Friendship gets less glory and attention than other relationships. It’s too easy, too steady and self-supporting. Maybe it works too well to be taken seriously.
The “friend zone” is shorthand for the second-rate vortex for where love affairs lacking mutuality or sexual chemistry go to die.
Male friendship in particular is sold short. It’s entirely expected for you to say you love your kids, your country, friggin’ hockey, but say that you love your buddy and an adolescent sniggering can still be heard (this would also be the response of many of my dearest friends to such a declaration, so fair is fair.)
The bond with a friend, which Ralph Waldo Emerson lauded both as “one before whom I may think aloud” and one with whom “you can afford to be stupid,” is often trivialized with awful words like “bromance.” “I love you” must be followed by the neutralizing “man,” and ideally shouldn’t be delivered before the third round of drinks.
There’s none of this pussyfooting in Christopher Hitchens’ new memoir, Hitch 22, excerpted in this month’s Vanity Fair, which contains warm, funny words about his decades of friendship with Martin Amis, who himself says, “My friendship with the Hitch has always been perfectly cloudless. It is a love whose month is ever May.”
No bromance this, though the magazine, perhaps embarrassed, sells it on the cover with the glib, juvenile cover line, “Hitchens (hearts) Martin Amis.”
I’ve always been lucky with my friendships. Their quantity, quality and duration outstrip my due, not the least because I’m pretty rotten at keeping in touch. My emails are slow but sincere. My silences are unforgivably long.
But every reunion has a way of erasing the months or years that have passed. We pick up where we left off because we never really left off, and we can now burn each other all the better over retreating hair and spawning chins. (This ball-breaking is the beautiful thing they try to recreate, usually so horribly, with celebrity roasts. When real friends do it, it’s actually stingingly funny.)
In June, as the summer’s short supply of weekends begins to disappear into various commitments, I become, through the cruel limitations of time, an even less worthy, more diluted friend.
Visits with those whose schedules are the tightest, one stranded for long stretches in New Zealand, another serving in Afghanistan, get priority for practical reasons, but the triage is always insufficient. I’m always going to miss good times with my favourite people, and there’s nothing to say about it but I love you (man.)
Steve Collins offers his best guesses on relationships for Metro every two weeks.