Markets and the Good   /   Fall 2023   /    Notes & Comments

Friendship as Soulcraft

How I made friends in my thirties.

Matt Dinan

THR illustration (Shutterstock).

Nobody wants to be a type. Types stand in as substitutes for what’s there—they dull or deaden others’ perceptions of who we are. The discovery that someone transgresses type, or even plays against it—this football player does ballet!—is a delight so rare in real life as to have become commonplace in pop culture. One of my colleagues and I occasionally observe that we are “sociologically identical”: alike in age, profession, upbringing, scholarly interests, family situation, race, class, and gender. Of course, we also dress alike. But while I’m gregarious, he’s quiet; he loves tragedy, I prefer comedy; he’s imperturbable, I have a temper. The typological similarity is a false face undermined by an incommensurable interiority. We don’t want to be types because we know that every human being is more than a type.

What to do, then, when you’re confronted with the undeniable reality that, whatever your irreducible individuality, you are a type? In my case, this happened when I realized that I had become one of those men without close friends—you know, the kind of sad social case that actually inspired a New York Times op-ed writer to wonder, “Is the Cure to Male Loneliness Out on the Pickleball Court?”

I hope it doesn’t sound too defensive if I say that the empirical record shows I’m not one of the “lost” men. After all, I considered myself pretty well adapted to the new order of things. Besides, why should I need friends? I had my family, engaging work, and good colleagues. I felt connected with my community. And even if I am one of those Catholics who perversely want Mass to be anonymous, I never feel as though I do not belong in our parish. All of these factors explain why it took me a while to understand my situation.

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