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Friends

by Barry L. Levy

Years before I had the good fortune of meeting my wife, I had a crush on someone who announced that she was temporarily moving away. The word I heard most clearly was “temporarily.” And brilliant strategist that I am, I called one of my closest friends from college, JB, who lived where my crush was heading and I said two things:

First, help me out… she doesn’t know anyone. Please show her around. Second, whatever you do, do not touch her.

I don’t think these were overly complex instructions. Clearly, I was wrong. In hind sight, I’d like to believe that JB simply misunderstood. But, that just wouldn’t be accurate.

He did understand. He showed her around. So, clearly the first point was properly communicated. As for the second point . . . well, he was able to repeat this point, so I gather he understood the meaning here as well.

The only problem is that he chose to repeat this instruction to the woman. Amid their intimacy. Oh, yeah, and right after he shared, “Barry’s going to kill me.”

Ah, friendship.

While the above doesn’t speak to my experience as a father directly, it actually does speak to the depth of friendship that I would wish for my children. Not only do I still consider JB to be among my oldest and closest friends, but it is because of our friendship that I have come to understand what I believe is among the most important lessons about friendship to share with my children.

Let me pause momentarily and be clear, this is not some weepy, sacchariney tale. At all. Frankly, it’s not even much of a story. It was a speech. Given by the father of the bride at JB’s wedding, and no it was not to the same aforementioned woman. Now I don’t know why this speech moved me so completely. But it did. He quoted Benjamin Franklin in reminding the couple that “there is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace.” More powerfully, at least for me. was that he talked about how people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

This may be something you’ve heard before. But I hadn’t. And as I watched my friend dance with his bride, it struck a nerve.

What were the reasons that people had come and gone from my life? How would I know when one season had ended and another begun? Most importantly, who were the people that I could count on being with me for a lifetime?

The truth is that father of the bride speech has, like so many things, come to me in waves. I say this is a fair amount of humility. I’m not always adept at processing things in the moment. I was in third grade when I first heard that “the word gullible was not in the dictionary” . . . sadly, it wasn’t until I was in eleventh grade that I got the joke.

Yeah. I know.

Part of the reason I continue to consider those words is that I can’t help but marvel at how quickly and powerfully my kids are able to bond with others. I take my kids to the park almost every weekend and without fail, they make new friends. Always.

Despite their preference for one gender or the other, they just do. My girls will forgo their frustration with boys, if there are no girls to play with. My son, who is so often surrounded by girls in his life, will make due with whatever is in front of him.

Age, race, class, gender, even language is never a barrier.

Sure, my kids probably can’t recall the name of their new BFFs 48 hours later, but that’s not the point. In that moment, there’s no doubt about it . . . they are friends. These are friendships that have reason and utility. Quite honestly, it’s hard not to be envious of how easily they’re able to navigate and create connections.

At least in what I’ve observed, we, as adults, have it backwards. Young kids interact with a true presumption of innocence. They give people the benefit of the doubt . . . and then judge people solely by their actions. It seems far more reasonable than the adult approach where we so frequently judge books by their covers. Where, in the interest of self-preservation, we apply heuristics that at the same time they protect us, clearly prevent us from living life to its fullest.

Never is that more the case than here in Hollywood, where I heard friendship once described as being a connection between two people that don’t outwardly hate one another’s guts.

A few years back, a prominent TV writer (and mentor of mine) announced that he was leaving L.A. Amid one of our last conversations before his move, he observed that there were only a handful of “real” friends that he would truly miss.

His observation has haunted me for years. So much so that at a meeting with a producer last week, I brought it up. The producer floored me by suggesting that a handful seemed high to him. He put his “number” at three. It spooked me. What if my number was that low?

Where had twenty years in Hollywood gone? And yet, I know where twenty years in Los Angeles have taken me . . . from a single guy in a bachelor apartment that my wife tried to donate to the CDC for research purposes, to a proud father of three, with a loving wife, and a community I hold dear.

Let me explain: few, if any of us, that actually work in Hollywood, actually live there. It’s like a double life. There are some. But even they might agree that there are challenges and obstacles with shitting where they eat, like:

Explaining to your child that “no, you may not have 300 pairs of shoes like a certain British soccer star’s child . . . ” (true story)

And “no, we’re not going to Park City for the holidays on our private plane . . . ” (also true)

It occurs to me, even as I write this that I’m judging a book by its cover, dismissing the uber-wealthy sight unseen. I guess I’m just a hypocrite.

Eh, so be it.

I just want my kids to be blessed with the same sort of lasting life long friendships that I’ve been fortunate enough to have . . . and yet I don’t want them to have so many that they’re no longer open to new ones. Because people will come into their lives for reasons, seasons, and, one would hope, lifetimes.

It may take awhile . . . or it may happen tomorrow at the park.

Barry L. Levy

About Barry L. Levy

Barry Levy is a husband. A father. A writer. His "credits" include Noa, Jordan, Ben. His writing credits include Vantage Point & Paranoia. Follow him on Twitter @barryllevy

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