Does a spouse count?
“Happiness is being married to your best friend.” This is a needlepoint you can purchase online for $74 [https://lycettedesigns.com/products/happiness-is-being-married-to-your-best-friend]—if it’s not sold out, which it was when I checked. Sold out! Need I say more. Truth by needlepoint.
So there it is. My wife is supposed to be my best friend. Problem solved. I do have a friend! Society has spoken and we can all pack our bags, get on board the marital friendship train, and put an end to this friendship search.
Well, I wish it were true. Sorry. It’s not to be. Here’s just a small example to gently deflate your friendship balloon. Last night we went out to dinner with my wife’s friends, which is fortunate because, as you know, I have no friends. Be that as it may, my wife checks out my wardrobe, as she has done for 42 years. She then says some variation of these seven words:
“You’re not wearing that, are you?”
Years of facing down judges and cops and defense lawyers never prepares me for the correct answer to this very complicated question.
“No, no, no...maybe,” I say. “Yes?” with a small pause to check out whether she’s shaking her head. “No, of course I’m not wearing this.”
A wife is something, but not a friend. A friend would congratulate you on your stylish embrace of elastic-wasted pants with Velcro pockets. Not so much a wife, who follows up her clothing critique with an eye roll. Yup, an eye roll.
Friends with my wife?
I don’t think so.
Delia’s review of her boring day begins with her complaining that at breakfast nothing happened except for spilling her milk. Then my wife looks up from the book and says to my granddaughter, “But Juliette, what did Delia miss seeing?” Juliette laughs. “The elephants walking across the kitchen.” And the two giggle as they look at the drawing of elephants walking end-to-end across the room behind Delia’s back.
Children and parents as friends
We raised three kids who are now middle aged. At this point, unlike the teenage years, they give me great satisfaction. They care about the world and do good in it. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Our relationships, however, are in constant flux, and presently they’re treating me as a seriously doddering old man. I resisted this at first, but now I take their hand to help me up the rocky trail on the coast of Ireland. I obey when they tell me not to move the sofa out of the U-Haul and into their new house. And I put on the eye gear they scoldingly hand me as I trim around the yard.
But periodically, I still play dad. I know this is wrong. I know they’re adults. And I know this is my own therapeutic issue. But should they marry that man or that woman? Dad has an opinion. Should they leave that job for another opportunity? Well, dad has a thought about that. Should they behave in a certain way toward their coworkers? Hmmm, guess what? Dad has some pointers.
Yup, I shoot myself in the friend-possibility foot every time. But there it is. I can’t help but be dad!
And your parents, if they’re still alive, can they be friends? Same problem with the same weird role issue in reverse. My 96-year-old mom tells me to never throw out the envelopes in which the tons of junk mail arrive for her. Yup, unlike a friend, who’d refuse on the grounds of craziness, I dutifully collect empty envelopes into box after box after box for saving. Why? She’s my mom.
Again, these relationships are something. But friends? In your dreams.
Delia’s story unfolds just as you’d expect. Delia walks to the bus stop and complains there’s nothing interesting. “Juliette, what did Delia miss seeing this time?” my wife asks. Juliette smiles. “Hot air balloons shaped like a chicken and an ice cream cone and an octopus.” Giggles galore. “Juliette, who didn’t Delia see on the boring bus ride to school?” “The pirate,” Juliette shouts with joy.
Not family, not romantic interests
“The family we choose for ourselves is more important than the one we were born into; that people have to earn our respect and trust, not have it handed to them simply because of genetics.” Charles de Lint, Moonlight and Vines.
This little pearl and its variations are usually paraded out when the family you’re born to has gone south in some significant way. But even with that dynamic, there’s something powerful to the notion of you choosing your friends from the duck pond of life. I choose you. You choose me. Wow.