"I never had better friends than the friends I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" -Stand By Me
I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that I haven't made many new friends over the past 24 years. Sure, some of my closest friends are people that I met during college. And, despite being temporarily blinded by vodka and hormones in my 20's (when I was young, single and living in New York), I managed to form some very close relationships with people that I still cherish today. But, for the most part, a lot of the people that I still see regularly are the friends that I made when I was 12 years old. I'm not sure why that is but it got me thinking about a good friend is. Here's the short list.
A friend is someone with whom I can go to a restaurant and spend the entire meal on the cell phone talking to my wife.
A friend is someone who can come over to my apartment while the wife and baby are gone, watch 6 hours of football with me, eat two meals together, and then get up and leave without uttering a single word.
A friend is someone who knows everything about you and likes you anyway, who knows you're suffering even when you're fooling everyone else, and will always volunteer to drive you around in a white Bronco while 200 police cars follow you down the Interstate.
A friend is someone who will bail you out of jail at any time of day, will never pass judgment on you, will ignore your psychotic mood swings, will never lie to you, will lend you $1,000 in Vegas at 4:00 in the morning without even thinking about it and will actually tell you when you're starting to lose your hair or gain weight.
But most of all, a friend is someone whom you can laugh with. As Dennis Miller once said, "a friend is someone who can make you laugh so hard that milk actually comes out your nose...even though you haven't had any milk in over two years."
Anyway...why am I bringing all this up? Because an older friend of mine in his late 40's recently told me that ALL of his and his wife's friends are people that they met through their kids. The kids become friends at school. Then, over the years, the parents ended up becoming friends. Sounds weird but I can imagine how this would play out. All those long days spent watching Little League games, ballet recitals and soccer games. Then, you have the school plays, the annual fundraisers, and the bake sales. The wives chit chat during Parents night and end up hitting it off. One mother says how they should all get together one weekend. You keep making excuses but eventually you run out of them. Next thing you know, you've let your wife talk you into spending a Sunday with a bunch of strangers. Before you know it, you're sharing burgers at a barbecue with a guy named Phil who works in advertising, wears a nautical blue blazer, drinks low-carb Aspen Edge beer, and has clearly had a lot of Botox done on his face. He introduces you to his "main hombre, Jim," a Wall Street guy with an overly strong handshake who seems to think that his wealth can overcompensate for the fact that he's short, loud, and obnoxious. You, on the other hand, decide to leave your sunglasses on, drink multiple vodkas, and contemplate how pissed the wife would be if you executed an immediate exit strategy and left the party with some fake food poisoning. Aaarrgh!
Just thinking about these potential future scenarios makes me ill. Of course, I'll do ANYTHING in the world for my precious daughter. But make new friends? Shit, do I have to? I've barely got enough time for the friends that I have now. Besides, is having children of the same age really enough to form the basis of a friendship? It's got to be harder than that, doesn't it? But I see it happening already with a few buddies of mine. All of sudden, one of them will mention how they "spent the weekend with Jeff and Susan." When I remind my friend that I've known him for 20 years and I've never heard him mention Jeff or Susan so there's really no need for him to start making up imaginary friends now, he'll just casually say, "oh yeah. The wife met them in Mommy & Me." What the fuck? I thought we had a non-verbal pact here that none of us could make new friends. Sure, we could have a bunch of casual acquaintances with people that we meet and really like. We could even make plans to go out to dinner with them every once in awhile. But a whole weekend away together? I'm sorry. But you really should have asked my permission before you went away with Jeff and Susan.
I don't know what my problem is with this. Really, I don't. I'm not an anti-social guy at all. Maybe it's because I realize that I have a slightly sarcastic and cynical sense of humor that people don't really "get" until they've known me for awhile? Maybe I just don't like having new friendships thrust upon me? Maybe because I'm too judgmental with people that I meet for the first time? I'm not sure what my problem is regarding the possibility of making new friends via my daughter.
One solution that I've had lately is to try and convince all my closest friends to have children at the same time so we can just continue to hang out together. Then, our children will all be friends and I won't feel forced to hang out with new people. So far, this plan is working out surprisingly well. It helps that there seems to be some unspoken NYC charter law that dictates people must wait until the age of 35 prior to having children. So now, all my friends are having kids in droves. But I've got to admit that, in the back of mind, I still have this fear that I'm just delaying the inevitable and, at some point, I'm going to have to make new friends because of the Peanut. Egads!
Is it me, Internet? Am I nuts? Will I really have no choice in the matter? What happens if you don't like the parents of your child's best friend? Will I be socially ostracized? Or worse, will my daughter? What are the ramifications of calling another parent an asshat? Would it be worse to pretend that I'm deaf and dumb? Are their social cliques in parenting circles? Do the "cool parents" all hang out together? Do "parenting" friends ever become "real" friends? How can I avoid all of this nonsense?
An inquiring mind wants to know. Because really, Internet, I don't have time to break in new friends. I'm still happy with the old ones.