A couple weeks ago on the Peabody-Award Winning (pending) TFM podcast, a listener wrote in for a Snapchat shoutout that insulted his buddy’s girlfriend, and lamented the time he spent with her. The solution he offered was elegant, if a bit crudely phrased: Essentially he asked that I give out his friend’s Snapchat name so that other women would send him snaps of their boobs and break up the relationship. Of course! Perfect! Great idea! Cue next summer’s rom-com hit, “The Titty Splitty Committee.”
However, my guest on the podcast, felt that this email was a thinly veiled love letter to a lost friend, begging him to return. She compared him to a dog marking his territory, and commented on the complications of male relationships. There’s perhaps a nugget of truth there, but it’s only a nugget, and I’m not entirely convinced this is the proto-homoerotic, obsessive, lost friend story that she thinks it is (not all admissions are psychological trap doors). But it’s not nothing.
A friend of mine, let’s call him Mike (because his name is Mike and why would I call him something else? Hey, Mike! I’m writing about you!), would fall in love and decide to never return anyone’s calls. He’d only hang out with whatever girl he was dating, and her friends. “Hey, did anyone talk to Mike?” someone would say as we headed out for the night, and then later, we’d see a Facebook photo of him at some lame-ass party with whatever girlfriend he had at the time and her lame-ass friends and their lame-ass boyfriends. And you could just tell from the photo that these boyfriends were a crew that just molded themselves to their girlfriend’s needs. All sporting fake-smiles with too much teeth, their eyes never hiding the whisper of forced enjoyment, and their undeniable fear of being alone. “Sure, I love charades,” they all exclaimed as their girlfriends ritualistically destroyed their animalistic and ingrained desire for independence.
The “Mikes” of the world drive us nuts, not because we NEED Mike in our lives, but because there’s a falseness to him, a kind of selling-oneself-out to the highest bidder. Sure, when a friend leaves his friends for a girl, sometimes it’s just plain growing up. But what about the guys out there that do it over and over again? What we felt about Mike was not sadness at losing a friend, but anger at being hoodwinked by someone who was now fooling someone else. Who was the real Mike? And is there such a thing? It may sound fatalistic, but there’s nothing to be done about “Mike.” The act of jettisoning friendships for a girl is Mike’s tacit admission that those friendships weren’t that important to him in the first place. You have no bargaining chips for guys like Mike. They want only to feel loved, and they’ll chase that high in cheap, unhealthy, and ultimately unfulfilling ways. Maybe someday, he’ll find rock bottom. Or maybe, he’ll find his wife.
Ironically, I never hated Mike’s girlfriend. I hated what she revealed. Those friendships seem to retreat into the recesses of life. “Oh, Mike? We sometimes talk on G-Chat” you’ll say to a girl you run into from college whose only memory produced is that you once called her, “Franken-Pussy.” The real problems occur when your friend is dating someone you all hate, and doesn’t even have the decency to leave her at home — and maybe that’s the emailer’s issue. Maybe his buddy’s girlfriend talks too loud, or inserts herself at the wrong moment, or perhaps she’s just always the only girl in the room. Maybe she lacks the simple self-awareness to know that this is not a time for her to be hanging around, and his buddy lacks the courage to tell her so.
We’ve all been here before — this girl is the Mike of her girlfriends, the Mikayla — and her constant presence destroys the esprit de corps that so effortlessly existed before her. In these dire circumstances, there is something that must always be remembered: She knows more about your buddy than you do. There are conversations that happen behind closed doors that you can’t possibly understand; shared joys, pain, fetishes, and fears. He has laid himself bare before her. So perhaps you know him better through the sheer osmosis of friendship, but there’s an intimacy they share (that might involve safe words) with which you can’t compete. There’s nothing you can say or do that won’t make you the interloper. Don’t say a word, nod your head at Mikayla’s story about the dream she had last night, and start hitting on her friends.
“Wow, Train, great advice. Your buddy either wasn’t really your buddy or he’s sticking something in his butt. Do nothing. Thanks.” You’re welcome! Honestly, though, far more damage is done when we try to hold on to something that’s already gone. It’s frustrating, not because of jealousy, but because of an inorganic shift in reality. This isn’t a tight-lipped, caveman, “guys don’t communicate” thing. Change the genders in any of the above, and the same truths hold. Love – girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives – change life in such a drastic and bizarre way that it defies reason and reveals the people we thought we knew. We imprint so much sadness on each other when we’re young, fighting the current that moves us into old age. It’s simpler to accept these realities because someday, you’ll find yourself in your friend’s home in the suburbs, holding his new baby, while his wife grabs you a beer from the fridge. In that moment, you’ll be moved by how far you’ve all come and glad you didn’t follow through on that whole Snapchat-tits-breakup-plan. That was a bad idea..