When Friendship Transcends Pooping

Last weekend, I had an hour-long conversation with an old friend of mine from Iowa. She’s pretty “coarse wool” in the fabric that is friendship, but we’ve been through so much together that our foundations are like granite. She rarely indulges my self-pity, and once – when we were roommates – she started vacuuming right next to me when I was crying on the phone. Her motto has always been, “Get the fuck up and get on with it.”

Anyway, near the end of our phone call she said, “Ok, I gotta go to the bathroom, and unless you want to be on this phone for that, I’d better go.” We said our goodbyes, and at the last second, we got caught on a tangent. This sparked a whole new leg in the conversation and then she interrupted me with, “I hope you don’t mind, I am pooping right now.” I waved aside her warning and we proceeded to talk and ultimately ended the phone call about 10 minutes later.

When I got off the phone, I realized how weird that might be for most people – to poop on the phone. But it didn’t feel weird for us at all. I wasn’t getting the play-by-play or anything, and with the exception of my recommending prunes to help facilitate her future bowel movements, the bodily function had no interference in our communication. I then realized that it takes a very rare type of friendship to transcend the disgust that is fecal matter: a friend will help you move, a real friend will help you move a body, but your best friend will poop on the phone with you.

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The Fine Line Between Friendship & Cannibalism

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of dining with a friend of mine who I had not seen for a hot minute. As we sat enjoying some overly-priced tomato soup, our conversation turned to our respective plans for 2014: overseas trips, personal projects, and potential moves. Somewhere during the chat, we touched on our the duration of our friendship and how it has survived the test of time – largely in part due to our shared love of dark humor and a celebration of human wickedness that is more a parody of human failings than a serious love of evil.

During this segment of the conversation I offered to my friend a hypothetical gift I would grant to few others. “If we ever get trapped in an avalanche on a mountain together – and I die first – you have permission to eat my body if you need to survive.” However, I added a warning to this culinary invitation by telling him, “It will probably taste like disappointment and anger, just so you know.”

He offered a quick retort, “No worries, I have a recipe for a wonderful brown sugar scrub that would do wonders to balance your flavor.”

Somewhere in this macabre and disturbing exchange was an undeniable, universal truth: Only your closest friends possess the recipe to minimize your flaws and compliment your sourness.

"Saturno Devorando a su Hijo" by Francisco de Goya (1823)

“Saturno Devorando a su Hijo” by Francisco de Goya (1823)

A Selfish Skin

The Christmas holiday has passed, but it has left me in a contemplative mood.

I was fortunate this year to have several invitations. Since I live so far from my immediate family, I often spend the holidays with close friends in the area. These are always enjoyable affairs, and I don’t think I am alone in saying a Christmas spent with friends (rather than family) can often involve less emotional baggage and mental scarring. I do, however, recognize that there is an ancient power inherent in family bonds that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

"Pie Fight" by Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie, 2011.

“Pie Fight” by Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie, 2011.

This year, I spent Christmas Eve with a couple who are very dear friends of mine, and Christmas afternoon with a co-worker with whom I share a love for poetry, history, and off-beat relationship wisdom. Both events were wonderful and my hosts provided me with a delightful combination of sustenance and memories. However, I left both feeling somewhat sad and disappointed in myself. Although it may have been but a footnote in the program, I completely failed to bring a gift to any of my entertainers. They all opened their beautiful homes to me. They fed me and filled my brain with enlightening conversation, and all of them had set a side a present for me. The thought did cross my mind earlier in the week that these generous folk might get me something to open – being it’s Christmas and all – so perhaps I should be prepared with something to give them? Well, apparently in my old age, I discarded that thoughtful notion and when the moment came, I was receiving objects of their kindness – but had nothing to give in return.

None of my hosts seemed bothered by it, but I was bothered.

I was bothered very much.

“I didn’t use to be this way,” I said to myself on the drive home. I used to be that very intuitive person who could go out and find a gift that was perfectly reflective of its recipient. I used to have an excellent memory for details about my friends. I would inventory comments they made about music or fashion all year long and when the time came for a birthday or wedding, I would unleash the fruits of my intuition to an amazed friend. And more importantly, I felt great joy in those moments. What happened to that guy? I actually did a full-on dissection of my decision-making process. It was like a mechanic pulling apart an engine to find out why all the pistons aren’t working. Although it is no excuse, I think I found the explanation: More and more, I am becoming a selfish-thinker.

There is a certain side effect to being single for a very long time, at least in my case. I am used to only caring for myself. Getting groceries for myself. Doing everything in my life with me as the primary focus. I am sure there are lots of people who live alone who are still thoughtful people who think of others first, but apparently I am not one of them. The co-worker who hosted me lives alone and is in my same predicament as myself, but he had the fore-thought to make me a beautiful CD of Christmas music and put my picture on the cover. A gesture of kindness that crushed me when I had nothing to offer in return. Certainly many people expect nothing for their good deeds, but I am not always someone who (when conscious of it) accepts things greedily and does not reciprocate. Had my long spells of loneliness baked me into a crust? Have the scabs of my life-hardening experiences grown like a second skin over my intuition? Good lord, I hope not.

I once read in the Talmud of the concept called “bread of shame”. Mind you, I am not Jewish or a religious person by any stretch, but the text was quite profound to me. The “bread of shame” is basically accepting gratuity when you have not earned it. These friends of mine could very well say, “These are gifts. This is our generosity to you, and you do not owe us anything.” But I would still feel as though I did not earn any special gifts. Maybe I was Jewish in a former life? Who knows.

It’s possible I made this more of a deal than I should have. However, I fear growing such a selfish skin; a thick alligator hide that will eventually relegate me to the swamps of humanity.

Promiscuous Cookware

A text conversation with a slutty friend of mine…

Me: How was your day?

Friend: I fooled around with another guy this afternoon. I feel weird now, like empty and without feelings. Besides that it was good, I got a new cookware set 🙂

Me: The guy gave you a cookware set for sleeping with him?

Friend: No.

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