Woody Allen famously said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Woody would know. He probably told God, “Listen, God. I’m gonna marry Mia Farrow — you know, that cute little broad with the pixie haircut? Gave birth to Satan’s baby, but hey, who’s perfect? Well, we’re gonna get married and have children — not Satan children, don’t freak — and live happily ever after.” And God probably laughed super-loud and was like, “Look, Woody. You know that cute little Korean girl that Mia adopted? You’re gonna be boning her in a few years and then you’re gonna marry her and you two may very well live happily ever after. But there won’t be a happily ever after with Mia because…well, you caught that part about you cheating on her with her adopted daughter, right?” And Woody most likely said, “That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I think you’ve been drinking, God.” And then God probably laughed again because a) this is where the saying came from and b) God has a wicked sense of humor.
But all of that aside, the truth is this: Things never pan out the way you expect them to. My life thus-far certainly hasn’t panned out exactly as I planned it. I’m not complaining — there’s some cool stuff happening and I’m feeling pretty grateful about a lot of it. But things didn’t go the way I thought they would and often not the way I wanted them to. And when I’m trying to sell a new project and then I read about a studio buying an almost identical thing the day after they pass on mine (seriously, how did someone else come up with the idea to remake Steel Magnolias with Steven Seagal) or when I’m hoping for an engagement ring and instead I get a pair of hiking boots (take a hike, indeed) or when I’m hoping Yogurtland has Red Velvet flavored frozen yogurt and when I get there they’ve replaced it with Dragon Passion Tart (making this tart furious with the passion of a thousand dragons!), I don’t fall apart. Okay, maybe I fall apart a little, but then I pull it back together and here’s why: I have great friends.
I already know going in that Murphy is a total a-hole. You know Murphy, the guy with the law stating: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” (I think he’s running Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign or he’s the U.S. Treasury Secretary. Likely both.) Murphy, unfortunately, was right. But if I surround myself with good people, we can talk about whatever’s gone down and figure out a way to fix it. Or, if it can’t be fixed, we can find a way to move forward in a positive direction. These good people are called “friends”. You’ve probably heard of them. They’re the ones you can be yourself with, the ones who will have your back when your heart is broken and the ones who will drive with you to three other frozen yogurt places to at least find one flavor that will make you smile.
People say all you need are friends and family and that’s totally true, except for the family part. Sure, some family members are awesome, but others… not so much. The problem is that we really don’t get to choose our family. That is, unless we’re adopting and while adoption is awesome, just add Murphy’s Law into the mix and bring Woody and Mia back into the equation: Murphy screwed the pooch, Woody screwed his daughter (okay, stepdaughter, but that’s a clarification you shouldn’t have to make) and there you have it.
But I digress. We can’t choose our family but we choose our friends. So choose wisely. Here’s a little guide to help you out. Five friends you need to have:
Look, we’re gonna freak out over relationship stuff. We just are. The saddest thing of all — besides natural disasters or tortured animals or Donald Trump’s hair — is that we are not mind-readers. If we were, can you imagine all the trouble we’d be saved? It would be epic. But we’re not, so plan ahead. There will be miscommunication on top of miscommunication on top of even more miscommunication. Partly because that’s just life and partly because when you text “I’m honored”, your phone autocorrects it to “I’m horny” because your phone has the maturity level of a 13-year-old boy. And when these miscommunications happen, you need a friend who will listen to you as you dissect every minute detail of the last conversation you had with your love interest to find hidden meaning and gain understanding. They will do this no matter how horrendously tedious and boring you are being. (And don’t kid yourself…you’re being boring. Imagine sitting through someone else telling you this stuff. It’s the conversational equivalent of Eyes Wide Shut.) This is going to be a tolerant person who gets that you’re going to act crazy from time to time because the heart just makes you do that. So make sure you have a friend who will listen to your incessant craziness and never judge you for it.
The Social Butterfly
Yes, it’s more convenient to sit on your couch in comfy sweats, eating gluttonous amounts of whatever your snack-du-jour is, watching The Real Housewives of Sarasota, Florida (this week: Agnes stabs Thelma with a knitting needle when they argue over who got the bingo first). But sometimes you need to go out. (You’re not supposed to develop bedsores in your thirties.) You’re not learning about the hotspots from your living room. The social butterfly is the friend who will know where to go, what time to get there and what time to leave. (Leaving is often as important as arriving. Timing is everything.) This friend knows the “cool” people who will make sure you avoid waiting in lines (they’re too cool for lines) and they know which bartender will give you free drinks (they’re also too cool to pay for things). This friend knows how to dress and where to go so pictures of you show up in the social pages, not the police blotter. This person knows where you’ll be comfortable, but not too comfortable — edging you out of your comfort zone is the idea, after all — otherwise your social circle might consist of you, your cat and a series of angry — and remarkably destructive — birds. Life is meant to be lived. Go out and live it with this friend.
