What a wonderful designation from @queentrashcan. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about friendship. Friendship is the magical force that sets the heartbeat of our day. But here, Miss Trash Can has me thinking about the stratification of friendship—something I had never considered. What sort of friend are you? What sort of friend am I?
I’ve written in depth about my friendships with coworkers. I’ve covered how Large destroyed my friendship with Willie; how Big Cat and I bonded over his attendance of my standup shows; how Frankie puts the benefits in our friendship; and of course, how Dave is my closest friend and the recipient of my estate upon my death. Nate wrote a blog about Kylie Jenner’s version of friendship, from which I took the thumbnail for this piece because people click on buttcracks. As you can see, friendships come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. They serve different purposes. Some friends are there to pick you up after a breakup while other friends are there to push you into a dance circle and pour bubbly down your chest so that the DJ tells security to keep an eye on you. But once you start to consider your role in the friendship, you begin to understand the essence of it all.
Before I continue, let’s take a look at some of the responses to the original tweet.
@hopechild describes a similar version of the original “background friend,” while Lord of Betrayal sounds like more of a fixer than a friend. Got a body that needs its teeth removed? Call him, he’ll come in through the back. And then there’s Georgie Burg who, uhm, really interpreted the question differently. Whoa. That… hm. Jesus Christ. So many gifs come to mind (Ron Burgundy that escalated quickly, Pat McAfee yikes, black guy with the red solo cup and the Davey Crockett cap) but you can’t use a gif in cases of rape or incest. Poor taste.
First, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a background friend. You get asked to weddings but you’re rarely in the wedding party, which means you save a lot of money and time. You don’t have the obligations of the best friend, which means you don’t have to drop what you’re doing to bring them ice cream when they call you crying. You can avoid heart-to-hearts entirely! You also don’t make people angry when you don’t invite them to shit. You live on the periphery, straddling the margins and jumping from one self-defined safe zone to the next. It’s like never having a family: you can travel the world and play golf and set your own schedule, beholden only to your professional commitments. Your “friends” will talk shit about how you never grew up, but you can smile about how they’re getting old fast.
I guess the only drawback is that you never experience that deep connection with a friend. Where that teary-eyed, comforting conversation over a glass of Sancerre morphs into wandering fingers and a misunderstood lust that overpowers, confuses, excites, and ultimately disappoints, but which you both can laugh about (but never talk about) as the time your emotions got the better of you. Where discourse becomes intercourse, where a comforting pat becomes a rub, then a stroke, then a hump. It might be nice to have that happen once or twice. To bone your friend? You know? That might be nice.
I know a few people who have been in over five wedding parties, and I just think they’re trying too hard. When you spread yourself that thin as a friend, you cease to be the best friend that you can be. You treat friendship like communism: a little for this guy… a little for that guy… some for the muffin man who lives on Drury Lane. I’m at the point now where I’m genuinely surprised when people invite me to their weddings at all. When I get that invitation, my first thought is must be a huge wedding. Did I not do enough to make them leave me off the list? What more could I have done?
Three or four friends. People you can call on the phone and it’s not weird. That’s all you need in life. Limit your friendships and you’ll find them far more rewarding. Plus, you just might graduate from the “background friend” to the “we had sex once” friend.