When I was in middle school, friendship was everything. I spent all my time with four guys. We were still too scared to hang out with girls one-on-one, so the few planned hangouts we had with girls were done as a unit. Mostly, we preferred ourselves. There wasn’t much to think about; friendship came easily and we weren’t really assholes yet.
I switched to a different school for high school, and it took time to find a new crew. By senior year, I found myself frustrated by the concept of a “best friend.” I had friends, no doubt, but it was hard to name the top dog. What’s more, I found that among my closest 2-3 friends, none of them offered the complete package I hoped for in a best friend. One buddy was a great listener, knew me better than I knew myself, and could guide me through the turbulent waters of young life. But he was lightspeed boring to hang out with. My God were his Friday nights uninspired. Nothing against the poor guy, but he was the overnight oats of social liaisons. The sweetest, dullest person I ever met, and the world is better for having him.
Then I had another buddy who was the electric, unpredictable, and magnetic—a whirlwind of teeth and arms and dares both pitched, and accepted, by himself. This dude made me laugh until the cows came home, but I’ll be damned if I could ever confide in him about heartbreak, major life decisions, or the general crush and tension of high school. He left stains on mom’s favorite carpet when he came for a sleepover. He was barely—barely—welcome. But he sure was fun.
I liked people all over the place: teammates, nerds, the kids I did theater with (who were always a bit TOO quick to name you a best friend). I guess subconsciously I was aware that I wouldn’t be bringing too many of these friendships along with me to college. After all, this was Maine and the world was small. By 18, I was ready to go.
College. Wow. A feast of new friends. People from all over the place! New jokes, new drinking games, new ways of talking, all against the corrosive ladders of social-climbing, status-measuring, achievement-gathering. Most of my friends in college were sort of pre-baked and pre-assembled. I played sports and my teammates became my roommates became my study-buddies, drinking-buddies, grab-a-bite-buddies, etc. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally thought to see what else I could find among the 6,960ish students the admissions committee had chosen for my sampling. But by then, it was mostly too late.
Then it was on to New York and a new career. Here, I did carry over a few of my friends from college. But many of them have since faded off into their own lives, following different interests, moving to different cities after a few years, working crazy hours. Still, a couple of my college friends have remained my closest friends to this day—my ten-year friends. We’ve bridged the biggest checkpoints of our lives together, and I am grateful for them. These are the people I want to sync up our kids with, meaning I want them to wait to have kids until we have kids so they’re all roughly the same age and can play pickup basketball without some monster oldest brother knocking the much-younger kids around.
Professionally, I’ve been able to make friends through the different jobs I tried, and I’ve ultimately built a good stable of pals in comedy. I’m always a little wary of these friendships, given the preposterously competitive and cutthroat nature of New York comedy. But I still love to shoot the shit (read: talk some shit) with them in a booth at some greasy breakfast spot on the road in Texas for a festival.
I know that friendship is a two-way street. Thus far, I’ve written from a totally self-serving perspective, as though I chose my friends, like I’m evaluating them based on their service to me. Ha. I know. Who in the fucking fuckery do I think I am? Truth is, I suspect and hope they’ve done the same in appraising me as their friend.
We all wear different hats to our friends. To someone else, you might be the friend who is always good for a laugh. Or you’re the friend who arrives with a good joint and a pint of Häagen-Dazs when they get fired, again. Or you’re the friend who can explain the blockchain to them like they’re seven, without making them feel like they’re stupid. The point is, it’s perfectly fine to let friends be only what they are. Let them play their role in the tapestry of friendship you’ve woven from the various stages of your life. Where they fall short, allow another friend to fill in.
For so long, I would get frustrated when a friend sucked at texting, or was an asshole to me and others, or disappeared into one girlfriend after another, or couldn’t get his shit together and keep up. It took a long time for me to accept that nobody is perfect in every category. Friends are like those NBA 2K players you create yourself: you give them a 99 in speed, you’re going to sacrifice on ball-handling. Or you give them full marks in loyalty, you may find them lacking in Friday night fun.
This is a strange piece, I know. I’ve been reflecting on a lifetime of friendships. I’m appreciative of all my friends that have come and stayed, or gone. I’ve said it before, but if there’s one thing I’m grateful for in regards to this Patreon, it’s that I’m getting to know so many of you too.
Francis is a comedian, actor, and writer. He hosts Oops the Podcast, alongside Giulio Gallarotti—a podcast between friends. He has written for Barstool Sports, where he hosted the popular Sirius XM morning radio show Barstool Breakfast with Willie Colon and Large. In 2021, Francis featured at the Moontower Comedy Festival. He is known for his musical comedy, as seen with his Game of Thrones songs. In May 2019, Francis filmed his first standup special Bad Guy, which is available on Barstool Gold. He performs most nights in New York and has also performed in China, Australia, Sweden, British Columbia, and across the United States. Support Francis on Patreon here!!!