11 Things I Learned From ‘Friendship’ by Emily Gould
A couple weeks ago, I read an article about Emily Gould online, and it told me not to read Friendship. So, I promptly ordered a copy on Amazon, and when it arrived three days later, I read it in a matter of hours. It didn’t take me very much time to inhale Gould’s quasi-autobiographical novel about two friends in their 30s, Amy Schein and Bev Tunney, struggling in New York. Even though I have my issues with it (over-usage of character tropes and the a slightly predictable plot among them), I actually really, really liked Friendship. I sympathized with Amy and Bev because their stories resonated with me: I, too, am pursuing my impractical day-dreams of becoming a writer.
Mostly, I felt a sincere sense of comfort when I read Friendship, even though I know it was designed to do exactly that. Amy and Bev’s lives go incredibly astray: Amy is seemingly stuck in a career plateau with a boyfriend who treats sex like a chore. She lives beyond her means, spending thousands on boots and pressed juices. Bev, on the other hand, just got out of a soiled relationship and has a year’s worth of grad school loans to pay back. She’s temping, and she can’t even put “MFA” on her résumé because she dropped out. She can hardly afford groceries, and after a weird, drunken date with some boorish dude, she finds out she’s pregnant. Amy and Bev have to figure out if their friendship will survive this surprise, as well as the other elements in their lives that become unhinged along the way.
Although we were taught to get straight in As in high school, go to college, end up with a respectable 9 to 5 job, get married along the way, things have changed — and Friendship illuminates that. The environment post-economic crisis 2014 offers is not a satisfying one. It's hard following the same paths our parents took, and sure that sounds very "Millennial" of me, but the truth is that the world is a little different now. You can get paid curating a Pandora playlist. You can write a memoir about your crazy family. You can start a food blog and land a cookbook deal. Anything is possible, and Gould's book sheds light on that, as well as 11 more valuable lessons:
1. Do not piss anyone off on the Internet
Since I’ve only been blogging for about two years, I kind of always thought my actions didn’t have consequences. It’s the Internet! It’s hardly tangible! It's like a surreal space made of wires and fonts! Well, it actually is tangible, as it turns out. And it does affect lives. Amy makes the mistake of pissing off a CEO by writing some nasty things about his friend online. She refuses to take her words back out of principle, so she very publicly gets fired and blacklisted.
2. If you believe you don’t deserve greater things, then you will not achieve greater things
After her firing, Amy settled on blogging and editing for a website with a “modern Jewish angle." Unfortunately, it's steadily falling apart due to mismanagement, and the job is a total drag. Her bosses expect almost nothing from Amy, and she spends the day on tumblr and gchat. Although her work-day is stupidly easy, Amy is also not living up to her potential or exercising her talent; she ultimately brings this mediocracy upon herself, since she didn’t think she could rise back up to her blogger stardom.
3. If you hate your job, make sure you have another one lined up if you plan on quitting
This might seem pretty logical, but people get swept up in the moment and decide to reinvent themselves by a romanticized and impromptu “I quit!” It might feel great at first, but that relief will dissipate as soon as you take a look at your checking account and do the math. Remaining funds + no job = BAD THINGS.
4. Brooklyn is really, really expensive
Like, how do people even do this New York thing?
5. Do dote on your savings account
Take care of it. Love it. Cherish it. Replenish it with at least $20 from your last paycheck each week, because you’ll never know if you lose your job, or quit it, or go through a mid-life crisis 20 years earlier than expected.
6. Don’t get drunk with guys you don’t actually like
No matter how much you hate your date, don’t use alcohol to self-medicate your woes. Because as soon as you cross that three or four drink line, your situation will become the kind of bearable brought to you by fuzzy brain chemicals. You don't want fake bearable. You want to get the F out of dodge and not spend the next morning wondering if you accidentally had vodka sex.
7. Don’t move to the Midwest for a guy
Don’t drop everything you love, including your job and your city, for a guy. UNLESS you know for sure (and even this sureness is uncertain) this person wants to truly commit to you. Bev learns the ugly way when she agrees to move to Madison because the love of her life got into law school.
8. The morning-after pill is probably not something you should be frugal about
I mean, if you think you had unprotected sex, a $40 pill is always worth it.
9. If you ever have an unwanted pregnancy, you can always share your baby with a wealthy lady you just met
This was probably the most unrealistic portion of the plot, and it's set up kind of sloppily. Amy and Bev get to babysit a house while the affluent owners, Sally and Jason, are out of town. In the three minutes that Sally has with these women, she already decides she likes them and that they remind her of her younger self. So when Bev and Amy come back to ask her if she'll adopt Bev's baby, OF COURSE Sally is more than enthusiastic. This probably won't happen to any of us.
10. It’s possible to simultaneously be a good AND crappy friend
Amy is an incredibly flawed character. She’s generous but needy. Motivated, but puts prestige over financial success. Ethical, but not when her life is falling apart. Amy’s selfishness is multifaceted and realistic; although I think a part of her quasi-unlikeable characteristics is Gould criticizing some of the aspects that make us bad adults, I still find Amy fascinating, as well as a definable representation of the post-post modern best friend.
11. You can start over
You know what? If the road you’re on is seriously crumbling in an apocalyptic, terrible way, you can stop using that road. Think of it as re-birth, or a lifestyle bankruptcy, or whatever. You can move back in with your parents while you get your act together. You can get a job that has nothing to do with what you were doing before. It sucks when you fail, but there's definite life after failure. Like I said before, anything is possible.