Friends, Romans and Countrymen

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(A little late this week, but this time I have an excuse – my daughter and her partner were staying with us, which makes writing a post difficult).

I’m going to write about friendship here, and not about Julius Caesar, conspiracies or murder, in spite of the above title. Friendship is where two or more people like and trust each other and form a bond between them.

Most often friendship is a same sex thing, but not infrequently friendship happens between people of opposite sexes, and also between groups of people. However the most intense friendships seem to arise between two people of the same sex.

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Someone coined the phrase “bromance” to describe a close relationship between two heterosexual men. Such friendships can sometimes be stronger in some ways than those between men and their female spouses, to the extent that “the boys” go fishing or boating or to the football or simply drinking coffee or beer together while their spouses are left at home, usually fuming.

However, when “the girls” get together, talking babies, make up and other women, or simply drinking coffee or wine, then it is the men who are left out in the cold to fend for themselves.

Korea. Kisaeng girls (?). Seven girls posed, f...
Korea. Kisaeng girls (?). Seven girls posed, full length. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously there’s a lot of stereotyping above that is in no way justified, and in many ways is false and misleading, but it does demonstrate that friendship can be as strong if not stronger than a marital bond between spouses. As suggested by the awful stereotypes, above, to strike as balance between friends and families can be a difficult task, but I don’t think that it can be denied that both are required for people to feel satisfied in a relationship.

Español: Taxi en Bogota
Español: Taxi en Bogota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friendships and familial relationships appear to be support structures. Friends can have interests that the spouses do not, such as an interest in sports or politics or a particular genre of films. Friendships allow one to enjoy something in company that the other spouse does not enjoy. This makes life easier for partners or spouses to enjoy as they do not have to totally give up any interest that they might have, and can share them with others.

Although a couple would probably share a lot of interests, it can feel restricting in a relationship if a particular interest bores or irritates one’s partner, and friends who share that interest can ease those restrictions by providing an outlet for the interest.

Friends can also provide financial assistance by means of a small loans, but it is not wise to regularly borrow from friends all the time. Friends can be there to supply a few coins for the parking meter, or similar small costs, but bigger loans between friends can easily become a source of contention. Benjamin Franklin said :

Lend money to an enemy, and thou will gain him, to a friend and thou will lose him.

The reason behind this is obvious – everyone knows the friend who has always left his wallet at home, or who has run out of money, or who disappears when it is his round. Friendship is based on trust and, unless you are prepared to forgive and forget such behaviour, such a person may not long remain your friend.

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As I mentioned above, same sex friendships are very common, but it is possible for persons of opposite sexes to be friends, but if they are of the same age group, this is often slightly dubious – the inference being that such friendships might become more intimate. Platonic relationships are deemed very likely to develop into sexual relationships.

Some research has been done into this, but it is, at least to me, unclear as to whether or not it is true that platonic relationships between friends of opposite sex tend to develop into sexual relationships. On the face of it, this is not so, otherwise men and women would not be able to work together successfully. However, other influences, rather than sexual attraction, may moderate any sexual attraction between platonic friends, in a work situation.

Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden
Friendship, Göteborg, Sweden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days many people may make friends on so-called “social media”. One’s social standing can be assessed in some quarters by the number of Facebook friends one has. Facebook friends (and friends or the equivalent on other social media) are frequently in different parts of the world.

In the Facebook world friendship is based on what is written rather than spoken and Facebook friends may not ever meet, and this is perhaps a good thing in many cases. People have met physically after meeting virtually on the Internet and it has not always gone well. Some people have even met up, become engaged, all before physically meeting.

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Others have married after meeting physically meeting (and presumably become engaged). This seems to me to be incredibly risky, but for a growing number of people this works. But one reference that I found reckons that one third of US marriages have followed “online dating”. There is even a suggestion in that article that such marriages are in fact happier.

Discussions on Facebook tend to be very “robust”. This is because of the separation that the Internet provides means that people “say” things on the Internet that they would not say face to face, and they may use more “robust” language.

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Facebook friendships may not last as long as face to face friendships, as it is a matter of a click to de-friend someone, whereas breaking a real world friendship could be complex and time consuming. On Facebook, where people tend to “speak” more robustly, it is common for someone to take offence at something “said”, and de-friend the person who said it. Often it is only a misunderstanding and any insult or slight is unintentional.

Facebook as a forum allows people of different political colours or world views to meet and interact. This could be a good thing, but unfortunately what often happens is that both sides in a discussion become entrenched in their views, becoming more extreme, and the arguments becomes contentious and extreme, leading to no meeting of minds.

Français : gravure d'un assassin confronté ave...
Français : gravure d’un assassin confronté avec sa victime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eventually the argument will peter out. The world views of the racially tolerant and the racial supremacist briefly collide, then part again, with no real passage of understanding between the parties. This is somewhat sad and implies that extreme or divergent views will always be with us.

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