This friend is loyal to the nth degree. This is the “Let’s burn down his house for dumping you” friend. You won’t burn down his house of course, because that is illegal and insane — but you will feel better knowing that if you did need to burn a house/hide a body/send 500 love letters to iCarly signed in your ex’s name, this person would be your fearless leader. Craziness aside, this is someone who thinks like you and gets your humor and likes the same TV shows and will understand why you are as excited by a Law & Order: SVU marathon as you are about NBC’s new comedy lineup. This person will understand the “why” of what you do, either because they do the same thing or at least understand you and will be there to say, “I get it”, whatever “it” is. They will be there for you through thick and thin and you in turn will do the same for them. You will laugh with them, cry with them and feel safe with them, kind of like Thelma and Louise but preferably with slightly less driving off cliffs in convertibles. Treat these friends like the precious beings they are. But seriously, keep them away from matches — just in case they decide to go ahead with the whole “burn down his house” thing. Loyalty is a wonderful thing, but arson is a major felony.
The Wet Blanket
This friend, while boring to some, is the one who will keep you out of jail. This friend is sane and will be the voice of blunt, painful reason. This friend will always tell you the truth and sometimes it’s gonna sting. Sometimes they’ll tell you things you don’t want to hear, like “yes, he was there with her and unfortunately they looked happy and I’m so sorry but she is pretty” or “those feathers in your hair are just a fad and it was over as soon as it began (hey, epic nail decorations, don’t get too cocky over there).” But nobody else is going to say these things to you and sometimes your head will be so messed up you need someone to “Cher” you with a little bit of “Snap Out of It!” This is the friend who will tell you not to listen to your Ride-Or-Die friend, because while it’s fun fantasizing about kidnapping your ex’s pet and then taking it on world tour, photographing it in Italy eating pizza and in Paris at the Eiffel Tower and in Vegas at a wedding chapel, emailing photos to your ex of said pet in all of these exotic places — that’s not something you actually want to consider. (If you do, though, get said pet one of those little orange service animal vests, because that will make traveling easier. Well, unless said pet is a meerkat, because no one’s going to buy that ruse. There are no service meerkats. Too bad, because they’d be mighty cute in those little orange vests.) This friend will be the constant reminder that you are (or at least strive to be) a good person and that you need to be better. This friend probably got good grades in school and has never even smoked a cigarette, which is good, because you need this friend not to die from lung cancer. You need this friend forever.
This friend really wants you to succeed. That girl who pretends to be your friend but talks about you behind your back? Sure, there’s a certain curiosity in watching her be fake and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that one or more of the people she thinks are her allies are telling you everything she says… but what’s the end game there? There isn’t one. It’s wasted energy in a fake friendship with a person who won’t be there for you when you actually need a friend. And you will need a friend, because — do I have to remind you about Murphy and that stupid law? This friend will cheer you on when things aren’t going your way and celebrate your accomplishments when they are. Cheerleaders are genuinely happy for you when you get what you want, what you’ve worked hard for, what you deserve. They are generally optimistic people, and that is key because we all slide into Depression City once in awhile, and these people will pull us out of it with pep talks. (BTW, do yourself a favor and never watch The Real Housewives of Depression City. It’s totally depressing.) Just make sure you can be just as much a cheerleader for this friend as they are for you. You don’t have to wear a cheerleader costume, mind you, but if you can pull it off — hey, you might make a few more friends.
Most people — if they’re being honest and not counting the legions of acquaintances and “friends of friends” — will say they can count their friends on one hand. You have five fingers, so these five friend types fit perfectly. Some friends will be hybrids of these groups. The Wet Blanket may also be your Cheerleader. The Social Butterfly may also be your Ride-Or-Die. Matt Damon may also be Jason Bourne. (Okay, so we got a little off-topic there.) But no matter what, you should always be aware of how lucky you are to have these great friends, and always try to be the best friend you can be. Nobody succeeds alone in any capacity. Friends help their friends and the feeling that you get when you’ve done something nice for another person is just an added bonus. Now go out there and be great to the people around you. Tell your friends how grateful you are to have them in your life. Maybe they need to hear that right about now. Wouldn’t you like to hear that from them?