Isn’t That What Friends Are For?

I hate that iconic ‘80s song “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dianne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder. Embarrassingly, I can easily name that tune in one note and recite those cheesy lyrics that have been chiseled in my subconscious since 1985.

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
In good times, in bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
Oh, that’s what friends are for

What’s more, the song’s superficial and unconvincing video stirs up a lethal sea of toxicity that swirls deep inside my gut. Watch out; I may just toss my cookies. Honestly, I’d rather torture by an endless loop of Disney’s “It’s a Small World” until I die instead of hearing one lick of The Worst Song Ever Written. The uninvited memory of “That’s What Friends Are For” and the recollection of its unsettling video reared its ugly head during a recent conversation with my shrink.

“Dave, you need to get out and make some friends.”
“Friends? How in the eff do I make friends? I’ve tried to make friends my entire life.”

(Keep smiling, keep shining…♫)

I wasn’t prepared for those instructions. Is my therapist right? Do I need friends? Do I even have friends? These nagging questions picked at me.
Clearly, the definition of ‘friend’ runs much deeper than the cheesy lyrics of an old pop song. Carefully, I conjured up my own series of hand-picked definitions for a friend:

• A friend is someone who’s well aware of how stupid I am but doesn’t mind being seen with me in public.
• A friend is someone who willingly listens to me bitch about my job, my wife, my life, and my kids and cheers me on the entire time.
• A friend is someone who makes me laugh about stupid shit until I pee my pants.
• A friend is someone who knows about my secret stash of hooch but would never tell my wife.
• A friend is someone who kicks my ass when I deserve it and expects me to kick their ass when they don’t.
• A friend is a loyal partner. A friend is an equal. A friend would throat punch anyone who disagrees.

Am I wrong? After all, isn’t that what friends are for? I analyzed my definitions and determined that I have dozens of acquaintances. However, I don’t have any friends. It wasn’t long before I began to obsess….

This guy
Isn’t stupid
Isn’t shy
Has an education
Can hold an intelligent conversation
But doesn’t have any friends
This guy
Has an awesome sense of humor
Is genuine
Is fun to hang out with
Makes people laugh
But doesn’t have any friends

WTF is wrong with this guy? WTF is wrong with me?

Decades ago, when I was in elementary school, I did have a few genuine friends. However, the so-called cool kids swiftly kicked us to the bottom of the totem pole and successfully labeled us as faggots to the entire school. When I moved to Florida in 1979, my world did improve. However, because of my grade-school trauma, it wasn’t easy to make real friends. In High School, I was acquainted with dozens of kids from every social group, but I didn’t have the phone number of one friend to rely upon if my car broke down.

(Knowing you can always count on me, for sure …♫)

Alone and confused, I got married at 21. For the next 22 years, I wasn’t allowed to have friends. The familiar isolation continued.

Today now that I’m over fifty, making friends remains impossible. Yes, yes, I’m well aware of the old saying: “To have a friend you must be a friend.” Believe me; I’ve spent much effort doing exactly that. In fact, I studied the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People. I immediately ushered into action many of the book’s valuable techniques: Become genuinely interested in other people, smile, use the person’s name, be a good listener, make the other person feel important, etc.

Still, while many people genuinely seemed to enjoy my company, I didn’t make any friends.  I admit I’m not the typical guy. Although some of my best traits aren’t masculine-friendly, I still possess some male DNA.

• I hate sports, but I love pro wrestling.
• I have zero skills with power tools, but I know how to hammer nails.
• I think Taylor Swift writes great songs, but Kid Rock is one bad-ass motherf*cker.
• I always mess with my hair, but makeup is for girls.
• I have too many feelings, but I scoff at crybabies.
• I think drag shows are the bomb, but I think Scottish kilts are gay.
• I get weepy during chick flicks, but I can quote GoodFellas on the fly.

With my mega-mix of metrosexual mannerisms, it’s easy for me to make quick, superficial acquaintances with the ladies. At the same time, however, it’s impossible to make friends with everyday guys. Hell, I can’t even make friends with gay men. I’m as isolated and confused as ever.

(In good times, in bad times …♫)

Recently, I’ve been accused of wanting too much admiration, adoration, and affirmation from others. So what. I deserve it. In fact, I openly admit it. I crave attention. After all, I don’t have any friends. Does that make it wrong?

(I’ll be on your side forever more…♫)

After all, isn’t that what friends are for?

Photo Credit: sandklef Flickr via Compfight cc