Welcome to a new year, and one that I’m sure is going to have plenty of 2020 vision jokes made about it, if they already didn’t overload yesterday and the night before. But here’s some 2020 foresight for you, and it’s this. The most important thing you can have in life is friends.
Hell, it’s the most quoted (if somewhat sexist) line from that most ubiquitous of Christmas Films, It’s a Wonderful Life: “No (hu)man is a failure who has friends.”
Fun fact: because the film didn’t do well on initial release no one followed up when it was time and it fell into public domain. Because of this, TV stations started airing it during the holiday season in the 1970s because they didn’t have to pay to do so, and this is what elevated it to cult status and beloved holiday tradition. Republic Pictures eventually reclaimed the copyright via the short story the film was based on and sold the exclusive rights to NBC. Republic Pictures was once owned by a guy I used to work for whom you might have heard of.
Ironically, the film that won the Best Picture Oscar the year that IAWL came out, The Best Years of Our Lives, is probably one you’ve neither heard of nor seen, but I don’t even have to wonder whether any of my readers have seen Capra’s film. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
To get back to the point, though, the story of this film is actually in keeping with the theme of the movie and this post. You see, It’s a Wonderful Life was basically abandoned by its creators/parents because they saw nothing in it. It wasn’t until it received love and support from unrelated people that it found its place, was able to spread its message, and turned into the moving classic it is today.
And for those of us who don’t have family around, either because we live far from home or we’re an only child or someone with no siblings living nearby but also with no living parents or grandparents, or we happen to have living relatives who are intolerable people for various reasons, the holidays can be difficult unless we have friends, and I’m reminded of that every year because I fall under a few of those conditions there.
My friends are my family, and to me that bond is stronger because it’s not something that was imposed on me by accident of birth. Rather, it was something I chose to make happen. Or they chose. Either way… when we make that connection and decide that somebody is worth spending time with, it is a beautiful thing.
But… here’s the big caveat, and I may be speaking mainly to the menfolk here — especially coming into this new year, we need to be really mindful of our friendships and of maintaining them and emphasizing their importance, and that means talking about them.
Women get it. I see that constantly, and I cannot appreciate that enough. Two gal pals talk, and they go right for the feels, and mention how much they love each other, and listen to each other’s problems and offer advice, and in person they aren’t afraid to show physical affection.
For men… not so much, and that works in all possible combinations. Straight dudes might think that it’s something they don’t do but that gay and bisexual men do easily, but guess what? Nope. We don’t, either. Okay, maybe gay men manage to do it with their gal pals, but with each other? Oh, hell no. Why? Because… well, hey, straight guys, do you do this with female friends without the danger of it becoming awkward and inappropriate?
Thought so… Although for both communities, the only exceptions seem to come either when you’ve been utterly friendzoned or are still good friends with an ex.
Why is this? Probably because men, no matter which way they swing, are predators, in the strictly scientific and biological sense. And, as predators, that means we hunt. And so it’s hardwired into us that we do not approach or appreciate a thing unless we want to fight it, fuck it, or kill it (aka eat it) to quote a very old and crass military saying.
Women tend to be gatherers, and they are the ones who give birth and nurse, whether or not the sperm donor is around, so they’re better at taking things in without killing them or eating them.
But… this is the 21st century, when all of those ancient biological roles should have long since been thrown out the window. The idea of men as hunters and women as gatherers really went out with the first industrial revolution. It’s just that old traditions die hard.
The tradition of men not being emotionally forthcoming, especially with each other, is the next thing that needs to die. Dudes, it is perfectly all right to tell another dude friend that you love him, and the key is to add the words “like a brother” or “platonically,” but never, ever to append to it “no homo.” And this is one of those “make the world a better place” things especially if we can get the message across to all possible iterations of man on man friendships: two straight guys, one straight and one bi, one straight and one gay, two bi guys, one bi and one gay, or two gay guys.
I’ve got plenty of straight male friends of all ages that I am very close to, and the really pleasant surprise was that once I started actually telling them how much I love and appreciate them, guess what happened? They became closer friends, often told me the same about me, and not once did it get weird. It didn’t get weird with my gay or bisexual friends either, and it was something I’d been telling my female friends and they’d been telling me since forever.
As the Greeks knew, there are many flavors of love. Coming into the new year, consider this. Why do you have friends? Because they are people you love, one way or another. Most likely, if they’re just friends, they’re platonic. But so what? That doesn’t make the emotion any less important or real. And, honestly, the love I feel for my closest friends is exactly the same strength and feeling that I’ve had with romantic partners — the sense that all is right in the world, the little butterflies seeing them or thinking about them, the ability to talk about anything endlessly and to completely lose track of time. The only difference is that the sexual attraction with the romantic partners isn’t there, but the emotional attraction absolutely is.
How do you know if you feel this way about a friend? You’d gladly help them move or go keep them company in line at the DMV. Or, the L.A. version: you’d volunteer before being asked to give them a ride to LAX during rush hour on a Friday night before a three-day weekend expecting nothing in return and think nothing of picking them up at five a.m. the following Tuesday.
That right there is the definition of true love
So take the time today to tell at least one friend that you love them, and why, then branch out and do the same with other friends.
Remember: You “love” family because you have to. You love friends because you want to.