As gay men we are keen and savvy partygoers, often planning out our social events and associated attire months (or even years) in advance. Many of us plan our social lives around the general interest of our close friends, those we see and speak to several times every week. We arrive and leave together, and if one of these friends becomes too intoxicated or gets involved in a bad situation with bouncers, the police, or other partiers, we will always have their back. However, where do we draw the line when it comes to putting ourselves at risk when aiding those we are associated with?
The gay social network is a loose atmosphere of relationships ranging from our intimate sexual partners to peripheral friends with whom we interact less than three times a year. Many of our facebook friends are people we speak to on a regular basis, while some are people we have drunkenly met out on the scene, encouraging them to friend us on facebook while agreeing that “we should hangout sometime!” As time passes we ask ourselves why we still associate ourselves with these people. We know as little about their lives as they know about ours, and we complain about (or poke fun at) dramatic statuses they post. Of course we still acknowledge them when we see them in public, but we do not invite them to our birthday dinners. We certainly would not involve ourselves in a fight to help defend them if they initiated one with other strangers.
The question is: what are clear-weather “party” friends and how can we approach these relationships in a positive, constructive way?
Party “friends” are really just acquaintances
Of course we can have fun with these people when we see them out, greeting them with enthusiasm as we both exclaim “it’s been too long!” However, it is important to be able to differentiate between your real friends and these party friends. Building a network around those we only see while we are under the influence leaves us with nothing when we need friends to support us when we seek help. Those who begin as party acquaintances can also evolve into long-term caring friends, so there is no need to entirely rule these people out, either.
Clear-weather friends should be avoided
Clear-weather friends are always around when we are at our best, reaping the benefits of our positivity, wealth, alcohol, or other capital we provide them with when are out in the party scene. However, these individuals are seemingly always busy when you are in a time of need. These individuals run (or simply do not respond) at the first sign of conflict, and make it clear that they have little investment in the friendship in their unwillingness to come to our aid. This is the most harmful relationship the “party friend” dilemma poses to us, and we often unfortunately do not uncover this characteristic until we have been left high and dry.
We should actively avoid maintaining communication with these types of people. You can still continue to greet them when you see them out, but discontinue enabling their ability to take from you (whether what you are offering is emotional or tangible goods).
Real friends respond proactively to criticism
Performing a “test” on a friendship is never a good idea, and could potentially end an otherwise healthy relationship. However, there are ways of measuring our friend’s responses to concerns in order to determine how invested they are in maintaining a relationship. If we are bothered that we do not see a friend outside of the party scene, or we feel that we are being taken advantage of in the relationship, one option is to directly voice our concerns to this person. Even if this person is someone we only see out a few times a year for certain parties and events, if they want to maintain a positive relationship with us they will respond to our criticism in a way that addresses our concerns. They don’t have to agree with us, but working to find common ground should be the goal.
Taking the time to work with us on a solution, or exhibiting actions over time that contrast the behavior we were originally concerned with, shows that they are invested in making positive changes to our relationship. Conversely, if this behavior persists or worsens, we should consider ending the friendship, or discontinuing to offer ways in which we can be taken advantage of
Ask yourself if you would do the same
It is unfair to expect changes from people we fear might be “clear-weather” friends without asking ourself if we would be willing to do the same for them. Naturally, it’s impossible to be entirely objective as a participant in the friendship in question, but if we would not be willing to put in the same effort we are asking of this person, it is unfair to ask at all. Some people are just meant to be party friends, and there’s nothing wrong with that.