Teach Me Nothing Just Be My Friend

ColumnWe don’t need our friends to teach us composting, we need them to have our back.

In a recent article for the Huffington Post, eco-activist Laurie David wrote earnestly (maybe a little too earnestly) about what she wants from her girlfriends. Her words were heartfelt and lofty (and maybe a tiny bit sanctimonious) as she wrote about needing female friends who “feed her soul” and how the basis of her adult friendships was teaching her friends and learning from them. One friendship, she wrote, was based on the fact that her girlfriend taught her how to make pad thai, while David introduced this woman to the “joys of composting.”

I admire Laurie David for her tireless work on behalf of the environment; moreover, she and I have a lot in common: we are both in our 50s, we both married men with curmudgeonly tendencies, and we are both desperately trying to get away with the same hairdo we had in high school.

But if Laurie David wants to be my buddy, she had better bring something to the table besides teaching me to compost. Because instructing me on how to keep a tub of rotting garbage next to my sink – a festering little pot of decay, complete with flies and worms and a vaguely vomit-y aroma – is not going to make her my BFF. My antipathy towards indoor composting is not the only reason I object to David’s blog post – her belief that friendships between women are founded on mutual teaching is just not something I can relate to.

Frankly, if I want to learn something I will take a course or read a book. (Who am I kidding? I’ll probably just Google it.) What I want from my friends has little to do with growth or empowerment, and it is not dependent on a sharing of skill sets.

From my friends I simply want love and support and unconditional acceptance. I want the knowledge that my girls have my back, and that they will, unquestionably, be on my side – whether I’m quarreling with my husband, the mob or the IRS. My friends don’t need me to teach them about Sudoku or fair labor practices – they just need me to show up with baked ziti when they’ve had a bad biopsy, or hand them tissues when they’re in the middle of a major life crisis. The friends who mean the most to me are the ones who cleaned my kitchen after my mother died, and drove me to the hospital when I had a bleeding child whimpering in my lap. They are the ones who have come – cheerfully and without much coercion – to my son’s soccer games and my daughter’s theater performances.

It’s not that I lack intellectual curiosity, well, not completely anyway, but to me, friends are not teachers or students – they are companions and playmates, fellow travelers and lifesavers. They are there to laugh with and commiserate with, for road trips and conversation, to hold my hand in an emergency and to come with me to museum exhibits that my husband wants no part of. A good friend does not have to teach me a blessed thing – she just has to come pick me up when my car dies on the interstate.

In the unlikely event that I ever decide to compost, I will learn whatever I need to know online. And then I will call a friend and hope to God she talks me out of it.

Susan Goldberg is a slightly lapsed treehugger. Although known to overuse paper products, she has the best of intentions – and a really small SUV. Catch her column, The Goldberg Variations, each week here at EcoSalon.

Image: El Groo