June 15, 2009

True friend as valuable as money


Sometimes they’re infuriating, sometimes they’re never on time, and sometimes they won’t even lend you money.. But true friends are always around, no matter where they are. When you need them, you can find them.

Friends—the kind that listen instead of waiting to speak—those kind of friends, they’re life’s mile markers.

Other friends come and go, like the friend at work or the one at the bar or the lunch friend.

But true friends…

True friends tell you when you’re wrong.

They’ll say when you’re pig-headed. They’ll stop you when you’re being defensive. They’ll sympathize when you’re sad. And they’ll definitely tell you when your shirt just doesn’t go with your pants. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway. And I think eventually, a true friend will come around and tell you those things. Someone who’s not a true friend will never say them or ever lend you money.

True friends don’t play shrink and ask you, “How does that make you feel?” They know how you fell because they actively listen and can figure it out.

They don’t play it cool.. Ultimately, no one in this world is especially cool, and with true friends you can comfortably be uncool.

True friends tell you when you’re working too hard. They’ll tell you when you’re not sleeping enough. They’ll tell you that your laugh is annoying and you’re just being lazy.

They tell you when you don’t have any control over a situation, when you’re being strong, when you have to be stronger, and when you can’t borrow anymore money.

True friends have the confidence to laugh at you, without paying lip service and insist they’re laughing with you.

I suppose time is a valuable element when it comes to making friends. The longer you spend with someone, the stronger the bond.

Sometimes, though, true friendship is forged over a short period of time through the fire of a difficult experience, like men who go to war together or police officers’ partners.

I had a teacher in high school who would tell us that if we made just one true friend—just one—then we’ve come out on top in life.

“True friends,” he would say waving his finger in the air like a wand. “Truly true friends are more rare that you people think.”

We’d listen and sneak glances at each other and roll our eyes. Back in school, each of us had so many “friends” we thought that anyone who valued having just one friend was a major loser.

But as they years have passed, the lunch friends have fallen away and the work friends have been left behind—and the bar friend isn’t at that bar anymore, just like you aren’t at that bar anymore.

I suppose that’s how life is.

I bring this whole friends discussion up because I went to a carnival recently. You know the scene: carnival rides, geeks at the microphone, sticky cotton candy fingers and the smell of popcorn and pizza everywhere. For me, the best thing about the carnival was watching all the young kids hanging with their friends, running around and playing games.. Most were in large groups although some were with a single pal.

I myself was with a single friend, and then I met another one later.

It was about then that I realized I’m becoming what I used to think was a “major loser.”

The “friend” count may be lower for me than it was, but I suppose the “true friend” count is more clear for me now that I’m older. And that’s a good thing—because to play all those games at the carnival that I played, my friend had to lend me a lot of money.

June 1, 2009

The Romantic

A romantic evening for a guy means faking it. Honest.

If a guy is totally honest about a fun time, he’d invite a girl to play Nintendo into the wee hours of the morning surrounded by Chee-tos and Ding Dong wrappers. Or he’d think convenience and drive her to Home Depot on an errand for some plumber’s putty. They could talk on the way, of course.

My buddy Kevin “The Big Ragu” once leveled with a girl just five minutes after meeting her.

“You wanna go cruisin’?” he asked her, leaning against a wall with one hand, the other knuckle-deep in the back pocket of his skin-tight black jeans.

“You know, up and down Harlem,” he wooed.

Needless to say, Ragu rode his Schwinn home alone that night.

You see? That’s what we got for being honest. So we sell out, for the girl’s sake.

We take off our “ET” T-shirts for a night and ask her to do something she would like, such as a candlelit dinner followed by a three-hankie movie.

Ragu says he never brings flowers to a girl on a first date and no one ever should. I know what he means. Once, my date’s entire extended family squeezed into the foyer with disposable cameras for the flower hand-off. That was all I needed to nix that $7.99 embarrassment in perpetuity.

Another Ragu rule is always position your date in line with the restaurant TV (and always take her to a restaurant with a TV). By re-focusing you eyes, your attention can go from the Sox game to her face almost instantly.

“Listening,” Ragu said with air-quotes, “is all about reacting to different tones in her voice.”

Like Ragu says, when speaking to a girl, a fella should emphasize the positive. Put a little spin on inescapable facts, such as I’ve only been living with my mom for four and a half years. Or I easily make over $12,000 a year.

It’s no surprise then that the movie is the relief period of the date for the guy; he doesn’t have to keep up his end of the conversation anymore. He just hopes she’s sharing the arm rest with him when the credits roll.

When Ragu drops her off at the end of the evening (if he has borrowed his father’s car), he throws the car in park immediately and unsnaps his seatbelt confidently. If she bolts, she bolts. If the car is still idling ten minutes later and the passenger door hasn’t opened yet, there’s your romance right there.