Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friends and influences

Editor's note: This posting used to be called "Frenemies," until I realized that that did not accurately reflect its content. OK, then.

So I've been catching up with This American Life lately. It's an amazing collection of stories told each week around a theme. And sometimes, as with other awesome things, I lose sight of it. Like sweet potatoes. Every time I eat sweet potatoes, I think, my god, these are the best things ON EARTH. And then I eat dozens of them, relishing my delicious recommended daily allowance of beta carotene and vitamin A. And then one day I just forget about them and the last batch I bought languishes in the place in our kitchen where root vegetables go to die. There's no reason. It's not like I ate a bad one or anything. I just move on.

And so it is with This American Life. But now I'm back to it, in the crest of the sinusoid, listening to all the ones I've missed. Today I listened to "Frenemies." I'm sure I don't need to explain the concept here; it's obvious and I'm sure we can all point out the frenemies we've had in our lives. And I have definitely been a frenemy to others, I'm ashamed to say. I don't need to get into that here, either. Because what can I do about that? There's only learning and moving forward.

But the show also made me think about the positive roles my friends play in my life, and the role I play in theirs. This is a common theme for me. I thought about my friend Adam, whom I absolutely adore. Adam has your back in a bar fight, even if you were the asshole, because he's your friend. We interned together a lifetime ago, and we share a sense of humor and an obsessive and analytical memory. But we live very different lives. When I was home and quietly single during our internship, he was out having a good time, meeting many, many women. I mean, he's not a jerk. He's pretty, and funny, and women like him. And we would talk about those women. And then his long-term girlfriend. And the breakup. We talked about it all.

I don't know how it happened, but somehow we lost touch. Anyway, I'd been thinking about him recently and found him on Facebook. He had been married and divorced, and moved to a foreign land with no job. And now he's out having fun again. He chatted me the other day, telling me about a bit of drama he was having with a woman. And I told him he needed to be honest with her and break it off -- the hard thing. It was exactly what he knew I would say.

And I thought to myself, Adam comes to me because he knows I'll kick his ass. This hard part of me, which I try to soften and hide, is something he actually likes and trusts. I mean, I'm sure he has a lot of female friends he talks to. And maybe we all tell him variations of the same thing. And maybe he doesn't even take the advice I give him. But still, he asks. And that makes me feel wonderful.

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