A guy in a movie once described certain friends as ‘balcony people’. There are ‘basement people’ — those who keep telling us that we are royal screw-ups and doomed to fail. Yes, these people are sometimes family. Balcony people are those who consistently cheer us on. “Go for it” they say to our attempts to find our voice, live in ever-widening circles, to dare, to create.

All of us are not made to find great loves or blissful marriages. But we’re all made to find some form of friendship. There are all kinds — those you use, those you abuse, those you go to movies with because they won’t chatter through it, the booty-call kind (if you’re lucky). Then there are those you tell your deepest, darkest secrets to. Instead of heading for the door, they stick with you, become your balcony people for life. My husband is my balcony person, but I’m not going to use him as a shining example of friendship (terribly tempted to as I am). I’m going to write about what I see.

Friendships around me demand unconditional acceptance, sans the honest truth. Love me, listen to me, cheer me up, but never tell me the truth. That simply won’t work. Your best friends never shy away from those times when you are at your vulnerable, needy worst. When you’re ugly and angry. Time is a luxury, and expecting this friend to spend days handing tissues to you through your grief is impractical.

However, in those crucial hours, if he mops your tears, mutes his mobile while you ramble on, holds your head when all twelve vodka shots come tumbling out into the washbasin, and then dares to tell you the truth too, you sure have got a friend. But you have to allow the truth. Over and over, those will be the times that will make you feel more bonded. The safety is such that in his presence you can feel the superficiality of your ego-based claims and judgments melt away. It becomes easier to see and accept the truth because the person giving it to you has no hidden agenda. Therefore when he cheers for you, it is whole-hearted.

Here’s the best part. Everyone gets to have a balcony person! Absolutely everyone. You probably have one and didn’t even know about it. Go find him. Or her. It’s never too late.


(A fortnightly column on relationships)

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