In 1994 Green Day came out with Dookie. The Lion King was the #1 movie in America. Hip-hop was divided over Nas and Biggie. Forrest Gump quotes were on everyone’s mouth. And I still hadn’t made any friends in junior high.
Then one day in high school I started a band. I had little in common with any of them. Nor do they with each other. We went our separate ways in school and after. Not all of us made it to college. Some of us are now creationists, authors, salesmen. To this day, they are my closest friends.
The only thing we can agree on one thing: Dumb & Dumber is the I Ching of male friendships. I would argue even more so than The Godfather. They might argue back. And I would, of course, call “quitsies.” Everything I know about male relationships—including the things I did not know then, but know now or have yet to know but will—are below.
1. Never make a friend feel overdressed. A couple of weeks ago, I had to go to an event for work but I could bring friends. I had to go in black tie. I invited two friends along. One said he had a tuxedo and would be there. Guess which one was really there for me? This is part of a bigger thing:
2. A friend always has your back. Even when you’re being an idiot. Especially when you are being an idiot.
3. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. Seek common ground to broaden your horizons.
4. Dates and jobs will come and go. Friendship is eternal. Whenever I’m not around these guys, they are still with me. I hear a joke I know they will like. I see a bar that has their favorite beer. Sometime I call them. Sometimes I just think, “If they ever visit I’ll be sure to take them here.” And then I realize: they are already with me.
5. Never let money get in the way of friendship. On trips with other friends I get stressed out with groups that don’t use the “band fund” method. Everybody puts an equal amount of money in the pot. All previously approved group expenses come out of the pot. Gas/hotels/dinners. That way when someone buys a round of drinks, it’s just that: a friend being generous. And when you run out of cash on a trip? Hey, keep track using IOUs…
That’s as good as money.
6. Stick together, but allow each other room to grow. As you get older, a good friend is not the person you talk to every day. Those are actually work friends. A good friend is someone you can call after six months of not speaking and then talk as if you had just gotten disconnected.
7. A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
8. Share what’s on your mind. There is nothing more hurtful than a person who will say one thing to your face and another the second you leave the room.
9. All hope is not lost as long as one of you has enough money for a beer. This one you never keep track of. No matter who lost what job or whose business just failed. And when you can’t scrape together the money to share a moment with a friend…
10. Always be resourceful.
11. False confidence is the same as confidence. Indulge their delusions.
12. History is full of people whose own families thought they were crazy. But the untold story is that friends have always had friends build them up when they were feeling down. Some of those people go on to found companies, and some of them invade the Bay of Pigs. The race doesn’t go to the swift, nor wealth to the smart. Instead, timing and circumstances meet them all.
13. Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. I tell my friends embarrassing stories long after they’ve gotten over them. You should too.
14. Seek to understand, not to be understood. All of the best jokes in the movie wouldn’t be funny to Lloyd and Harry because they understand each other. One of the things that keeps my closest friends close is the number of things we don’t have to explain. Half the time they don’t make sense to outsiders. It’s like we have our own language. Siri would never get it. But after a few days, I know she’d invite us in for tea and strumpets.
15. Learn to be considerate of other people.
16. Never be dismissive of a friend’s pain. When hearing about your bad breakup, an acquaintance will say, “You’ll get over it.” (What they mean in that they’re over it.) A bad friend will start telling you about their last breakup. A good friend will tell you that they know you’re hurting and that you will keep doing so until the pain is gone. In the meantime, they’ll be right here.
17. To understand everything is to forgive everything. There are things you could never do until you were put in the situation where another did them. For that reason, you withhold judgment.
18. When you get to the end of your rope, a good friend should have just enough left to haul you back up. Some people say never lend your friends money, and don’t go into business with them. That might be true, but really a good friend is an extra pair of eyes.
19. Money will never change you. It changes the people around you.
20. It’s better to regret something you have done together than to regret something you haven’t done.
21. These are the rules because as you grow older, you’ll have less time together. There will be jobs and mortgages and precious little hang time. But that’s what you should have learned by now. One minute you’re chewin’ on a burger, the next minute you’re dead meat.
22. Life’s a game, and your friends are your teammates. As long as you have warm blood in your veins: you’re it.