Day 143: Distribute these friendship coupons.Posted: May 24, 2011
…for things like “one hug” and “honest advice” and “one round of drinks,” which turns into “one drinking binge,” to be followed with “one embarrassing secret” – although you’d have to give all the coupons to one friend in order to get that progression to work. That’s not a problem for me, because I don’t have any friends.
Seriously, though, I don’t like these things. They work for children, and what I mean is that they work for children of a certain age to give to parents, or caretakers, or whoever (whomever? —whatever), usually at the prompting of a different parent or caretaker or &c. I can remember making them as a youngish child, and Elanor is about the right age for such things (she has, in fact, given her mother a coupon good for a ‘tea party’, which is sweet, except that she made it with the expectation that Lorna would make the tea and cucumber sandwiches).
Coupons like this can be useful tools: they can teach children that familial relationships and friendships work because people who care about each other do things for each other – because love is expressed in sacrificial action, and the most meaningful sacrificial actions are those that seem most mundane: emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, folding the laundry, scrubbing the toilets, mucking out the pig-pen. At some point, though, they become bad things, because they encourage people to think about relationships as transactional.
If I buy a friend a drink, I’m not doing it because I gave that friend a silly piece of paper at some point when I felt guilty or otherwise obligated, and that friend then ‘cashed in’ the silly piece of paper. No, I buy friends drinks – rarely, but it happens – because that’s the kind of small sacrifice friendships are built on. More than that: the buying of a drink, or the receiving of a drink, is a symbolic, ritual action – it’s the outward sign of the communion that happens in the conversation and time shared over those exchanged drinks. It doesn’t matter if nothing ‘important’ gets discussed, which is usually the case when guys talk over drinks – although after a certain number, shit can get real – because the sacrifice, though a small one, hallows the entire experience.
Nobody gets hugs, though. Nobody.