Monday, February 8, 2016

Advice for the Young at Heart

I remember when I was in my early 20s and I had befriended some teenage patrons of the record store I was working at when I was away at college. I kept up contact with them via email and written correspondence after I'd come home. One of the teens wrote me about the trials and tribulations of their romantic life and made mention of someone wanting to be "Friends with Benefits".  It was the first time I'd heard of the concept. I recoiled because to me it sounded like the kind of hustle you run on someone who is obviously into you, but you're not into them enough to commit to. My response was to say, "You can't have your cake and eat it too". That made no sense to the teen, and I don't think I had the wherewithal to use the phrase, "You can't have it both ways." though I might have invoked, "You can't serve two masters." without explaining that in such as case the masters would be the varying desires of the "Friends" when one wants companionship without commitment and the other consents because it's as close as they can get with the person offering, though they want more.

Now lets circle back in time to me in 5th or 6th grade watching the show Wiseguy with my Mom. A A scene took place in the 1st season where at a wedding reception a protagonist questioned another about his relationship status and why he wasn't hitched. Someone responded "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free???" That quip drew laughter from the wiseguys so I thought it was a pretty clever saying, not recognizing the misogyny and disrespect inherent in it.

Later that year our family was down in Kentucky for a reunion and we all got to meet my great aunt's significant other. Someone asked that older gentleman she was seeing about his relationship status and guess who was primed to jump in with a Screenwriter's Guild certified zinger? The men in the room laughed, the women, not so much...  I was in trouble and I didn't really understand why.  I was raised to "not hit girls" but I was used to verbal and physical abuse as the vocabulary of socialization. It would take years to figure out how degrading the joke was in regards to the values of my elders, and how attitudes that invested in that sort of mentality, which renders a person's vulnerability a commodity to exploit, distorted and corrupted the relationships of people in my life.

So, flash forward to me reading this letter from a friend after years and years of seeing people used, abused, bemused, and confused in the pursuit of romance. The clarity of the ills of games of the heart were crystal clear. Friends with benefits threw up all sorts of red flags as a clever way to re-branding of compromising someone to get something you wanted without giving them proper consideration and compensation.

Whenever the subject of these sorts of relationships are broached, I made it a matter of principle to implore people not to settle for that hustle. Don't compromise your desire and nature to pursue something you don't really want, or devalue something you have to offer of worth by exchanging it for less. Don't let anyone call that a friendship. Friends don't use each other or welcome seeing their friends being used. The benefits that should come from a friend should include empathy and integrity. Anything exchanged absent both of those things isn't a product of Friendship. It's a con to fleece you.

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