I’ll Be There For You (Part One)

friends i'll be there for you

John Hale

I'm John, I'm 32 and my current guilty pleasure is re watching Buffy from season one. I currently work in fashion management which is a fancy term for saying retail management. I'm a book & movie junkie, I party, holiday and play lacrosse and had 2 bikes stolen in Cambridge.

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I am currently pulling my hair out, which is not a good thing as I’ve just had it cut, and I like my hair.

The cause of my folic rage? Friends and friendships. After my recent escapades in Gran Can, it’s a topic that has been niggling at me for a while. Having songs that randomly come on my iPod and remind me of various fun times doesn’t help. Those that know me would say that I’m a little arrogant, and I’ll agree. Those who call themselves friends would agree that I’m arrogant and also hard to get to know, however, when they do break down the icy boundary, they would say I’m funny, sarcastic and friendly. Then there are those who know me inside out, what makes me laugh, cry (the film Weekend) what gets me angry, and what kind of guy attracts my attention. They would take me for who I am and how I treat them. I’m loyal, impeccably trust worthy and my closest friends know that they’re like family.

There’s a reason I’ve wanted to talk about friends and friendships. Going everywhere with an iPod permanently attached to me means that songs often play that remind me of when I was younger. Not only that, I often reminisce of momentous and joyous events that I’ve laughed at and shared with many of my friends. This leads me to believe that the different types of people you meet in your life and the friends that they become can shape you as a person. To set the scene, on my 22 minute walk to work (I had my bike stolen you see) I’ve had time to think about friendship.

I’m sure plenty will agree that there are quite the eclectic types of friends you have. There are those that are transient, stay around for a few laughs, hang out for a couple of months then disappear. Some have the fortune to stay around longer to build lasting memories, to be friends for years, decades even -real life ‘soul mates’. Then there are those that can outstay their welcome and for one reason or another it’s best to cut them out. Sometimes it’s hard (they don’t take the hint). In addition to those that I/you/we choose to cut out, there are some that drop you like a hot potato because you don’t fit in with their current ‘married’ lifestyle; that having a friend who is independent can be dangerous and misleading.

So, meeting people, making new friends. Referring back to my new friends I met in Gran Canaria, I know for certain if I met them in my twenties I wouldn’t have spoken to them. That’s not saying anything disparaging about them, it’s a confidence issue that I had which I hope I’ve overcome in my thirties. The type of person I am now is different to that of my twenties, which is light years away from how I was as a teenager. That change is reflected in the people I meet.

Whilst I was at school, I was awkward looking with badly-styled, greasy hair. I had an OK complexion, but I had terrible/cheap dress sense and I was shy. My main friends were a lot like me and we were known as being square. I had few friends outside of school and my siblings were all older than me, so I learned quite quickly that I had to enjoy my own company. Though saying that, it was during my formative teenage years, around 1996, that there was a turning point. I had known Hannah, Michelle, Louisa, Natalie, Stacey and Rachel since I started secondary school. It was during the later years of the GCSEs I struck up conversations with them as we shared some classes and sat together. What struck me was our similar sense of humour. They were all also incredibly intelligent, popular and from the nicer suburb of Nottingham. I wasn’t.

It was such a long time ago now that I can’t remember what we actually talked about during school. What I can tell you was how in awe I was of them. They would regale me with tales of their escapades in bars and clubs in the city. Yes, you read that right – their parents would let them go out at night and drink and meet boys – at 15! (They even went to Ibiza at 16.) The extent of what their parents knew about what they did, I have no idea – but to me they had the freedom that I longed for. Yes, it does sound like something out of My So-Called Life, but sometimes what we see on the TV is based in real life.

When I turned 16 later on in 1996 my curfew that my Dad set was pushed to midnight – which was a good thing as the girls asked me to join them on a night out. Holy shit! Now things were about to change. Earlier I talked about how friends can shape you as a person and these six girls did a great job with me. Nights out would start at Hannah’s house, getting ready, drinking cheap red wine and orange juice, gave me confidence that I could be who I wanted to be without any repercussions.

It was always awkward and difficult for me though on nights out in clubs with them. They would go to the toilet together which left me ‘hanging’ around on my own. Girls would lust after other guys. Other guys were way better dressed than me. Confident guys and girls would snigger at me when they walked past, no doubt thinking that I’m some stupid young queer.

The girls eventually saw that I hated waiting for them and convinced me that the types of guys that were mocking me were in fact utter wankers and would mock people that didn’t fit in. It was then that I realised I never wanted to fit in, I wanted to be different and the girls allowed me that confidence to do so .I’ve run with that thought ever since. If I developed a new superpower it was resilience.

When the girls befriended me, it bolstered my confidence and entirely changed my personality. I could be crass, rude (but in a funny, non bitchy way), bitchy (in a non rude way) and talk to them about ‘things’ fabulous or not. I also grew intellectually and experienced lots of other new things. We went rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing (almost drowned), road trips to Newcastle (got lost), tried new foods (sushi), drinks, films, music etc.

Almost 20 years later they are still some of my closest friends. When ‘Miami’ by Will Smith, ‘Bootylicious’ by Destiny’s Child or ‘The Music Sounds Better With You’ ever comes on my iPod, I can’t help but smile and think about old times. I don’t see them often as I like as life eventually gets in the way, but whenever I do see them, I regale them with my scandalous tales, keeping them entertained as theirs did to me. I can’t thank them enough and I’ve tried and may never succeed in putting into words what they actually did for me, but it’s like the song at the start of Friends says – they’ll always be there for me, and me them.

For me, it was the start of the journey to who I would become. People I met at my first job also taught me a thing or two. The first set of gay friends I had would show me acceptance on another level. After that when I went to University I would have a great set of friends who shared my humour and would eventually meet my best friend Josh. I would meet Seb a few years later. When I moved to another city without knowing anyone, I would meet Richard, then finally moving back to Cambridge in my 30s I would meet the last of the Horsemen, Joe. Each of those periods would teach me something new, changing me from a shy young nerd into an arrogant nympho, and finally a well rounded adult. Friends really do shape you.