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The Hugs & Kisses Issue

The VICE Guide to Friendship

Want to know about all the different kinds of friends? Welcome to the Friendship Forest. It can be a treacherous place, but its rewards are warmth, hugs, understanding, and chuckles. The ultimate goal is finding your BFF, but you'll really have to do...

by Lesley Arfin
Dec 3 2004, 12:00am


Photo by Geoffrey Brown

Want to know about all the different kinds of friends? Welcome to the Friendship Forest. It can be a treacherous place, but its rewards are warmth, hugs, understanding, and chuckles. The ultimate goal is finding your BFF, but you'll really have to do some spelunking through thorns and brine to meet the magical unicorn that shits ice-cream cones and cries daffodils.

If you do find her, she will promise to be your best friend forever. If you ever betray her you will have to leave your whole scene and end up all Sex and the City with some cackling JAPs from your office that you hate (plus their assorted shitty dogs and moms) for the rest of eternity.

Here are some surefire guidelines to tell if the type of person you're hanging out with is a friend or just some douchebag using you for your car/other friends/money/couch.

FRIENDS MAKE YOU THINGS
Starting in ancient times, girls made each other friendship pins and stuck them to their shoelaces. These are just safety pins ornamented with plastic beads, sometimes sparkly! They mark your friend territory. Think of them as the platonic girl equivalent of tomcat pee. As we grow, friendship pins develop into mixtapes and then mix CDs (although iPod-sharing is now ruining this fine tradition by turning everyone into mix sluts). My friend Cindy makes dresses for a living for lots of money but she gives them to me for free. Not because I deserve it, but because I don't and she loves me anyway.

Friends like to exhibit friendship by returning from thrifting expeditions bearing gifts that pertain to your special obsessions. For me, that would be owls. Extra good friends will even make you a little book of photos of you guys together.

Friends will also give you clothes that maybe they got too fat to fit into but they fit you and your friend is actually happy to be able to have you wear them and she's not jealous at all.

FRIENDS ANSWER THE FUCKING PHONE
This is a friend prerequisite. I hate when people screen calls. Everyone thinks they're a drug dealer with their cell phone. Like my call isn't important enough to take while they're in the middle of checking Friendster? It's stoops in charge.* Either pick up the phone or call me back that day. You are not that busy, Donald Trump. What do you have to do, get ready for the Governor's Ball? We're all fucking occupied, but we make time for what counts. Like friendship.

Also, if they genuinely can't get the phone, a real friend will leave an outgoing voicemail message with a joke that only all their friends will get. Which leads me to…

FRIENDS ANNOY EVERYONE ELSE WITH THEIR STUPID PRIVATE JOKES
Would you know what I meant if you heard me say, "Dazzle, dazzle, scoop de jour, pride!" to my friend Derrick, or "Paint yourself a picture of an afternoon delight" to my friend Ben? No? Good, you shouldn't. Those jokes are private.

Secret languages can also form an ironclad friendship bond. For example, consider Hanna and Emily, two BFFs since high school. They communicate in their own magical tongue. It's called Swedish, and you can't learn it from a book! Together they use it to talk shit about people in front of their faces, and it brings them closer every day.

FRIENDS KEEP SECRETS
Well, the important ones anyway. Like Jennifer really didn't want me to tell anyone she had an abortion, but we're not friends anymore because she stopped taking my phone calls. So I told everybody. To test out a new friend, tell them you used to have a weird little nubby tail, but make it a real sob story so they believe you. Then see how long it takes to ride the gossip express back to your station. If they don't tell anyone, they're a keeper.

Wait, they actually might just be boring. If it does get back to you that you had a tail, don't trust them, but keep them handy for spreading rumors about other people.

FRIENDS COPY EACH OTHER
This is another ancient ritual, dating back to the Egyptians, when Ramses II totally copied the way Ramses I tortured the Israelites (with sticks). Ally Sklover, my BFF from high school, copied my Adidas Sambas, but I got her back by rocking a pink tracksuit. We're BFFs, so it's all good. Friends also copy words and claim they started them, which led to a great war among my friends in 1999 over who started the word fagét (which means "an effeminate straight guy").

