Clique. Crew. Drinking Buddies. These Assholes. People have different phrases that they use when referring to their circle (or circles) of friends. But regardless of terminology, everyone has one – a collection of acquaintances with common interests and often common ideologies who hang out together on the reg. Maybe all of you went to the same high school or you belong to the same yacht club – or maybe, like many of us, you were drawn together organically through mutual friends and chance encounters over time, like flotsam spinning together in the gyre.
Whatever their origins, all groups of friends have a common thread that ties them together, be it shared experiences, a mutual love of an obscure band or a shared indulgence (“You love yachts, too? NO WAY!”). Ever since the first clique was formed (no doubt to facilitate a crowd-sourced Woolly Mammoth take-down), mankind has been benefiting from these social constructs – a tradition that starts for most of us in grade school.
While having friends is an inevitability for all but the most anti-social of us, a certain degree of mindfulness isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to picking your friends. If the thing that binds your crew together is your shared love of, say, black tar heroin, well… you’re gonna have a bad time. Likewise, individual members of your circle of friends can have a big impact on the quality of your group activities – either for better or for worse.
The latter outcome is often the one that engenders the most scrutiny, especially within the realm of pop culture bloggers and social media. Every day, I see articles with titles like “8 People to Sweep Off Your Facebook Friend List” or “10 Types of Friends Who Are Toxic To Your Dating Life” – apparently many of us are desparate to root out and banish assholes from our social circles. (While an understandable sentiment, one wonders what happens if you come to the realisation that you, in fact, are the asshole in your group.)
Since here at PretentiousPDX we are exemplars of kindness and probity (Hah!), I thought I’d deviate from the pack a little and talk about the positive traits that one finds in a group of friends, not the negative or stereotypical ones. I’m blessed to have several distinct social circles that I interact with, and over time I’ve noticed that there are certain roles that are frequently filled by members of a clique. While the list that follows below is by no means exhaustive, as you read through the descriptions below, you might think about which roles you and your friends fill – or which ones you need to recruit for.
1. THE SOCIAL SECRETARY
(also know as: The Planner, The Camp Counselor)
Almost every clique has one or two people who take the reins of a group’s social calendar. Requiring equal parts left-brained organization, right-brained imagination, and a willingness to be up in everyone’s business, The Social Secretary is the go-to person for most group activities. They have a preternatural capacity to keep tabs on who’s in town this weekend, what bands are playing tonight, and what restaurants are hot right now. Give the more creative Secretaries room to run and they’ll effortlessly come up with an itinerary and list of participants before you’ve decided what you’re having for lunch.
On at least a couple of occasions, two of our Social Secretaries have made dinner reservations for our group long before anyone else in The Crew had expressed anything more than a vague idea about hanging out that night. On one such occasion, the Secretary in question (who’s organized by trade – her job title at work is literally “Master Scheduler”) later admitted to me that she had actually made dinner reservations at a hip Italian spot for us at 6 AM that morning, but waited until the more palatable hour of 10 AM to tell us, because she “didn’t want to make it weird.” To their credit, both of the spots they chose were awesome.
2. THE EPICUREAN & THE BARTENDER
Speaking of wining and dining, the next two roles are equally helpful when charting a course for your evening. These people live for good food and drink, whether at home or out on the town. Whether its recommending a new restaurant, dredging up a cocktail that hasn’t been heard of since the Hoover Administration, or crafting their own house-infused bourbons, if you have an Epicurean and a Bartender on retainer, the caliber of your dining and drinking experiences is sure to benefit.
3. THE AUDIOPHILE
What The Epicurean & The Bartender are to food and drink, The Audiophile is to music. While most people might be content to sit at home and listen to their NKOTB cassettes, The Audiophile is always on the lookout for Next Level Shit. You can usually find them attending All Of The Shows, listening to All of the Bootlegs, Remixes and Obscure Artists and quoting All of the Pitchfork Articles.
My main crew is arguably comprised entirely of Audiophiles, but there are definitely some of our number who are more Next Level Than Others. Get some of them going, and when asked about their favorite bands, they can fire off a list that’s as bewildering and incomprehensible to the layman as listening to a 10 year-old list their favorite Pokemon.
Are there downsides to being part of a group of Audiophiles? Certainly. I’ve been to some really boring shows, before. And I’ve spent more than time standing next to sweaty strangers in sauna-like venues than I’d care to think about it.
But I think I can sum up the advantages by sharing this anecdote about what it’s like without Audiophiles in your life: about six months ago, I went to visit some hipsters who live in a house on the west side. While I was there, they decided to have a drunken dance party – an occurrence that I gather happens with some frequency. The music they played was alright, but not particularly inspired. About a month ago, I went back to this house and – lo and behold – another spontaneous dance party… WITH THE SAME DAMN MUSIC. From what I could tell, they played the same five or ten songs both times… and presumably, they probably did this every other time they had a drunken dance party in the intervening months. I’m pretty sure I would’ve killed myself by Month Two.
4. THE FASHIONISTA
This brand of friend of is perhaps the most easily recognizable in any crew, because they wear their credentials (quite literally) on their sleeve. One of my friends has a closet that looks like a J. Crew ad; another Fashionista in my life recently came back from a weekend trip to visit her family with not one but THREE new leather jackets. While their fashion may be a little extreme at times (yours truly, upon gifting a particularly bold-patterned scarf to our resident Fashionista: “Well, the pattern kind of frightened me… so I figured it’d be perfect for you”) and their clothes budget probably rivals the GDP of a small island nation, Fashionistas are always fearless and always stylish.
