Selling Friendship

Chester Brown’s graphic novel about hiring prostitutes in Toronto is simultaneously engaging and dull. Still, I would recommend it. For one thing, it made me think long and hard [get it?] about the value of friendship, inspiring this post. I breezed through it right before Valentine’s Day, which turned out to be perfect timing. During the course of his novel, Brown develops as a person, realizing that he is not actually opposed to romantic love so much as against the practice of possessive monogamy. Me too! After his girlfriend Sook-Yin Lee dumps him to fuck another guy, Chester has a sudden insight: he does not want the hassle of a relationship; he simply wants to have sex with women on a somewhat regular basis. So he makes a practical decision and starts paying for it. I enjoyed the spare scenes of him budgeting out the number of whores he could afford to visit annually. Not that many. The sex itself is vanilla, for Chester is apparently a non-energetic, low-libido man who is easily pleased. Sex workers like that sort of thing. Me not so much. Well at least not the first two qualities.  

When Chester tells his friends that he has become a happily single hoo-er master—I am down with COYOTE but cannot help loving this term—they begin to worry about him. ‘Aren’t you lonely?’ they ask. ‘Don’t you need love and companionship? Someone to care about you?’ ‘No,’ he responds. ‘Our culture pushes this idea that romantic love is somehow more significant than other forms of love. I used to accept that as true, but not anymore. Friendship love and family love can be just as fulfilling as romantic love.’ Sing it, you skinny middle-ageing vagina renting man! For I could not agree more. I fucking love my friends. No, not in that way. Well, sometimes…. Since I spent my entire first year of graduate school reading Freud, all energy is erotically charged to me. So why not cut me some slack and stop being so uptight? I invite you to sit back, relax, and feel the love.

Though my partner is in some ways my best friend—he gives it up for free!—he cannot carry the whole load and I would not ask him to do so. I would literally die without close female friends. Given that I have moved around a bit—leaving my highschool friends to go to graduate school, my grad school friends to take a job, and then departing Fredericton for Edmonton—I have approached death several times. Everytime I bid adieu to lady friends, my heart breaks. [Honey badger merely feigns imperviousness]. I cried like a baby when AR moved away, and went into a certain kind of mourning for about a year. She was the best: always ready to get drunk and fall down in the snow while walking home from the pub with me. Luckily when I moved to Edmonton, GlamPro and my adopted mom were already here to welcome me with open arms. GlamPro has since moved to Montreal, but I got revenge this week when she foolishly visited my spin class. Die bitch die! Now my most important friends are at the gym, especially PDDs, my saucy workout partner who always has to do one more rep than me, as heavy as me. She and Fitbabe kick ass, and are supportive, fun, talking-about-everything kind of girls (see the post called ‘Lift and Bitch’). Hold the phone: I would like to propose a new official holiday devoted to workout partner appreciation. We could exchange Lululemon coupons, give each other pedicures, or else surprise each other with furry costumes. Just a suggestion. 

I think the French/Italian painter Nicolas Poussin described friendship best in his self-portrait of 1650. Just ignore the berobed pompous guy in the foreground and concentrate on the allegorical figure of friendship on the left. She has her arms open to embrace an absence. There is a kind of longing here, but also the promise of being reunited. This image appeals to me for I am almost always missing someone. ‘But FFG, what on earth does this have to do with fitness, working out, and/or feminism?’ you might be wondering. Everything! Social relationships are essential to mental and physical health, and the bonds between women are crucial. Anyone who thinks that women are back-stabbing green-eyed monsters who cannot truly be friends with each other is either: 1) a run of the mill misogynist; or 2) a fucking idiot.

  

Of course, I can hardly slight my man friends. I arguably get along better with men than I do with women. I feel a certain shame about that, but there it is. My best friend in highschool was a guy and we are still close. Though we don’t see each other very often anymore, I know that if anything serious were to happen to me, he would be the first one flying out here to lend a hand. I cannot tell you how much I love gay men in general, but lots of my male friends have been straight. Consider that salad-making roomie in grad school, square-shaped bald man named after a stag in Fredericton, currently charismatic MW, who never reads this blog [fuck you jackass], and more recently, the too-smart-for-your-average-woman RenMan. I am frankly suspicious of any man who lacks close female friends. I also mistrust those people without a diverse array of multiply raced and gendered friends. Those who seek sameness are probably stupid.  

There are many definitions of friendship—I have been reading them all week—but I prefer the simple one by American writer Elbert Hubbard [no, not that crazy ass Scientology guy]: ‘A friend is someone who knows all about you, and loves you just the same.’ I also like this quotation from psychologist Alice Miller: ‘If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.’ That stinky guy at the gym today sure needed a friend to take him aside and say: ‘wash your ass swassbuckler. Fitbabe’s eyes are burning.’ But here I must pause and raise the tenor of this post by perusing slightly more philosophical writings on friendship. According to Jacques Derrida, although friendship ‘is marginal in the usual taxonomies of political concepts, as soon as you read the canonical texts in political theory starting with Plato or Aristotle you discover that friendship plays an organising role in the definition of justice, of democracy even.’ From antiquity through the middle ages and beyond, friendship [ie male friendship] was considered the most important and fulfilling form of relationship, key to political and social activity. No doubt female support systems kept the whole thing going, as usual. In any case, the notion that heterosexual love was the ultimate life goal, and that those who did not achieve it were failures, is more recent, dating from around the nineteenth century. Male friendship in particular experienced a marked decline in North America when the nuclear family became, at least in theory, the primary social unit. Increasing social isolation has been harmful to those men who become emotionally dependent on their female partners, without trusted male or female friends on which to rely when the relationship ends. No doubt straight women, as well as gay, lesbian, and bi people have made the same mistake, disregarding friends to give all of their attention and energy to partners. But maybe friendship is coming back into fashion as people delay marriage and childbearing? What do you think: do social networking sites like Facebook suggest an increasing emphasis on friendship, albeit one more broadly defined, or on the contrary, are they a sign of decreasing social intimacy? Discuss amongst yourselves.

