What is Friendship – and why do we get so &%$£@* up about it?!

Don't worry, I use very strong shampoo
Don’t worry, I use very strong shampoo

I don’t know where the hell my head is at, but I can’t seem to stay on a single track. There is rant, love, sadness and confusion in equal measure. I fear, therefore, that this will be a vomiting of words rather than a structured effort (yes, I do think my usual posts are structured – which only shows what a fragmented festival of weird my mind is.)

For me, this IS gratitude...
For me, this IS gratitude…

Teeny Bikini read my first award response (which was also the last time my nominator read any of my stuff – which shows at least that I do as I am about to say – and when in my lonely old age I re-read my posts because I have no friends I will know how I came to such a sad pass!)

Teeny left a comment which I spent five minutes staring at (not thinking or anything, I’ve just had a change in medication 😉 – that comment was dancing and singing and I was convinced for a while that it was actually a gherkin trying to tell me the meaning of lifts (they have their up’s and downs)).

In the end I realised I had too many things to say to just make a comment – so here we are. Oh lucky you.

The background for those who can’t be arsed to read my old post – and why would you, clearly I’m just prostituting forgotten work in the hope of improving my stats – is this: I got an award. I ranted about the general crapness of awards and fake ‘likers’. Teeny responded:

Thank you for this. I hate that I feel so conflicted when I get those. I feel like I am blowing someone off who is being really sincere, and that sucks. But I don’t want to do any of what is “required” ’cause I am lazy. And the idea picking/excluding blogs that I like makes me a little queasy too. That said, I like your approach and candor, of course. Cheers.
 

The thing is I went on to do a lot of piss-taking posts (see the blogging tips category), which people found funny (yay me), but which I may have gone too far with at times (boo me!).

I have an auto-destruct mechanism which flares up when something good happens and wants to stamp on it and throw poo at it until it goes away and I can declare that the world is a mean and excremental place once again because I lost my good thing, boo hoo. Hopefully I got a grip in time, because I like blogging, and the peculiar brand of friendships it has brought.

I respond well to opportunity
I respond well to opportunity

It still means though, that I haven’t found the balance again – how far to push the ranting spleen – because I can be an unbelievably insensitive bastard. As the descendant of a German-jewish refugee, having lost ancestors to the camps, with a childhood full of abuse, having descended into drink and drugs and fornication in my youth and clinical depression after that, then working with people who attempted suicide, self-harmed in extreme ways or who crumbled into mental breakdowns and institutionalisation, I sometimes feel entitled to say what the hell I want about things. Living with and around pain gives your heart callouses – it has to, because you can’t rescue someone from self-harm by getting upset and crying about it.

If I want to make a joke about the anal-gazing tedium of the kind of crap depressed people bore us with – I’m taking the piss out of myself – so why shouldn’t I? Jewish jokes? German jokes? Do I not have the right? What about abuse? How far does experience entitle one to go? This far?

Perhaps I should have put a warning somewhere?
I found it funny… I still do! Send more tablets…

Or is that too much?

But I have to have some sensitivity to other people’s feelings, or I will be very lonely!

Which is what Teeny’s comment did to me. It brought up this question, which I don’t think has an answer – I don’t think there can even be an answer. Like most of life there is no right way, no one truth, only a constant balancing game which can feel both liberating (I have choices) and terrifying (there’s no manual, no ‘right’, only – ultimately – absolute self-responsibility.)

The question is – how do we have friends ‘properly’?

There are, it seems, two essential ways of making and keeping friends.

Ah, the young. The original imitators!
Ah, the young. The original imitators!

One is to be or do what will make you ‘friend’ material. This is our ‘young mode’. As children we don’t know who we are, and spend a great deal of time imitating or pleasing others in an effort to make friends. We adopt fashions, listen to popular music and watch the latest ‘trending’ movies, because we want to be part of something, some clique or group. If someone asks us what we like, we respond not from our heart, but from a menu of current ‘acceptable’ things.

