Sunday, 4 August 2013

Friends with benefits, toxic friends and frienemies

Any day in the last week of July and first Sunday in August is marked as Friendship Day, a day marked since the 1950s in some Latin American countries but only given the international profile by the United Nations just two years ago.

So, this Tuesday was International Day of Friendship. While the rhetoric is wrapped in high sounding ideals like promoting better understanding among peoples and cultures for world peace, individually we need to celebrate these “imperfect” friends who bring balance to our lives.

First on the list should be the friends-with-benefits. Contrary to popular belief, it is not always about sex with no strings attached. These are friends we keep for the benefits we derive from that relationship, for instance, a lawyer pal whom you can call for legal advice without paying for it, the accounts assistant who will update you when your cheque is signed, that messenger in a government office who will help you navigate the red tape. Looking at it, most of our friendships are with benefits, the only question is whether they are mutually beneficial.

Or even merely for the convenience. That is where the category of friends-with-benefits known as fuck buddies comes in. As adults, there are those times when we just need to be physical without the encumbrances of relationships, getting into one or in transition from one and society expectations. And it works whether one is married or not. No strings attached, no unrealistic expectations, and the need satisfied.

Some have argued that there are some people we consider friends are not worth keeping and should be dropped faster than hot potato. These are the toxic friends. One scenario that we have probably heard about is a woman upon getting married is advised to let go of her single friends. Really? I think this is the worst advice in marriage counselling. How will a single one appreciate joys of marriage if she does not have a married friend to look up to? Or the other way round, how will a married one appreciate her husband if she is only surrounded by people who have and not by some who do not have.

Toxic friends also include those who always asking us for something or the other, those who criticise or put us down, those who only sing our praises—fan friends as well as fun friends—who only make it seem like the good times will last forever. Instead of cutting them off, we should hug them harder; they add the balance in our lives. Who will we be generous if we do not help out a friend in need? Who will be aware of our ordinary selves if there is no one to burst that bubble? Who will we understand achievement if there is no one to pat us on the back or enjoy life if there is no one to bring the party into it?

Talking of life, with its twists and turns, we find ourselves in different situations all the time. Friends come and go, some remain and others change. It is not to say they become enemies but just former friends. We need these ones in our orbit to remain us of how things change.

But like life is unpredictable, some situations are a bit of both. Just like there are crossbreeds, the frienemy is the cross pollination of friendship and enmity. One who smiles in face of your face and laughs behind your back. In life, many things are not what they seem; the frienemy brings that reality to our doorsteps.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. On the next Friendship Day, we should reach out to all friends and thank them for making our lives complete.

An edited version was published in Sunday Monitor, read it here