Wednesday 31 October 2012

"Real" Friends in the "Like" Me Age


What is a friend?
People come up to me at festivals and proudly declare themselves to be my facebook friend. I have 4928 facebook friends, on one page. I have 4 pages and two groups. Does this mean I have a lot of friends?

With point and click friends, in both of our lives, the sum total of what we may do for each other is to  "click like" and "accept." This doesn’t disturb me. I have never really chosen any of my friends. Most of my friends have just adopted me....

I was pimple faced, pale skinned and my mother died my hair bright red. This was way  before Goth was chic. It was not fashionable, I was not a trend-setter and I was not chic. I was just odd. Still a girl at my bus stop refused to join in with the others who teased me and decided to walk home with me. She said silly things to make me laugh. We were ten years old.

I had one other girl friend. She felt jealous of my new friend. Before that, she had never had any competition for my attention. She spent long hours explaining to me that she was my real friend and that this new girl was not.

Fast forward. By 30, I had achieved a small modicum of success. I was voted Queensland Business Woman of the Year, by Women in Business magazine. I popped in to share my joy with my "real" friend, whom I had not seen in 18-months as I had been busy. The reception was icy but the years fell away as we sat in the park on the swings and I blabbed my good news. I felt like I was ten years old again. However, when I asked her what was happening with her new job, I was told that I was prying and that my interest in her was no longer needed. I have not heard from my real friend since.

My friendship with the girl from the bus stop continued. At times it has been low maintenance and long distance. Though not as close as the friendship I had shared with my ‘real’ friend, yet I have since had occasion to trust my life to her and she has never let me down.

What defines a friend is what they do for you. The old joke is true... "A friend will bail you out of jail after a big night but a real friend is in the cell with you after a big night...."
In the end, what makes a real friend is the same as what makes a good lover - It is not the level of intimacy that you share... It is being there.

A friend turns up when you need them to. If they say they are going to do something for you, they do it... They are the only ones who will care enough to tell you that you have egg on your face, help you wipe it off and then they help you to laugh at yourself.

They also know when you need something without asking. The girl from the bus stop and I are both now fifty. She turned up today with a dishwasher for me. My dishwasher has been broken down for some months and had resisted all of our efforts to fix it. She has a white goods business. I rang my friend for advise on my pesky appliance. She advised me to let go and move on and to stop being such a miser and buy a new one. I explained things were a little cash tight right now, and that I would do that next month. Two days later, without being asked she has a dishwasher for me... and she disposed of the old one. 
I was humbled yet again by this girl from the bus stop who is such a good person. I am so lucky to have her as a friend. She has earned my respect and tries to keep it and I appreciate her for that. Yet there are others who do nothing to earn your respect, abuse you and are offended when you are critical of their bad behavior.
A case-in-point is another friend who adopted me a few years back. I took her into my home when she went through a break up and I match-made her with a beautiful younger man who she now lives with. He is by far the best relationship she has ever had or will ever have. I have also knitted for her when she was sulking that I made things for my own family but not for her. "Your so lucky to have me as a friend..." she says to me...when she is drunk and stoned an yelling at me and won't let me leave to go to sleep. She has let me down on each and every occasion I have made the mistake of asking her for some help. Even when I have paid her for that help she did not complete. When I have tried to explain that her social picadilos are isolating her from others, I get the cold shoulder for months and she talks about me behind my back. Sometimes those who think they are “real” friends don't know what it means go be a “real” friend. The girl from the bus stop should give friendship lessons.

A "Top Gear" day driving Super Cars and Nasscars - with the girl from the bus stop.
There is far more to friendship than pointing and declaring yourself a friend. It is an ongoing, 2-way, reciprocal relationship. It is hard work being a real friend. You have to ask yourself what have I done for that person that will make you worthy of their friendship? I have been asking myself all day "What did I do when I was ten to deserve such a good friend as the girl from the bus stop and why did I underestimate her for so long?

The girl from the bus stop reassures me that I have done heaps for her... And that we share a history... Mornings after.... Helping each other over the world's worst relationship choices ... Standing up in court for each other... Looking after each other after operations... Jumping off 20 story buildings and out of a perfectly good airplane for no good reason...Getting incriminating videos of each other with male strippers… Making each other laugh when it hurt… Media.... Underworld.... Firemen... Policemen... Hellfire... Children... Parents and on occasion trusting each other in potentially life threatening situations...  Even recycling old lovers to each other… Sure, we have been angry with each other. She slept with a guy I was currently dating once - but hey, we had been friends much longer than I had known him. It was nothing that a pillow fight in a car park couldn’t fix. 
Who’s counting? Who can count? We have done things for each other. Even though we are not constantly in each others back pocket, we do maintain the relationship. However, I still don't feel like I have done enough for her and I would give her a dishwasher too, if she needed one, in a heart beat!

My definition of "real friend" is that girl from the bus stop. From now on I will be putting more time and effort into her and my other real friends.. but I still feel like I have some catching up to do. She never makes it easy. For example she rang me an hour ago to say...."when I was there dropping off the dishwasher, I couldn’t help noticing your fridge..."