Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

We have friends. We see them once a year for dinner. We don’t want to overdo it, and at this pace, there is not much danger in doing so.

You’d think we were casual friends but we’re not. We go deep. We just don’t go deep often.

They host one year. We host the next. The women keep track, the men lose track.

Our dinner used to be in December. December slid to January because the holidays were busy and this dinner is not to be rushed, not to be jammed between one party and the next. It's a stand-alone. An occasion.

An occasion that has now eased into February. It could end up in March. In June. The dinner moves but it doesn’t move fast.

The yearly news is stored up for that night.

Kids, grandkids, parents, friends, new law partners, trips taken, trips planned. The conversation is fresh, interesting and rarely lags. Old friends seem new. It’s like we just met but have a lot in common.

Relationships are like red wine and mountain lions. Red wine because they need time to breathe. Mountain lions because they are better when they have space to roam.

With time and space, comes adventure, change and news.

“News” and plenty of it. Tom retired this year or stopped taking new cases, a course that will lead to retirement. That’s news but we have chewed on the subject for a couple of years so it seemed natural. Naturally informed by time and space.

This friendship has worked so well I'm thinking about turning all my relationships into once-a-years. I could start with Sue since she is familiar with the business model.

It wouldn’t take much to sell her on the advantages. Start with, I'd never run short of anything to talk about at dinner. I'd come in loaded with news. I’d be so interesting she’d be wowed and eager for the next dinner 12 months or so from that day.

I would be dressed in something she hadn't seen in a long time, or at least in a year. I might have a new haircut or wear a wig. If I opted for plastic surgery, I’d make sure that the wounds had healed.

After Sue, I’d focus on my friends. It’s not like we’re breaking any new ground anyway. We’ve been telling each other the same stories forever but give them a year off and they might regain their novelty and freshness.

“I’d forgotten how funny he is. He has the best stories.”

I know people like to keep in touch, they’re always saying, “Let’s make sure we keep in touch.” Why? Keeping in touch leads to more keeping in touch. We feel as if we should keep in touch even though we don’t really want to. Rather than keeping in touch, let’s have nothing to do with each other.

Nothing to do with each other until next year. Let’s put something on the calendar. February is booked. I’m open the rest of the year. Open and ready to roam.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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