The second way is the hard way, the scary way, and the way that can go terribly wrong. While ‘trendships’ can leave us unhappy because we are not being authentic, at least we will have a group, some friends, things will ‘appear’ as if we are okay. These ‘trendships’ also avoid conflict because you just have to agree with everyone – although the endless fretting about how to appease everyone can get pretty tiring.

The second way is to be yourself, and accept that a lot of people will not like it. But this can ultimately leave us very isolated.

It doesn’t mean you must be a bastard – that’s just my way ;). It does mean that you don’t do things, say things or adopt things just because that’s what other people expect of you. If you want to be a writer, and all around you say you must not – you have to be brave and leave those around you – start your friendships fresh.

This mature, authentic way will inevitably leave you with fewer friends, but they will be better, more genuine friends whom you can be real around, who will help you grow, not keep you in place.

It’s complicated, involves conflict and can be treacherous. For example, when I said “bollocks” to awards, I think I cemented some ‘Blog-friendships’, but I also upset and annoyed some people. I’m okay with this, in the end, because I know I’d rather be me than be popular (trust me, I can’t be both!). But even so it is not without price. The loss of those blog-followers was sad and upset me.

What is true of blogs is true also of ‘real’ friends.

What Teeny triggered in me was a kind of ‘vision’ of people all tremulously and desperately trying to do the right thing (I’m not saying Teeny does this, only that she triggered the thought).

I wrote recently about what has come to be called ‘gesture politics‘. The tories turn real people into statistics so that they can be persecuted without anyone protesting. They then persecute them because this LOOKS like they are addressing a bigger political issue. They cut welfare so that the public believe they are addressing the budget deficit. What most people don’t see is that the cut in welfare will have no real effect on a £2trillion debt. It is all just gesture – fakery – a politics of appearance. The suffering it brings to the poor is the only real part of it.

In this same way we seem to have developed a society of the gesture. Friendships and relationships are so public, so broadcast, so analysed that they have become all about everybody trying to validate themselves by asking “am I real for you?”

To sell you have to make people feel inadequate... And we buy this shit!
To sell you have to make people feel inadequate… And we buy this shit!

We read magazine articles on what love is, watch films about what friendships mean, read cod-psychology in the press and pick up a thousand messages every day about what is ‘real’ or ‘right’. Then we go into the world and try to appear to everyone else as if we are ‘normal’ or happy, or this kind of person.

Christmas is a great example. So few of us want to do the shopping, presents, debt crap that Christmas has turned into – but we don’t want to look like humbugs either. The pressure to “appear” to be doing Xmas “properly” is so great that we find ourselves making all the right “gestures”, despite not wanting to. I watch people doing so much that makes them unhappy, in the name of the “season of joy” – it’s tragic.

Be true to yourself... maybe...
Be true to yourself… maybe…

Do friendships have to be so difficult? Must we have so much ‘personal-politics’, such a morass of etiquette? How much should we account for other people’s feelings, and how much should we say “I’m me, if you don’t like it, fuck off!”

If I crap all over awards from a great height, should I care that it upsets people? Should I feel bad because there are others getting all excited over the same awards? Should they care about what I’ve said? Should my dismissal lessen their own pleasure in awards?

As I say, I don’t think there is just one answer – and I imagine most people stopped reading this hours ago and began stabling themselves in the eye with a fork as a more pleasurable alternative. But I’d love to hear what you who have held on this far think!

Have we made everything too public? Has our obsession with therapy, magazine psychology and media morality turned us into self-obsessed “gesture-puppets”. Or am I just going quietly mad alone!

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57 thoughts on “What is Friendship – and why do we get so &%$£@* up about it?!

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  1. You are not going quietly mad alone. If you have room in your padded cell, I will be happy to join you. Living authentically has its price, as does imitating others for approval. If one has to pick a way to be miserable, I will go with the way that allows me to be most true to myself.

