long. Take that Marinus.
So we’re spoilt. The sport, subjects, clubs, modules, bars, music events, residences, and causes we got involved with surrounded us with people. So many, that statistically, we’d have to like a few. And we did. So we hang out with them and meet their mates and grow networks like that.There are no initiation rites to becoming a mate, one day people just are. Sure, you don’t know exactly how friendly you are with a lot of these people, but you have them on Facebook and it says ‘friend’ so that seems pretty concrete. Then you shout down the corridor and next thing you know, 20 of you are at an event none of you had heard of half an hour ago, making more friends and generally being friendly.
But then life happens. Approaching my mid-20s, I’m in that weird spot where some people from the same year are well-established in their jobs, some are still studying, some are married with kids, and some are working on ships in the other side of the world, and quite a few would have to fill in “N/A” on a lot on the questionnaires they are doing online for money. Being in your 20s is nice in the eye of society because no matter how well or shit you’re doing, you’ll always fall somewhere between “doing well” and “finding yourself”. As soon as you hit your 30s, you get the expansion pack that puts you somewhere between “doing really well” and “fallen off the rails”. As you get older you can “fall on hard times”, and finally “old and full of shit” and “touches himself inappropriately in public”.
The point is that folk are at different spaces in their lives. Such is life. You are unlikely to ever live in this Marxist utopia that you had been through schooling. Some will make more money, have a hotter partner, a more taxing job, the ability to travel, or a rare disease. Yet, somehow, friends persist. That’s because everybody needs them. And if you’re going to only mix with people in your own circle, especially if that means leaving old mates behind, you’re going to end up with one disappointing vanilla ice-cream of a life. The kind where you got the last Flake chocolate in the box, only for it to fall on the floor before your fat face could get into it. And then you get shot.
So if we all need pals, and we’re all in different places, what’s the problem? Us. We are the problem. Humans love to moan, and I love it so much that I type it out, publish it on the internet and expect people read it. But we love to think that friendship is just too much for us. I mean we’d love to have friends, but we just don’t have the time. It’s just this job/girlfriend/boyfriend/child/economical/situation/event/opportunity is really a big deal. There’s no way I could do that and friends. And I’m sure they’ll understand. And understand they will, because they have their own excuses so they don’t have to speak to you.
But being humans, we need to find someone else to blame, so who is it? It’s the usual mix of society and the internet. Society, because it promotes the fact that getting older means becoming a doos to people you’re not married to. And the internet, for joking about this to the point where people think it’s cool to ditch their pals. I’m not implying some kind of ban, censorship doesn’t help shit. However, I do believe in stupid people. Stupid people who see jokes on the internet and instead of using them as entertainment and perhaps a space to start a discussion or to reevaluate their own views, they see them as gospel. Case in point:
Ok let’s start. Firstly, fuck off. Sharing with this probably means you’re such a doos that the dog is unlikely to want your companionship. That means not even friend-zoned by man’s best friend. The fact that I could find this image in an article entitled “28 memes that accurately describe how you and your BFFs are” says enough. But let’s take it at entertainment value: OP has taken a situation and put a vaguely relatable picture to accompany the response. These days that passes for commentary and that problem is its own blog post. However, what conversation does it invite? Is the changing lifestyle that we’re forced to adopt such a detriment on our lives that it’s actually cool to ditch your mates? I hardly think this is what the post was about, but it is a conclusion you can draw, and one that is worth talking about.
Not being able to spend time with friends is a real issue, admittedly, sometimes an unavoidable one. But it isn’t cool. If your job is making you so stressed out and tired that you don’t want to see people you know, is that the fault of your buds, or the job? And how do you deal with that? How have you been dealing with it? And after you’ve answered that, wonder if your boss is going to console you when your third wife leaves you.
And this is not an attack on the introverted. There are people who enjoy their own company. While I admire their superpower, I fail to believe that they don’t need friends. Some people don’t need many friends, but we all need some.
I don’t speak from some kind of high horse, I’ve not the nerve nor the height, metaphorically or otherwise, to do so. I am guilty of leaving comrades behind for the convenience. In doing so I realised I didn’t mind losing some folk, and am ok to see others from time to time. But, on my extended friend-hiatus overseas, I realised how much making the effort for friends actually means. On both sides. You are taking the most precious gift you have, your time, and investing it in the most amazing creation that have ever existed, a human, for the sheer sake of mutual enjoyment. Like a marriage where you don’t have to give half your shit away when it goes bad. And friends, in all their forms; family, school, work, internet, deserve it. And so do you. We can’t see all our friends all the time. But when we can, often we should.
I don’t know when my number will be up, and I don’t know for sure what’s waiting on the other side. But as I breathe my final breath, I’d like to think that I’d positively influenced quite a few people who started out as complete strangers and became true friends, even if it were through my cynicism. I’d like memories of family braais, after work drinks, weekend festivals, catching up over a beer, sport matches, Playstation, WhatsaApp Grouping, problem solving, marriages and divorces, 2 minute noodles and papsak, 3 course dinners and chardonnay, blended-down prunes and fine brandy, old folks bowls clubs, youthful clubs, playdates, playmates, and mate dates, discussions I’ll never remember, odd occurrences I’ll struggle to explain to folk that weren’t there. And as I watch that terminal show reel, as choppy as the plot may be, I’ll have a wry smile at the sick fucks I’ve got to meet, and the sicker fucks that call me friend.