While the benefits of having such a person on your Crew are little less tangible than the some of the other categories, they’re still there. In addition to looking fabulous, Fashionistas are usually willing to dispense with sage styling advice (if you happen across a Fashionista who’s also a Social Secretary, you may be treated to your own personalized Pinterest Style Suggestion Board) – and if you’re lady, you may be able to raid their closet from time to time.
5. THE MOTHER HEN
(also know as The Designated Driver)
If you have a Bartender or an Audiophile in your life, you’re probably going to need a Mother Hen, too. While the name might sound a wee bit pergorative, it’s also accurate. Anywhere there’s alcohol or crazy adventures to be had, you can always count on The Mother Hen to shepherd all of her chicks home safely. Whether it’s picking someone up from the bar, cockblocking you if you’ve got your beer goggles on, holding someone’s hair after that eighth craft cocktail, or whipping up a killer Bloody Mary the next morning – The Mother Hen will always look out for you.
While some circumstances call for The Mother Hen to be restrained (hopefully your Designated Driver isn’t going shot for shot with you), just as often Mama Hen will be right in the thick of it with her chicks. In fact, often times, a group’s Mother Hen is the person with the best alcohol tolerance.
6. FERRIS BUELLER
I have this friend. I’m going to call him Ferris Bueller. He’s equal parts charisma and craziness, and most of the time he gives absolutely zero fucks. He’s down for pretty much anything, no matter how crazy or ridiculous it seems (when I first met him, I was preparing for The Nickleback Challenge – and when I told him what I was planning, he treated it as though it were a perfectly reasonable thing to do) – and he can charm pretty much anyone into going along with whatever he wants to do. One afternoon, he and I went to happy hour together at a bar neither of us had been to, before… and within 15 minutes, he had talked the owner of the bar into giving us free bourbon out of the owner’s private stock. The man is a force of nature.
Anyways, while you may not want to take a Ferris Bueller to your grandmother’s wake (our Ferris is actually pretty sedate most of the time), he or she is frequently hilarious and always down for a good time.
7. THE COMEDIAN
This is probably the most universal role amongst circles of friends. There’s always someone who possesses a razor-sharp wit and perfect comedic timing, and can be counted on to bring everyone to tears at just the right moment. The Comedian often functions as the group’s resident historian and storyteller, too – recounting every embarrassing moment and crazy adventure with side-splitting detail. Because of this latter role, The Comedian is often one and the same with The Mother Hen or Ferris Bueller – as Ferris Buellers take great delight in recounting their escapades, and Mother Hens often recall things that everyone else was too drunk to remember.
8. THE LUMINARY
Not every group has one of these, but if you have a Luminary in your life, you know. Luminaries are just slightly larger than life – they’ve got charm, they’re got connections, and sometimes fame. Sometimes it’s the people they know: Several years ago, one of my friends was shocked when she started hearing girls on the street raving about her friend Matthew… or as we know him today, M Ward of She & Him. Another one of my friends remembers hanging out with Ben Haggerty when he was a unknown rapper named Macklemore – this same friend also keeps track of nationally-known bands not by which ones she’s seen live (which is hundreds), but rather which ones she’s hung out with in person and/or is friends with on Facebook (which is dozens). Sometimes it’s who you are – one of my friends is the daughter of a former CEO; another one of my friends is a world-famous organ scholar. Or maybe you’re just one of those people who knows everyone, has been everywhere, and is loved by all.
Having a Luminary in your clique is by no means necessary, but if you know one, your life is sure to be enriched – by definition, Luminaries themselves and their stories are always fascinating.
9. THE LINCHPIN
Conversely, our last category goes to the person who is often The Luminary’s polar opposite. The Linchpin usually isn’t the most high-profile member of the group, but they are often the most important. Quietly, behind the scenes – and often unknowingly – they hold the group together. They’re the heart and soul of a clique. Linchpins are usually affable, patient, and sociable – they get along with almost everyone and they’re concerned about everybody in the group. They may not be involved in planning any outings (Linchpins are occasionally but not usually Social Secretaries), but The Linchpin is the one you’ll call to ask “Are you going, too?”
10. THE HARDWARE
Although they’re not technically people, honorable mention has to go to your iPhone or Android device. Yes, like it or not, your mobile phone is actually an integral part of your circle of friends. The advent of group messaging is probably the single most useful innovation cliques have seen this century. In all three of my main circles of friends, everyone rocks an iPhone (with only one or two exceptions). If there are plans to be made or a joke to be told, it’s going to happen via iMessage. In fact, as I type this, I’m having a joint conversation with two members of my crew who are waiting for me to finish writing this article and come out. (Tim Cook, if you’re reading this, PretentiousPDX would be more than happy to do product endorsements for you. Just a thought.)
Now, I’m not saying that we shun our Android-using friends or anything, but a funny thing has started happening – they’ve started hanging out with other Android users.
Circles of friends are almost always organic constructs, drawn together by time and circumstance and coincidence – and I don’t think that should change. (I mean, you COULD hold try-outs for the role of Luminary or Fashionista if you really want to, but most people will probably think you’re a jerk.) But reading through these ten descriptions, I would suggest that you be mindful of which roles you play in your group – and be grateful for the roles that your friends play, as well.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my iPhone is blowin’ up. I have to figure out if I need to be The Mother Hen or Ferris Bueller, tonight.
Stay sharp, Portland.