      1. Yes!

        Let’s have our
        fragmented festival of strange
        pulling balloon animals
        from our heads
        that everyone else
        claims are imaginary

        but I know that tiger is real
        because I drew his stripes

      2. And I know they are true
        because I see them play

        Your animals and mine
        Unbounded, uncaged
        I see them seep
        Into other peoples sleep
        Even as they are
        Pushed away

        🙂

      3. I know – now I have a second post nested in the comments of a post – which is probably ironic and post-modern on so many levels – as a friendship manifests in creativity within the comment of a post on friendship and (BANG)
        *head has exploded – fzzzt – interrupted transmission – fzzzt – system error… system error…*

      4. Right – I like your edits, so it’s going up. If you want to co-edit / offer prizes (you’ll see what I mean) please do. Maybe we could start our own ‘trifecta’ style thing!

  2. Well, there ya go. I think you’re mistaking quantity for quality in terms of what goes into friendship, readership, and other ship ships.

    Friendship isn’t that hard, in my opinion. It’s simply finding a group, big or small, that accept you for you and can tolerate when you are being yourself. There’s reciprocity, naturally, because you have to give them the same courtesy.

    My opinions on awards are that they’re nice but they veer too close to Faceboook-style Farmville requests: used only to promote others and those who did the nominating. Maybe I’m just cynical about them but I don’t really do my blog for accolades or kudos. If people read it, I’m very happy. If they comment, I will always respond. I’m still seeing them as my audience, even if they’re cohorts in being writers themselves.

    Do I consider you a friend? No. I don’t know you beyond your blog and the comments we’ve traded back and forth. But I do look at you as a contemporary, someone that I can learn from and someone who gives me feedback — even if it’s just a smartass comment.

    In that vein, I don’t think either of us do this blogging thing for awards. We do it to perfect the craft of writing, to exercise our brains and to otherwise unleash some of those thoughts, annoyances, conveniences, and cute puppy pictures that get stuck in our nut.

    This, naturally, works for me. Your subjective universe may have dark shades of purple in its trees.

    1. I agree – I ‘quote’ the friendship a lot because blog-friendship is of a different kind to worldly friendship – it’s essentially about respect or enjoyment of work/comments.
      There are a few folks I think I’d be happy to be stuck in a room with – but they might be idiots in real life (and think the same of me!)
      I was aiming for blogging as an analogue of real friendships. I do think, as I look at my kids and even contemporaries, that things have become oddly ‘display’ orientated – somehow inauthentic.
      Thanks for the sustained comment Mr Gonz.

  3. The second way is to be yourself, and accept that a lot of people will not like it. But this can ultimately leave us very isolated.

    True. But at least those around would be those who truly like US. And who can keep up a facade?

  4. “If I crap all over awards from a great height, should I care that it upsets people? Should I feel bad because there are others getting all excited over the same awards? Should they care about what I’ve said? Should my dismissal lessen their own pleasure in awards?” So many ‘shoulds’ so little time. Should, would, could, probably, perhaps, maybe and one of my least favorites; ‘we’ll see,’ carry little meaning. One of my favorite quotes: “Do or do not, there is no try.” (Yoda). The many questions in your post stimulate thought, but in the end, we simply BE. Some will be excited to be nominated for blog awards ~ some won’t. Some will eat what everybody else is eating ~ some will ask the chef to alter their order. Some will point out even the most minor of political incorrectness, some will chill. And then there are people that fall on each and every spot in between the extremes. Friendships will happen or they won’t. They’ll last or they won’t. My personal vote is for bloggers to continue to write honestly and let the chips fall where they may. As always, ROS, your posts are a challenge in thought experiment. Thanks! ~G

  5. I believe I read your last statement wrong my dear, you said you were quietly going mad alone… there is nothing quiet about it… 😉

    however you bring up some very good questions regarding friendship and social interaction (at any level really). I believe there are times when saying “this is me and you can go F yourself if you don’t like it” is absolutely acceptable, but if all people did this all the time I think this world would be a pretty terrible place (its not doing so hot already). Sometimes we need to be selfish, but sometimes we need to selfless (more often than the other).

    as for your question about friendship – “why do we get so &%$£@* up about it?” because as much as we want to be tough, strong and independent we NEED other people. We need acceptance by a group of people we can be our true selves with, whether that is family, a large group of people or a few intimate individuals (that comes down to personality type and self confidence I think). People die without love and acceptance. We need them the way we need food and water.

