Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Choose Friends: A Guide for Guys

            Some people say that friendship is based on respect and trust. On sincerely caring about the feelings and wellbeing of another person. Others argue that friendship involves mutual acceptance and the ability to make you each feel good about yourselves. It’s a kind of mutual affection of a non-sexual nature. I suppose this is all true. Blah blah blah.
            But most guys have a different sense of friendship, one based on reciprocity. Guys become and remain friends because they give each other something they need. Or want.
            With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of people you want to have as a friend.
1.     You want a friend with a truck. You know you will have to move stuff some day, and renting a truck can be expensive. Your friend may loan you his or her truck, or better yet, may drive it for you and thus be available to help you load and unload your stuff.
2.     You want a friend who can give a massage. As you get older, aches and pains increase, especially after loading and unloading stuff from a truck. Besides, research has shown that being touched by another person releases beneficial endorphins. And if you are the kind of person who chooses friends from reading a list like mine, you are unlikely to have a lover who will touch you.
3.     You want a friend who lives in a cool place. Like maybe the beach or the mountains or New York. You probably don’t want to live there yourself: Beaches have hurricanes and sand, mountains have snow to shovel, and New York has New Yorkers.
4.     You want a friend who can bake. Cookies. Home made breads. Blueberry pie. Scones. Brownies. Any questions about this one?
5.     A friend who is a nurse always comes in handy. Probably better than a doctor, who is most likely to specialized to be much help. A physical therapist might fill the bill here. This type of friend probably won’t help much if you’ve simply eaten too many cookies.
6.     You want a friend who can deal with computer stuff that baffles you. Like your telephone. Your television remote. Your car’s GPS. The water softener. The alarm system in your home. Your computer itself, where the list of items under “Preferences” is not extensive enough by far.
7.     Ever wonder where a great little restaurant in town is located? Or if you are a birder, where you might find an elusive Grasshopper Sparrow? Where is the best place to photograph a sunset or morning mist? Where to buy the best cheese? Where to see bats? Where to buy massage oil as a gift for friend #2? Well, you need to cultivate a friend or two who knows where to go – wherever that might be for you.
8.     You need a relationships coach. This friend will most likely be female, as guys tend to be too selfish and insensitive to do you much good. Relationships all eventually run into problems, and these problems don’t fix themselves. One danger here is that your coach might tend to micro-manage. Ever call for computer tech support and you allow some guy in India to take over your computer for ten minutes? You watch stuff move around on your screen and somehow the problem gets fixed – and you have no clue how? Well, you don’t want to be that guy in the hands of a relationship coach. Remember, 90% of your computer problems get fixed when you simply restart your computer. You might try that with your relationship before enlisting the aid of this kind of friend.
9.     Someone who tells the truth? No, I don’t think so. As Jack Nicholson told us, “You can’t handle the truth.” So instead, get a friend who tells you, in another Nicholson quote, “a version of the truth.” Versions are all we have. Versions of the truth. Versions of friends. So find a version of a friend who will tell you a version of the truth that maybe you don’t want to hear. If you find a friend candidate who offers to tell you The Truth in capital letters, respond with a polite, “No, thanks,” and head for the door. Certainty, after all, is a sign of a closed mind. (That’s from another movie.)

            Some would argue that this list is not about friendship. It’s about using other people to further our selfish ends. And my wife would be right when she says this. But selfish exploitation is not the most serious problem with my modest proposal. No, the main difficulty is that I have failed to come up with a criterion by which I qualify as friend-worthy. Massage? Nope. Ditto for nursing, baking, tech support, trucking, and location (unless university towns qualify). Relationships? I lucked out on my (second) marriage, and I’m clueless enough to take Kim’s frustrated sigh as forgiveness. I may be OK on cool locations, but I’m likely to get lost trying to get there.

            Which leaves truth-telling. This may be my best shot. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.” Maybe I can slide in on that slant.

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