Interesting how a few words emblazoned across a stranger's chest can evoke a whole book's worth of thoughts. Support Our Troops seems redundant, since financially speaking we all do, whether we care to or not.
I've spent months puzzling over a T-shirt I read repeatedly: Friendship Slut. The clash of meanings between the two words at first led me to guess it was one of those randomly assembled phrases popular on merch from Tokyo, like Flower Jetplane Party. But that was wishful thinking. Like all supposed jokes, Friendship Slut expresses an idea that is perfectly serious. The official Friendshipslut.com website insists the movement is about meaningful connections in unexpected places.
Give me a break. A slut is promiscuous, moving from one conquest to the next without looking back. Emotional irresponsibility is the essence of sluttery. Friendship, on the other hand, demands steadfastness, loyalty through thick and thin, a slow and steady building of mutual understanding.
Dictionary-wise, Friendship Slut is an oxymoron. Socially, it is a sad indicator of the toll chronic attention deficit syndrome is exacting on interpersonal relations.
But the more I thought about the line, the more I realized that friendship sluts are everywhere, though most wear no printed warning. I had been confused by sudden professions of allegiance from people with whom I was barely acquainted. I noticed the profligacy of their claims and how our best friendship was out the door the moment one of their other "best friends" walked in.
Hitherto, I'd only known drunks to behave this way. But as with tattoos, habits have a way of making their way up from the gutter to what is considered polite society. I know how to handle drunks. Sober friendship sluts are more flummoxing.
In common with sex sluts, those of the friendship variety like to establish immediate physical intimacy. My trained reflex response of a slap or a sharp elbow is inappropriate for the platonic hugs my body language clearly warns against. But friendship sluts are oblivious to the obvious. I am but an instrument in their quest for universal approval.
A certain formality is the key to the survival of friendship in its long-term form. My friends and I have earned our quarter-century merit badges together by indulging in physicalities such as a hug or warm handshake only on special occasions when such effusiveness is warranted. Calling me a cold fish is preferable to saying you're going to call me, which to FSs is just a saying that means nothing.
I get exhausted just observing these vortexes of texting, calls and triple bookings as they whirl through a maze of arrangements, picking up and dropping friends as they go. Quite the contrast to the slow school, where a visit or a postcard every few months is sufficient for friendship maintenance.
Over time, acquaintances can grow into friends. A few hours spread over years give context and perspective a one-night stand never could. A shared background might help, as in the case of a good friend who has turned up. Unbeknownst to each other, we gave the same answer when asked how we met. It's an answer unlikely to be heard outside of Louisiana and must have appealed to both of us for its antique and rooted sound: "We're from the same parish."
Ironically, a friend who has just earned her decade medal has begun referring to my loose cast of cohorts as a "harem," I guess because they're all men and she considers men sexual objects. The more I object, the more she'll use it.
What goes for friends goes double for enemies. Upstarts attempt to win status with instant aggression. Go get a T-shirt printed and pick on someone your own size.