Monday, August 19, 2013
You may not agree, but it seems to me that most of us need only a few of us. We get by quite blessedly well with but a few chosen favorites, even though we can dance up a storm with a room full of people. I'm talking about friends, real friends, and I'm saying we don't require a whole lot of 'em, just a few really good ones. "The soul selects her own society," wrote Ms. Dickinson, "then shuts the door."
I've always regarded women's friendships as something altogether of another genre than men's. My wife once told me she thought a really, really good friend was someone to whom she could pour out her heart's most intimate thoughts and feelings and joys and concerns and still be absolutely confident that not a word of any of it would be shared with any other human being on the face of the earth. Trust, I guess, is the key there, trust that's pretty much indistinguishable from love, "the greatest of these."
But it's hers. Call me a heel, but I just don't think in those terms. I'm going out on a gender limb here, but methinks part of the reason I find that answer interesting is because I'm male. Go ahead and slay me for the generalization, but I don't think men need friends for the same reasons that women do, largely because--and this may well be changing--it's a man's world. Real power in our world still rests with males, white males.
Those who don't have that power need each other in different ways is what I'm saying and therefore likely define friendship in ways unlike the guys at the country club or the neighborhood watering hole.
I don't think my wife is wrong; after all, should I need somebody to confess to, I'd choose someone I know wouldn't sell the confession to the ding-a-ling down the block, but intimate confessional stuff is simply not something I think much about. If I can go out with a guy and play a round of golf, slice up the fareways, hit more sand traps than greens, spend way too my life out of bounds and looking for the cheap knock-off Titleists I bought on-line, and still laugh about it, hey!--that's a friend.
I know, I know--I'm sounding like the Platte River--a mile wide and a foot deep. Here's Thoreau, uttering something of what I'd call a male definition: "Be true to your work, your word, and your friend." Yeah. That sounds like a t-shirt I'd wear, one of those gray ones, you know?
My wife would nod her head and roll her eyes. But Thoreau wasn't just some male chauvinist pig either: "the language of friendship," he wrote, "is not words but meanings." I think she'd like that. Just make t-shirt pink or some sweet pastel.
Anyway, gender differences make friendships among couples a sometimes difficult game of cat and mouse--you know, "we hang out with 'the so-and-sos' because she's your friend, dear." One of us just goes along for the ride and considers the visit something the Bible demands. Such things happen. In our life, did, long ago.
All of which is to say that once upon a time I started this blog determined to be the person Garrison Keillor suggested I'd be if I gave thanks for something every last morning of my life. The line is on top the page, where it's been ever since I started. Read it for yourself.
Seven years later, that mission statement mostly faded away, so maybe it's time I renew my vows.
Here we go. Yesterday we visited friends, people who've moved away. We visited for no more than a couple hours, but the time was blessed enough to silence both my wife and me for most the three-hour trip home. It was that good.
Friends are a good, good thing. You don't need a lot of them, but you need some really good ones. And we've got 'em, and I'm thankful this morning that we do.