My semi-friend (ex-friend?) Josh said we were doing something this morning and, as usual, he neither called nor e-mailed leaving me sitting at home with nothing to do. (And I even sent a follow up e-mail to remind him.) He’s stood me up a number of times, and that’s pretty much what led me to thinking about friends and such. He’s an example of how not to be a friend. I like him but he’s poor friend material because he treats his friends like shit and that says a lot about his character or lack thereof.

I have a number of people who are friends but not Real Friends. I am sure all of you can make sense of that. Why don’t I have many Real Friends? Probably because I do not suffer idiots gladly. I expect very few things out of my Real Friends but ‘few’ doesn’t mean ‘easy.’

I expect them to be intelligent and to be able to have an intelligent conversation about lots of different topics. It doesn’t matter if it’s books, politics, movies, religion, current events, or the theory of relativity. There’s many more topics too. It’s just that for a friendship to work it needs to be intellectually stimulating.

I expect them to be reliable; getting let down sucks. My friends let me down less than my family, a sad state that probably explains more about me than I’d like. That’s probably why most people I deal with never become more than casual friends. ‘Yeah, I’ll call you tomorrow*’ and I don’t hear from them at all. I understand that sometimes things come up, but there’s this device called the telephone and it works great. Even an apology after the fact works. It’s the repeat offenders that piss me off, like Josh above.

I expect loyalty, which is where I lose most people, because most people don’t even really understand loyalty. It’s easy to be loyal to someone when you agree with him/her, but it’s hard to be loyal when you don’t. Let’s use an absurd example. If you found out your very best friend killed someone in cold blood for a reason you couldn’t accept, would you turn him/her in? If you would turn him/her in, you’re not the kind of person I’d be good friends with. There’s nothing wrong with your position, but it’s not a mindset I can deal with.

And then there’s trust. Trust has to be earned you know. It’s a slow, arduous process that takes aeons. Sometimes you get lucky and there’s a seminal event that pretty much proves someone is trustworthy, but that’s rare. Sometimes you just take that leap of faith and trust someone without evidence, but that’s really hard to do. The older you get, the more jaded you become — reality does that to people — and the harder it is to trust someone. Sad, simple fact of life there.

Think of your deepest, darkest secret. Who could you tell, and they wouldn’t change their opinion of you? Who would you tell? This doesn’t mean you have to say anything, but think about it. It’s a great mental exercise. I think if you look in your heart of hearts, you will find most of the people who call you ‘friend’ would change their opinion of you if you were gay, a murderer, a jewel thief, or whatever. Everyone has a secret, but some people’s secrets are darker than others. Honestly, I don’t mind sharing my secrets with some of my friends but I am extraordinarily selective about it.

If I actually had to count the people who meet all of these qualifications I might get to three if I’m lucky and thought about it hard. The number has decreased over the years because I haven’t made a lot of effort to replace friends. I’m lazy like about that.

Wow, a personal insight on me.

*That isn’t the same as “I’ll try and call you tomorrow.”

(As a corollary to this, someone asked me what would happen if I found out one of my friends was a racist. That’s a good question, but I doubt we’ll ever know. The odds on anyone who’s a racist ever becoming one of my friends is so remote as to be not worth considering. Are there intelligent racists? Sadly, yes. However, there are so few, the odds on me coming across one is minimal. Further, the odds of someone who thinks like that ever getting remotely close to me is laughably low.)

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