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.