tell a homie you love them today
Liu Ye, Untitled, 2010
My closest friend and I seem like an unlikely pair.
In fact, multiple people have asked both of us, “What do you two talk about?”
H brushes it off coolly, disagreeing entirely with the premise of the question: “If I had nothing to talk about with someone, why would I even spend time with them?” I, however, can’t shake the thought for days (this example itself is a testament to how different we are).
H trusts his gut, and I’m not even confident that I have one. H considers themselves a romantic, and I, a rationalist. H and I can’t watch a movie together without arguing about the merits of the plot or which character is the hero or the villain.
I used to think that those differences actually drove our friendship, that our heated debates about life and love were what added fuel to the fire. Over the years though, those debates have tempered and slowed. Our conversations are calmer now. There are fewer prefaces and disclaimers, we’re more silly and less serious.
In his fantastic newsletter The Red Hand Files, Nick Cave offers a framework for how to think about friendships:
“First there is the friend who you go out and eat with, or get pissed with, who you go with to the cinema or a gig — you know, have a shared experience with.
The second kind of friend is one who you can ask a favour of, who will look after you in a jam, will lend you money, or drive you to the hospital in the middle of the night, someone who has your back — that kind of friend.
The third level of friendship is one where your friend brings out the best in you, who amplifies the righteous aspects of your nature, who loves you enough to be honest with you, who challenges you, and who makes you a better person.”
While I basically agree with this framework (and it was a big reason I originally put pen to paper on this), I want to offer an alternate one:
First there is the friend you pour into. What I mean by this is, you probably don’t see them that often, but when you do, it’s charged and intense. A lot of life updates, revelations, probably pretty cathartic.
The second kind of friend is one you trickle into. You see each other too often for intensity. Instead, growth is more subtle. It’s a collection of offhand comments, little observations about each other. There may be more silence, but accompanying the silence is an unguarded ease.
This framing is not revolutionary or even novel, but I believe the distinction is an important one. Young people in particular love to seek out intensity, whether that intensity is derived from a new person, a new place, a new feeling. It’s a difficult craving to ignore. But lately, I’ve been feeling particularly grateful for the relationships I’ve invested in over the years, both with my time and my consistency. I’ve alluded to this before:
“Understanding moves deeply beyond sharing with you what I think about so-and-so book or so-and-so place. It’s a lifelong journey. It means slowly revealing my unique constellation of reference points, the way I tend to bounce when I walk, why certain silly movies make me cry, the first thoughts I have when I walk into a crowd of people.”
Two very sweet comments (said months apart) from a different friend that solidified this thinking for me:
“Wow, you’re one of the few people I see often enough that I don’t really have any life updates for you.”
“I’m not sure why, but our friendship makes me feel safe.”
In a world that has devolved into context collapse and bad faith, feeling safe is rare. To see and be seen, even rarer. To get to a place with someone where you can relish in the silence, know the answer to a question before asking it, wholly accept each other’s faults, requires a lot of toil—but it’s well worth it.
I’ll leave you with a passage from Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow about the main characters’ lifelong friendship:
“To allow yourself to play with another person is no small risk. It means allowing yourself to be open, to be exposed, to be hurt. It is the human equivalent of the dog rolling on its back—I know you won't hurt me, even though you can.”
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