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A friendly word
by Asa Butcher
2007-01-04 08:02:50
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“We’re friends, right?” asks a good mate one evening over a beer. I take a sip of my lager, swallow and then slowly nod suspiciously. “We can be honest with one another, right?” I narrow my eyes and begin to prepare myself mentally as to where this line of rhetorical questioning is heading. “I mean, we could say anything and, as friends, we would take it fair square. No fights and stuff…” I am beginning to feel uncomfortable with this, “…it’s just that I think you…”

Stop. Let’s perform a quick analysis of how strong our friendship is before we start with the home truths. Are you prepared for the consequences? Yes, we are friends and we always say that we can be honest to one another but that doesn’t actually mean you can actually say the truth. Firstly, it is human nature to immediately be on the defensive with any form of criticism, even if it has substance, so let’s throw in a couple of beers and light the fuse.

Will this friendly feedback be commenting upon my comical fashion sense, perhaps my personal hygiene has been slipping back to the Stone Age, or am I being reminded that he wants a debt repaid? Hang on, he has also had a couple of beers and may feel emboldened to analyze my lifestyle, my job or, god forbid, my personality. There are angles of each of these that could be laughed off with a touch of self-depreciating humour and this is always stocked in the Asa stockroom.

But, maybe, maybe the alcohol has made him feel invincible, maybe the problem has become too much for him to bear any longer and he needs to clear the air in order to save our ailing friendship. Is he going to criticize my wife, but not in the accepted ‘er indoors’ manner? Has he finally worked out that she doesn’t like him or overheard some of the jokes we make behind his humped back? I was sure he had heard one last time, but we seemed to have escaped or have we…

No, he wouldn’t have invited me out for drinks in a public place if he were going to punch me. Or would he? He has always had a suspicious streak. Forget it, it isn’t anything like that. Will he make disparaging comments about my children or my parents, neither rate highly as topics of negative discussion? What could it be? I have helped him move twice and even picked him up from the airport once, so our friendship is on a higher plain than acquaintances.

Still, there he sits preparing to ask his awkward question that will break the taboos of friends by actually ‘being honest with one another’. Has anybody ever survived one of these moments? Will he want me to return the drill I borrowed because I still haven’t put up those shelves. I’ll tell the wife it was Quasimodo’s fault that we fell out, stupid hunchback…“I mean, we could say anything and, as friends, we would take it fair square. No fights and stuff. It’s just that I think you should buy the next round. I have bought the last two and it is my birthday!”

Same again, hunchback?

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