As a Considerably Older Guy, you'll find that friends are more important than ever. The trick is to find some.
Many have left the planet. Others have hidden away in fear, convinced that an aggrieved relative is out to smother them.
Bachelor friends, in a last ditch try for happiness, have gotten married, a surprising number to cleaning ladies. A wife with a cleaning lady background will tend to monopolize your friend's time, although, to be fair, his apartment will be spotless.
The last thing you need, as a Considerably Older Guy, is to be friendless and alone. Here is advice on keeping your remaining friends, however few in number.
The friend no matter what
Don't allow a small disagreement to ruin a friendship. If you find yourself on opposite sides, say, on Kurdish independence, don't come to blows over it. Remember the good times you've had together. Then continue the friendship with as little bitterness as possible. The Kurds will always be there, but a good friend won't necessarily.
Don't insist that a friend see you exclusively. It's perfectly acceptable for a friend to have friends of his own. And there is no need to spy on the friend and hack his phone to find out who he's speaking to. It's not like dating.
Your own wife
Why not? No one is closer to you. Who else has a better understanding of your Hopes and Inner Fears. Why not take her to a hockey game. Or out camping. But it's tricky. When you're ready for sex, she might say: "Are you crazy? I thought we were friends."
A true friend is someone who will accept you the way you are. No need to shave or shower or worry about your appearance. Don't push it, though. Even the closest of friends will draw a line at nose and ear hairs.
Every Considerably Older Guy should have a 4-in-the-morning friend. At some ungodly hour, when 911 doesn't respond, such a friend will hop out of bed and rush to be at your side.
Don't call on such a friend when you've had indigestion. Or you're feeling a little lonely. Wait for a seizure of some kind or clear signs of a heart attack. You can't expect a 4-in-the morning friend to come running over because you can't find your slippers.
If you're a Considerably Older Guy and you find yourself without a 4 a.m. friend, don't rail at the fates and bemoan your outcast state. Instead, take a good look at yourself. Are you a 4-in-the-morning friend? Would you jump out of bed in the middle of the night and go racing (limping?) over to a friend in distress?
"Four in the morning?" you might say. "Don't be absurd. Try me at 4 in the afternoon when I've hit my stride."
Think twice about having a friend who occupies some high and influential station. There will always be the feeling that you're taking up his precious time. That he's just come from a meeting with Warren Buffett. And that he's on his way to another with Roger Ailes. This can only lead to feelings of inadequacy on your part. As a Considerably Older Guy, you have enough of that in your life.
Instead of being jealous of his youth, admire his vitality. And don't expect a young friend to remember David Niven. Or even Eisenhower. Consider yourself lucky if he remembers the first Bush.
Some other guidelines on friendship:
- Limit contact with a friend who greets you with a yawn and says: "It won't be long now, right fella?"
- In matters of friendship, try to steer away from financial matters. Asking for a loan, for example, is not a good idea. A friend, no matter how wealthy, might grant you such a loan and then resent it bitterly for the rest of his days.
- If you're pressed to the wall and in desperate need of a loan, make sure it's for a substantial figure. Don't ask for $18 and blow what might be your one opportunity. (And once you have the loan, don't lie awake riddled with guilt, or worse, return the loan immediately, which defeats the whole purpose.)
There is no such thing as a perfect friend. Someone you've known for years might suddenly curse and even spit at you for not having invited him to a party 30 or 40 years back. Be accepting of such behavior. If the friend continues to behave in such a rude way, you might want to give some thought to ending the friendship.
Finally, it's of great importance to have at least one friend who is in worse shape than you are.
Bruce Jay Friedman is a novelist, playwright, short-story writer and screenwriter. He sold his first short story to the New Yorker at age 23. Friedman published his debut novel, Stern, in 1962. He's best known for his 1978 book, The Lonely Guy's Book of Life. Friedman has published eight novels and wrote the Oscar-nominated Splash (1984). His memoir, Lucky Bruce, appeared in 2011.
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