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By Tardsie

And A Little Gay If The Ponies Are To Be Believed.

I believe that friendship is important. It’s soul-affirming. A bad friendship is like a bad relationship–you’re better off not having it at all. But a good friendship is a powerful thing, and can help keep your ship afloat on rocky seas. I’ve been very lucky to have wonderful friends–dudes who have always accepted me for who I am (while mocking me for the same reason), who have loved me and seen me through some rough patches sandwiched in between a lot of kick-ass times. All this for a guy with as many faults as I have. Truly, I am not worthy.

On Wednesday, five of us gathered in LA for an impromptu remembrance of our friend Joe who died earlier this month. Of the four other guys, I’d seen three of them within the past six months. One guy I hadn’t seen in almost seventeen years, although it didn’t seem like that long. The last time we had all been together Bill Clinton had been president, and we were a pack of pot-smoking do-nothings with our whole lives ahead of us. Now we were pot-smoking do-nothings with families, careers and crow’s-feet. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, and I laugh a lot.

It Was A Lot Like This, But With Better Music.

Being in the rejuvenating presence of such wonderful friends got me thinking about the bonds and boundaries of friendship, and how sometimes the tiniest things can make or break a friendship. It took me back to my junior year of college to a time when, through a mutual association, I’d met and become fast friends with a freshman who had started hanging out with our group, fitting in easily.

It was assumed this kid would pledge my fraternity. He had expressed interest, and was well-liked not only by myself but by many of the other members. But there was a snag. His older sister, who had just broken up with an alumnus from my fraternity, turned suddenly against us, and began to exert heavy pressure on her brother to join a different frat. He was conflicted: the other frat seemed to better represent the kind of guy he was coming out of high school (think the Omegas from Animal House), but he had so many promising friendships among us and just seemed to fit better.

I knew this was going on, and while I very much wanted him to come with us, I’d seen potential brothers scared away by the hard-sell, so I tried to express my opinions only when asked. I got that opportunity one day when we were hanging out.

“Hey,” he asked me one day, with no artifice, but definitely some trepidation, “If I pledge {Clan Douchebag}, we’ll still be friends, right?”

I Wouldn’t Even Be Able To Look At You The Same Way, Bro.

I looked at him seriously and said, “No. Not like we are now.” I could see he was a little stunned, and I could definitely understand, having been a freshman once.  I explained that if he joined the other frat, we’d try to be friends, but that our two very different circles would intersect but rarely, and that usually, those meetings were acrimonious. As painful as it was, I told him that his choice might very well dictate the future of our blossoming friendship.

It Is The Natural Way Of Things, My Child.

I’ve lived a long time since then and learned a lot more about what it means to be a friend. I wonder: If that young man had asked me the same question today, what would I tell him? Gatherings like the one I just attended inevitably bring to mind not only who is there present among the gathered, but also, far more poignantly–who isn’t there who maybe should be.

And so I think of that long-ago kid with whom I had such a great rapport and with whom I took such an implacable stance with my friendship. I wonder how things might have happened differently. And sometimes, I wonder what that kid is doing now.

When I do, I usually just call him. He’s one of the guys I saw on Wednesday, and whom I see pretty regularly. We were each in the other’s weddings, and I’m godfather to his son. We’re the best of friends to this day.

When faced with that long-ago choice, he totally made the right one. Keep your friends close, and don’t have enemies if you can help it.

Everyone Seen Here Made The Right Choice.