I was going to end with a moralizing poem extolling the virtues of friendship, but will instead turn your attention back to me me me with an exciting quiz:

Are you FFG’s Friend? 

Do you read this blog? If the answer is yes, you are indeed a true friend to FFG.

Do you have any of my tupperware, biscotti tins, or maybe that expensive Italian cheese tray currently in your home? If the answer is yes, then I have given you food, a sure sign that you are my friend. Now give them back, you ungrateful bitches.

Have I ever baked and hand-delivered food to you for no real reason? If the answer is yes, then you are part of my inner circle. Thank your fucking lucky stars for such undeserved gifts from someone as great as me. 

Do I have a nickname for you? If so, I like you a lot. Unless it is a nasty one, like ‘Stank Ass.’

Have you ever visited me or travelled with me in a country other than Canada? If so, we are til-death-do-us-part friends.

Have we ever done something illegal togther? If yes, keep it to yourself.

Have you ever seen me naked? Well, that is really nothing special, for I was quite a fan of drunken skinny dipping during the early 1990s. Alas those days are over.

Do you know the significance of the term ‘Brown Badger?’ Ha. Most of you don’t. And it’s not what you think pervos. Ps shout out to the one and only brown badger! My BFF.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 49-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

15 thoughts on “Selling Friendship

  1. Oh I love your blog. I wish I had the opportunity to have your expensive Italian cheese platter at my house! I love my friends. I completely concur with your thoughts here. Besides all that, your writing is just so darned witty and clever!

  2. Not about friendship, but does FFG have an opinion on the neo-burlesque seeming explosion? I am trying to figure out why it bugs me.

      • I can totally alerte! When we lived in the same place for a long time I had lots of friends to hang out with and a few that were really, really close with whom I could share anything. But, they are all so far away now it’s just not the same. Over the last several years we’ve lived in four different places, so it’s definitely been a struggle to develop strong relationships with anyone. I’ve made friends, but not really close ones.I do think homeschooling and homemaking are actually a huge part of my problem. Although I enjoy both of those parts of my life, it’s really hard to meet people and find community in a new area when you don’t have kids in school *and* you don’t work. (And since I am not a right-wing, conservative, religious fundamentalist the homeschool community in this area has a lot of closed doors.)I really need to call my sorority and find a chapter nearby.

      • Oooh, I should have just said burlesque and dropped the neo. Google image it and you will see vegas shows, the pussycat girls (who looks the same as always but all it burlesque). Dita Von Teese “putting the tease back into striptease”, or Edmonton’s own Capital City Burlesque (CCB), who perform around town a lot. Maybe I just don’t like half naked women on stage waving titties and swinging pasties in my man’s face (actually I don’t mind that anymore, and it’s kinda far from his face) it just seems so strange to be watching girls on stage doing this. From a feminist perspective I wonder about the claims that this is all good fun (like learning pole dancing) and empowering for women. I watched codes of gender in pop culture before seeing my first burlesque show and all of the poses that are critiqued in that documentary as distinctively female, inviting, weak, are reproduced in the burlesque routines. My act of subversion ad protest at the Halloween burlesque show was to go dressed as Lisbeth Salander (girl with the dragon tattoo) in the scene when she has her face painted white with black eyes and the red stripe across it and lightly tortures that guy, rather than all the ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes and corsets. Only one person recognized my costume, he ran by me in the parking lot as I was leaving and yelled back “Yeah Lisbeth! I’ve been loving your costume all night”. That made it all worth it. Anyway, your blog is great, I saw you speak with Frank Tough a few months ago (Sovereign Claims), you do very interesting stuff. I am at that decision point where I have finished my masters and am contemplating PhD, and I thought if there are people like this (you) in academia maybe it isn’t as bad as I thought! Haha. Anyway I’ll let you know when the next CCB show is up…

      • Well, the academy is in many ways a horribly sexist place, especially once you are an insider, but also a great place to work, with unprecedented freedom. I recommend it if you are obsessive, thick skinned, self-motivated, and slightly crazy. Let me know if you are interested in guest blogging about the burlesque. FFG

  3. 3) you’ve been backstabbed one too many times by jealous muffin-smiling morons who were more interested in competing with you for male attention than in displaying any sorority.

  4. Not only do I read your blog, but I recommended it/you (?) to a friend of mine who recently moved to the USA and embarked on a PhD. She was writing a paper about female bodybuilding. She loved your blog and found it very useful (as a source of ideas or procrastination; I’m not sure).

  5. Hey old roomie, if u hear from a scholar in Maine writing about bodybuilding you can thank me and send me a box of those biscotti. Xo n

  6. AR loves and misses you too and despite my advanced years am still up for getting falling down drunk with you. I’m thinking Paris 2013 (if you’re going to be there)…

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