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Things aren't going well up here in Yorkville. A phone message that I never heard was thrust in my face. People who probably don't mean it hurt me big time. I'm angry and lost, and, if it weren't for Kathleen, I'd also be stupid. But Kathleen is in my life because I knew that she would understand everything that I'm up against, and I was right. Kathleen rocks/rules.  

Which is another way of saying that, even though I'm a man who has loved his wife without incident for over twenty-five years, I do not have the gift of friendship. I don't, actually, have any friends at all.

Well, I have Fossil Darling, with whom I was thrown into a room by a prep school in 1963. But FD is famous for forgiving everybody. One of these days, he is simply not going to forgive me for the terrible things that I say to him, and then I'll be Tilt.

But here I am, about to be sixty, with no friends. Which is to say that there are two. Everybody else is a friend of Kathleen's. (And I love Kathleen's friends.) There's George and there's Susan. Well, of course there's Fossil Darling, but he's the guy I got stuck with in boarding school, n'est-ce pas, as am I for him.

Enough about my arid landscape. You have more friends than I do and I advise you to treasure them. Make sure you understand why you like them. And don't get mixed up with couples - never, ever, short-circuit your relationships. You can't like two different people in a way that each would like, so give up in advance.

Find your friends, and, if necessary, ditch your responsibilities. God knows I'd have liked to.


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Inasmuch as I was remarking to Sharon on my particular friendlessness a couple of nights ago, pointing out that what few I had seemed to live far away, it would seem that you have more than you might think. At least one.

You hijacked me from Kathleen in the 80s, and although I adore Kathleen, and I trust vise versa, we don't see each other. You have been one of my very best friends for over two decades now, and don't you forget it or trivialize it. We only MET through Kathleen. Our friendship stands alone on its own strong merits. Now stop.

While I've perhaps not known you as long as Fossil Darling, George and Susan have, what is this 30 year relationship we've had if not a friendship? I can think of a few others who would feel the same--you have many friends, although not necessarily ones that you see on a regular basis.

Friendships, by my lights, are the most complicated relationships. Your obligation to your friends is not conferred or secured by blood relation or marriage, but by a mutual need for a certain kind of companionship, one that extends beyond acquaintanceship. Real friendships are rare.

As I make my way through the world, I let go of many relationships that I once called friendships. But, I am slowly learning that not every platonic arrangement is a friendship. I am more selective, and more guarded. That rare and solid friendship upholds me during the most demonic and the most jubilant times.

Dear RJ,

Maybe you are establishing too high a standard for the idea of a friend. I have nowadays a very few friends, all on the Internet, and all people I've met face-to-face at most 5 times in my life (a couple once each.

I have no local friends but Jim. People I knew in NY have fallen away and I never made a permanent friend here in Alexandria, not even using a weak definition. I have associates at work, people who know me on sight and as a fellow employee.

It's hard, life. I'm been reading Alice Munro's stories and she is disillusioned and disabused about what friendship and family relationships amount to and how hard to be depended upon.

On the other hand I tell myself I am spared the kind of grief you felt today. For what it's worth, I really empathize, RJ.


For me friendships have always been paramount; my dysfunctional parents thrust their children into the arms of surrogates, which ended the sense of 'family' for me : my friends became my family. What little sense of family in the traditional sense comes from my Nicaraguan connection, where family remains paramount.

I have always been loathe to end friendships, as RJ points out, and probably too forgiving. Part of it is due to decimation of my friends by AIDS, part of it is my naivete in thinking that if I have invested my time and energy I expect it to be reciprocated, which of course it isn't always and I am always still a bit hurt and bewildered when a friendship ends or changes dramatically...

All relationships are tricky, from the family to the office to friends. In the case of Fossil Darling and RJ, it is out of "Mame," which we rendered one New Year's to the amusement of many : 'we'll ALWAYS be bosom buddies...." Oh! the horror!

Friends are people you may not have seen for ages and then, when you meet/call/etc., you can pick right back up where you both left off without any awkwardness or need for explanation. I have been fortunate in having such people in my life, and know they are always there in mind and spirit if not always physically present. Those friends who have, unfortunately, left this world leave something behind of themselves as well, forming part of who we are today. I think you have many more friends than you know.

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