When they just lost their job
When someone loses their job, there’s generally a strong emotional response one way or the other: Either they hated that piece of garbage gig and have never felt as liberated and excited about the bright, bright future as they do right now, or they have immediately devolved into a puddle of hopelessness and presumed homelessness. Either way, you need to be present in that moment – it’s going to either be the most fun they’ve ever been and you guys are about to party your faces off in celebration, or you need to bring carby comfort food and your best pep talk immediately.
When they’re going through a breakup
I think it’s about time we come up with a formula for calculating exactly how much time after a breakup a person gets to obsess about it to their friends. I mean, obviously every relationship is different and we all heal on our own timelines and in our own ways, and that’s all fine. I’m not talking about truly, emotionally getting over a breakup – I’m taking about really stopping talking about it every single time we hang out and making me and our other friends feel guilty for doing anything else with our live other than bring you takeout and tell you how much better off you are. Like we’ll still do that sometimes, and we still love you and respect that you’re hurt, but you have to let us live our lives a little bit after a certain point, ya know? There should be a time limit on the “drop everything and be there for me” part of a breakup. So I propose the following:
For every month you dated the person, you get 18 hours of shit being all about you. Again, not saying this is when you have to be totally over the breakup, and obviously, it’s okay to talk about it, but this is the window of time after which you need to largely take ownership of your own feelings and stop expecting your friends to put their lives on pause.
For example: If you dated someone for 3 months before things go south, you can respectably ask that your friends focus solely on that for exactly 2.25 days. Meaning if it happens during happy hour on Monday, you should try to wake up on Thursday morning ready to let your friends talk – at least a little – about other things. If you were with someone for 4 years, it’s perfectly acceptable for everyone to be obsessed with your well-being for a solid month before even suggesting that the rest of the world exists. Spread the word – This formula is a thing now. Sorry about the extra real life math.
When literally anyone dies
There are obvious deaths like immediate family and really close friends where, duh, of course you’re going to take a short day at work and go hold your bestie’s hand. But it’s also possible that your friend could feel the loss of some random, tangential relative or acquaintance in an unexpectedly harsh way. You just never know. Maybe they suddenly remembered one important moment they had with them at a family reunion when they were 10 that taught them some great lesson and their grief is really an expression of regret that they never made an effort to know that person better. Maybe it’s seeing the pain inflicted on people they do know well who knew the deceased more intimately – pain has a way of echoing in surprisingly strong ways. Maybe it’s just having to think about death. Or maybe they were more attached to their pet hamster than anyone knew. Regardless, responses to death are not really things you can ever judge. It’s never okay to tell someone that how they are coping with loss is “wrong” or that for whatever reason they don’t have the “right” to be hurting as acutely as they are. It’s possible that they actually are milking a relatively impersonal loss, and are being a complete drama-baby, but that makes them a dick – don’t you be a dick on top of it. Best to give them the benefit of the doubt, just in case there’s some real hurt going on.
When they’re too drunk to function
Obviously, you’re allowed to give them a hard time once they’ve sobered up, but if a friend ever calls because they got too drunk and lost their wallet and need a ride home – even if it’s 3 AM on a Tuesday – you pretty much have to go. Because, yes, they could possibly call any number of other people, but you can’t be entirely sure that they will. In all their drunken sloppiness, they managed to make one good decision: Calling you. Don’t ask them to make another good decision. Reward them by dragging your ass out of bed, taking them home or letting them crash on your couch, and feeling satisfied that not only were you a great pal tonight, but they seriously owe you one.
Exclusion: If the person in question is “that friend” who is always getting too drunk to function, and always calling you to pick them up and escort them home. Exclusion to the exclusion: If any of the other things on this list applies, you still have to go help them, even if they are “that friend”.
When they say they’re scared
This is one of those “don’t ask too many questions because it doesn’t matter and you should probably already be on your way to their house” situations. If your friend calls/texts/DMs/Facebook messages you that they are genuinely experiencing fear of some kind, like, they actually feel unsafe, you need to immediately make that your entire priority. Ask only enough questions to figure out if you should call the police while you’re driving to their place or if simply your presence will be enough to neutralize their fear, but beyond that, don’t try and sort through the legitimacy of their feelings on the phone.
When feelings are intense in almost any way, the kindest, more successful way to handle them is respond to the feelings as they are, not argue with the feelings, or try and convince the feelings not to exist. If your friend is scared and asking for your presence, just go – don’t try and decide if they have an actual reason to be scared before you make a move. Best case scenario: You arrive and just you being there gives them a sense of security that allows them adequate perspective to see that they were maybe silly to be afraid at all.
When they’re physically hurt
This is in the Codes, both Bro and Ho: If someone asks you to weather an 8-hour ER visit to get stitches or a cast or whatever, you have to go. You have to. Yes, they could go alone. No, they are not going to die. But it’s awful to be in pain, and even more awful if you have to be in pain alone, in a waiting room. Yes, you even have to go if you have a really promising date and you’ll have to cancel it. Upside: 2 friends + many hours to kill + extreme boredom + trying to take one friend’s mind off of being hurt = really, really funny shit potentially happening. Some of the goofiest moments, most random pranks, and longest lasting inside jokes happened in while waiting in the emergency room. It sounds like a tedious friendsponsibility, but it might end up being a bonding experience.
When your gut tells you to
The greatest thing about friends – the real, ride or die friends – is that they know you. Like, they know you. Good friends have a powerful kind of intuition between them, and sometimes that’s all you have to go on when assessing whether or not your buddy is in a “drop everything and go to them” situation. Maybe they actually are incapable of telling you exactly what’s going on, or what kind of help they need, or how serious a predicament they’re in. Maybe they’re fighting with their boyfriend and he’s standing right there and they’re afraid to say how scared they are. Maybe they are still in the “I can handle this on my own” mindset but really they can’t and just haven’t realized it yet. You get the idea. Sometimes you just have to know. And maybe you’re wrong. Maybe you show up and everything is fine and you guys go for gelato and laugh about what a ridiculous worrier you are. But when it comes to the emotional and physical well-being of your people, err on the side of caution. If you can’t shake a feeling that a friend really needs you to show up for them – even if you can’t pinpoint why you feel that way or what they might need – chances are it’s for a reason.