This is not to be confused with friends who claim they started trends that they clearly did not, like my friend Peter who said, "You know how everyone is moving to L.A.? I totally started that!" Er, what?

FRIENDS CALL POISON CONTROL WHEN YOU OVERDOSE ON RED BULL
Let's say you're at a party, and the only free drinks are vodka and Red Bull, and you are currently on the wagon. So you proceed to drink Red Bull after Red Bull. By your sixth Red Bull, you start to believe that you are in fact, a red bull, so you go home and repeatedly ram your head into the wall. You start to panic when you can taste your heart beating. So you call your BFF and she races over at 4 a.m. with Xanax in hand. When you don't calm down, she calls Poison Control, who tell her to take you to the hospital immediately. But you don't want to go, so instead she rubs your back until you fall asleep, and then she quietly leaves.

FRIENDS CUDDLE
Or make out. On rare occasions, they even fuck. It's true! Some friends can make love in the name of friendship and having orgasms, and it will still be cool. It does happen. Especially on road trips. In seedy motels. In Alabama. With a dildo you bought "as a joke."

The best thing, though, is making out with your friends "for practice." If you develop a crush on your friend after a steamy game of Seven Minutes in Heaven, you might get lucky and end up in a full-on Monica-Chandler love explosion. If not, get ready to cry 4-ever. Well not forever, but for a really long time (five days).

FRIENDS BEAT PEOPLE UP FOR YOU
I was at a show, standing on a chair, and I didn't know where to put the bottle cap from my beer. I thought it would be hilarious if I silently placed it on top of this random dude's head. And it was! Until the guy saw me laughing hysterically and realized what I'd done. Then he was like, "Stop laughing at my expense!" (He literally said that.) And he pushed me off my chair onto the floor. My friend Gus got right up in his grill and was like, "Dude!" and he pounded him, even though Gus just got out of jail. Now that guy and everyone around him know that shoving a girl is different.

FRIENDS ARE AT LEAST CORDIAL TO YOUR BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND EVEN IF THEY THINK HE/SHE IS BORING, ANNOYING ON COKE, NOT ABLE TO PLAY "CELEBRITY," OR A FUCKING JUNKIE LIAR
That's all there is to say about that one.

FRIENDS TELL YOU WHEN YOU'RE BEING A DICK
For instance, just a minute ago my roommate, Christi Bradnox, made an AIDS-baby joke, and I was all, "Whoa, dude, not cool. In a different context, maybe, but not this time." Then she made another joke about cancer, but that one was actually pretty good.

Conversely, a real friend is not allowed to get mad at another friend's goofy and pointless jokes, like the time Amy stormed out of an otherwise fun Japanese dinner just because Gavin made a joke about not liking girls with asymmetrical labia. Come on, Amy. That doesn't even mean anything. Asymmetrical labia?

They were in a fight for a year after that.

FRIENDS GIVE YOU A SECOND CHANCE, MAYBE EVEN A THIRD
Like my friend Judi, who let me work at her store. My first day there I showed up an hour late wearing a ripped Van Halen T-shirt and cutoff jean shorts, my eyes basically sewn shut with crackhead crud. She looked at me like, "What the fuck?" and I slurred, "Dude, if you give me a bump of coke or a bong hit, I'll be fine." She looked at me sadly and said, "Lesley, go home." To this day, she is still my friend, and she even lets me work at the store sometimes. Also, I used to intern at Vice and do bumps of heroin in the bathroom every 15 minutes, and look, they still love me! I believe that true, true friendship is unconditional. I've seen guys hook up with their best mate's girl, and sooner or later they forget about it, cuz most of the time you like your friends better than you like your slutty girlfriend. Holding a grudge is pretty annoying, and it sucks to ignore your funniest friend. Think about all the good times you'd be missing out on and all the giggles you won't get to share.

Why are you crying? I'm being nice.

*stoops in charge: adjectival phrase meaning "stupid." Comes from "gnarls in charge," an adjectival phrase meaning "gnarly" that is based on the title of the popular TV show Charles in Charge.