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Friday, September 21, 2007

Keep in Touch

This Life column from Day and Night in today's Irish Independent

By now I'd imagine just about everyone in the country has seen the movie Superbad, a teen comedy about three underage guys trying to buybooze to impress girls at a party. It's a crude, funny but very sweet tale that has no doubt already penetrated (har har) popular culture sodeeply, that if you hear the word 'McLovin' one more time, you might just cry.

I have to admit that watching Superbad left me with a lump in my throat. On the surface, the film's all about sex and chicks, but really it's about guys and their friendships, and specifically, that moment when the realisation hits that life is about to take erstwhile best friends in different, often far-flung directions.

I think this movie has struck such a chord with audiences because nearly everyone can relate to that experience. It can be traumatic when the safety net of secondary school or college is whisked away and your whole network of friends is sundered and cast out into the world for the first time.

And as we all know, it doesn't end with school or college. On the dayI'm writing this, I have to wave off a friend who's heading to Australia for a year, and am on the way out to catch up with another ex-pat pal who's back for the weekend and whom I haven't seen properly in I don't know how long. On top of that, one of my oldest friends just moved to Manchester last week to start a whole new chapter in his life. I have to tell you, I'm beginning to feel it now.
One of the over-riding preoccupations of your twenties is just how to maintain your old and new friendships, when everyone is so busy travelling, or pursuing their career, or simply just living their busy lives. Of course, technology and low-budget (and even lower frills) air travel can be an enormous help, but it takes commitment. It's shockingly and tragically easy to fall out of touch with even really good friends.

Take pals who are living in two different countries. All it takes is afew hectic weeks on both sides, when the two of you miss that phonecall or forget to email, and before you know it, the gap between you has grown wider. Leave it too long, and that ocean that separates you begins to stretch more and more into the distance, causing you to inevitably wonder at what point a friendship can be officially declared missing in action.

However, the reassuring thing is that, while some friendships might fall by the wayside, many continue to prosper, despite the many modern obstacles. As the frantic coming and going of friends continues unabated, and even accelerates, you really do gain a better understanding of what friendship is.

For instance, I have a very good friend's wedding coming up. Many pals that I've known for years but haven't seen in a long time will be there. With these friends, and a select few others, I'm confident that within a few minutes of chatting, we'll have caught up on the headlines from each other's lives, and as the evening progresses, any gaps in detail will have been bridged and we'll be the same as we always were.

When you can pick up easily after even a great length apart – that's when you know you have something special. But you shouldn't ever take it for granted. Like Seth and Evan in Superbad, you don't want to lose that old friend who always had your back, or who you chatted to on the phone all the time (even when you were on your way to meet them), or who uncomplainingly carried you home from a house party when you were too inebriated to stand. They're the keepers.

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