    Anyways I could create an entire blog post of my own just as my answer here so I digress…

    1. A lovely response MSH. I’m glad you go beyond ‘blogging’ as that’s where I was obliquely aiming.
      Yes, we do die without love (or stamp on others on our way to money and power – which amounts to the same thing).
      Your getting to the nub of it with ‘want to be independent but need others’. I think the battle is between our true ‘natures’ and what ‘culture’ is trying to turn us into (consumers etc.).
      I’d love to read your post on the topic… Please write it 🙂

  6. You made me smile today. Although I’m usually smiling while sitting in my empty padded cell. Humored by the fly buzzing around the lone lightbulb that taunts me from 10 feet above my head.

  7. I think it is unconscious for most people – they can’t help but be gesture-puppets. I don’t think you should look down on people for that. They are only doing what tens of thousands of years of social evolution makes them do. The individuals need the group in order to survive and breed. Getting along with the group is instinctual. If making useless gestures is the current mode of getting along, then that is what will happen. The group is larger now, thanks to the internet, but the urge to get along is just as strong.

    Some of us just aren’t good at following those instincts. Or else we stubbornly believe the word ‘true’ is more important then the word ‘nice.’

    Should the ones who are bad at getting along change their ways? I don’t know. I guess that depends on the individual’s tolerance for loneliness. Mine isn’t very high, but I have come to see that, when it comes to friends, quality is more important than quantity.

    1. I’m not looking down – I’m trapped too! I’m just seeing and saying and asking.
      But yes, as per my previous poem, we are part of a sea and carried with the tide.
      I believe so firmly in quality that I have no friends at all!!

  8. I think things started getting weird when Facebook made “friend” a verb. It’s not a verb. And then you’re sending out “friend” requests and people can “defriend” you and suddenly you are back in second grade. I hated public school. Why go back? Of course blog followers, Freshly Pressed, blog awards, the “popular” bloggers, etc are all pretty much like school as well. Why am I here?

    1. Because (I hope) you’re like me (a bit) and round the back of the bike sheds being there and not there at the same time – sleeping during Maths, awake during Art and saying yes with your mouth and ‘up yours’ with your mind to the headmaster!
      Everywhere is like school – you learn little where your supposed to and much when you leave 🙂

    1. W.G. you break a Panda’s heart.
      I’ll be your friend.

      Provided we don’t meet
      or you always wear hats
      and don’t show me any photos you’re in
      and we don’t have to be seen together

      Love you!!

  9. I do remember thinking while reading some of your old blogs last night – “Shit, I hope I am never, ever in one of his rants.” 🙂 I have a long list of reasons why I follow this blog that I am never going to tell you, but I can’t imagine not following this blog. You are just too damn adorable. I mean that in the least-creepy way possible. Thank you for this very thoughtful post. I am still thinking about it and I had this extremely long comment that I deleted. This is the best I can do today.

    PS. You write a blog super fast. Dayum, dude. And no, you are not alone.

    1. That’s high praise Teeny, thank you. I do write fast sometimes – on a good day it kind of just falls out. Other times I carve every word out of my own flesh with blood and screaming!
      I don’t mind if you adore me in a creepy way 😈
      I’m glad I have your company 😀

      1. Sweet. Now, I have to look up how to do the different emoticons, especially the devilish one. That works for me. Oh, how I wish I had a day where it just falls out. That sounds wonderful. X

  10. You’re the biggest bullshitter I know on here so far. Quit trying to use me for material however small (I,e, first nominator) because I do read your shit, you bullshitter.

  11. I read your whole post! Nowadays I think people are taking offense to things a lot more readily than we did before the Internet age, and it’s easier to snipe at each other electronically than in person. So that’s not helping. Also, we share a lot more and a lot differently via the Internet than we did in person or on the phone. But if people are going to Friend or Unfriend someone based on one random comment or post, then were they really friends to begin with? That’s my philosophy, at least.

    1. True enough. The whole ‘Twitter’ thing about some MP – who said he’d sue everyone who’d said mean things about him on twitter. What a Wanker. (yeah, now sue me, cause I’ve got f*k all!)
      I think people want to be offended, and others like MP toss-pot want to profit from it. YAWN!
      Maybe I should set up a blog called HATEMEILOVEIT where people can find everything offensive and hurl abuse at me.
      God, that’s giving me the horn 😉

  12. I find your posts thought-provoking and sincere, even if you are a smartass. What bothers me about your post, however, is the “should-ing” you’re doing everywhere and all over yourself, too. I’m sure that you don’t need to be reminded to be careful with that. The flip side is that sometimes we need to be given a good yank and told to smarten up – only you can be the judge of whether that’s necessary or not. If this is really bothering you, then you need to deal with it. Btw, Scott Williams did a good post about a similar topic today.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, and your concern. I appreciate both.
      I really do find the world deeply distressing sometimes, often in the way parents get distressed as they watch their kids make all the same mistakes they made and tried to warn them about.
      That said, I tend to write ‘in extremis’ – putting myself where the pain is to use its energy. It’s not like I’m all Zen and enlightened, I’m flawed and have my journey to make, but I’m not quite the mess my ‘Authorial self’ sometimes appears either. Hope that makes sense?!
      I probably do need a good yank. I’m sure someone said I was a yanker today – or something! 😉

  13. You are going quietly mad alone. Along with the rest of us.
    Goddam. Tell you the truth when you ranted about that award I thought of Le Clown. Maybe he didnt like me as an adversary the way that awarder didnt like being ranted about. Some part of all our heats, you know, like you described, we like friends, and it does hurt. I wondered if I went to far.Took down his stolen banner amulet. Im looking still for my need of a magnificent worthy adversary is very great. He was perfect (ly unmagnificent). But what you said in your rant against awards adressed my own wonders and misgivings and cinicism. It was a filter. Like the commener you anwered, I felt conflicted and vindicated by your rant. Very satisfieing and a prayer for the awarder…
    Then, I knew exsactly what I wanted. You gave my misgivings a voice, so all that was left was the non pretentious desire to have an excuse to say what I feel about some wonderbloggers. Notice you have it permanently on your blog. Good things about everyone you like. Not sure technically how you do that. But your need is met. I meet it with awards. Your rant somehow added to my joy of awarding. Was giong to award you with a suck it up Panda, and make me haopy. But I was too happy wirh everyone else so ….
    Please keep being you. Its the right thing to do. We will all live and learn. Its so much less boreing! So much.
    Goddam

    1. Your comments are always a peculiar journey 🙂
      I will keep being me Way’ – it’s not like I have a choice! 😉
      Keep being you too – take that award, love your fellow blogger, spread your strange all over! I will poop on awards while admiring you for ignoring my poopings!

  14. I lose followers all the time, but I have a nice following of about 45 people (you included) who comment frequently and are awesome blossom (because I’m too tired to come up with a better term). What’s my point? Fuck if I know.

    1. It’s all a bit random. I have 230+ followers according to the widget, 203 according to the dashboard – but actually only around 20 who regularly comment. I have noticed that people who follow comments are counted, which is silly, and that some who followed me then closed their blogs (yes, I hope the two are related!) but still class as following.
      Basically it’s balls and buggery and best ignored!

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Gabriela LeBarón

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