Friends in Low Places

I have here a letter from a young man who I will call David. David is feeling isolated due to the coronavirus quarantine. He writes:

“Hey Sean, I see all these people doing Zoom calls and Face-timing and stuff, and nobody wants to do a video chat with me or whatever. I’m realizing how truly alone I am.

“Since my school cancelled I have been social distancing and you know how everybody’s always saying it’s so hard and how they miss their friends and stuff? Well, I’m not trying to make you feel sorry for me, it’s just hard because I don’t think anybody’s worried about me.”

David, you don’t have to tell me about having no friends. I understand this issue all too well. Probably everyone reading this understands you, too.

Personally, I’ve been through many different friend-phases of life. I’ve been through a phase where I had no pals. I’ve also been through phases when I had buddies crawling out of the cracks, always wanting to borrow 200 bucks.

Friends always want to borrow 200 bucks. I know you think it’s glamorous to have lots of friends, but it’s actually pretty expensive, and non-tax-deductible. When you have tons of friends you are bound to have many who are flat broke.

FRIEND: I’m broke.

YOU: How broke?

FRIEND: For dinner my family goes to KFC to lick other people’s fingers. Can I have 200 bucks?

So we can see that having too many friends is not necessarily a blessing.

I am not making the following anecdote up when I tell you that I was once at a casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, celebrating a friend’s birthday when THIS SAME friend looked at me and said, “I can’t afford to pay my rent this month.”

This was said during the exact moment I was breaking the leg off an Alaskan snow crab that was the size of a Buick Roadmaster on the buffet. My friend asked me and our mutual pal, Dean, for 500 bucks. What do you think Dean and I did as committed friends? That’s right, we did what all good friends would do, we drowned him in the clarified butter sauce.

The thing is, I don’t know if you know this, but you don’t need many friends. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible to have many “close” friends. Neither would it be possible to have tons of wives, mothers, or IRS auditors. No, a close friend is a rare thing, David. Sometimes you only get a few in this lifetime. So the fact that tons of people aren’t asking you to video chat means nothing.

Besides, what’s the big deal about video phone calls anyway? I’ve never met anyone who looks attractive on those tiny selfie cellphone cameras.

Whenever my cellphone camera turns on, I look like a giant Vienna sausage without a chin on the screen. You’re not missing anything special.

Even so, I might be going out on a limb here, but I think what’s really bothering you is popularity. Very few of us were popular growing up. But after all these years I’ve discovered something I wish I would have known. There’s no difference between popular kids and the other kind of kids.

Sure, popular kids might have more video calls, and more attendees at their birthday parties, but they certainly don’t have any more fun than we unpopular kids have.

I once knew a kid named Alan who would’ve given his eye teeth to be a popular kid. In fact, he would’ve given his eye teeth just to be standing within body-odor-smelling distance of a popular kid. He was always tagging along with them. That’s how desperate he was.

But one year, when he had his 13th birthday party, he invited all the popular kids to his shindig and (guess what?) none of them came. Do you know who attended his party? Us dweebs.

That’s right, we dweeb-meisters were all standing around wearing little pointy hats while Alan’s mother made us play Twister, which is a game that should not be played at the birthday party of a 13-year-old boy. It’s just plain weird. Especially when Alan’s older sister, Melanie, got involved.

What I’m getting at is that there are lots of shallow folks who care too much about popularity and having tons of friends and they miss out on the little stuff in life.

These people will do anything to fit in. If all the popular kids, for instance, are listening to a band called the Metal Death Scum Suck Project, they will listen, too. They will even listen if the band sounds like a pack of dying hamsters caught in the conveyor belt of a manure spreader.

Folks with hordes of friends can be just as lonely as guys with only one or two friends. You will find that, as you get older, real friends are hard to come by. And by hard, I mean HARD.

Furthermore, popular kids might seem great, but they miss out on many of the joyous rites of passage that we unpopular kids are fortunate enough to experience. Wonderful things like:

—Getting snapped with towels in the locker room.
—Asking your own aunt to prom.
—Playing tuba.

I promise you, there will come a day when you’ll remember that you wrote me this letter, and you will laugh about it. You will reread my response and you’ll think to yourself: “Wow, I can’t believe I was so worried! I have a great life, a family, and great friends!”

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is: This quarantine sucks. If you’re not busy this afternoon, let’s do a video call. I’m free whenever you are.

Also, I need 200 bucks.


  1. Beth Ann Chiles - April 14, 2020 11:08 am

    Saying an extra prayer for “David” and all the other Davids of the world today. I think everyone remembers a time when they were lonely and it is not a fun feeling. That is why it is so important to have people like you in the world who get it and who reach out to the Davids of the world. Thank you!

  2. Elizabeth - April 14, 2020 11:34 am

    So true! Thanks for the reminder, I needed it.

  3. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - April 14, 2020 12:06 pm

    Aw. I’ll be your friend, Sean – and, no, I won’t be asking you for $200. What with inflation, the price is now. $342.58.

  4. Sheri Smith - April 14, 2020 12:24 pm

    I also have a short friend list. I’ve reconciled that and okay about it. I have a small family and that’s fine too. Your posts make me smile so I consider you a friend.

  5. Bill Heaton - April 14, 2020 12:31 pm

    Hey David, I’ve “BTDT’ (been there, done that). Sean’s right (weird, huh), just hang in there, enjoy each moment (even though it can be hard), and I promise things will get better. Still, going through it can be terrible and it’s hard to see it I know. So, since just being 13 can be excruciating – I prayed for you just now. You see, when I was 13 I felt like you do now, and I didn’t have this whole quarantine thing, so I know it’s gotta be rough. And so, I prayed for you again just now. David, you got this! I’m an old guy, but hey message me and we’ll Zoom sometime.

  6. Marc Beaver - April 14, 2020 12:51 pm

    Yep…this is spot on, Sean. Great advice. I get it. I tried to do the popular thing and failed. But my few friends were genuine and remain so. I’m not sending you any money either…but I’ll keep coming to your gigs, if that’s ok!

  7. Sylvia from Oviedo, Fla - April 14, 2020 1:07 pm

    Another wonderful message. We’ve probably all been there. I know I have and it’s not fun…Now, at age 77,I could care less. I have a husband, four wonderful children , nine grandchildren, and a gaggle of great grandchildren. But I must admit it would have been great to read this column back in the ‘50’s…you are such a gifted person who brings happiness and smiles to many of us every day. Keep up the good work.

  8. Mark Daigle - April 14, 2020 1:36 pm

    Yes, it’s funny how a few years changes your perspective on friends. I’ve had lots of acquaintances in my life, but only had 1 or 2 real friends and I’m 56 years old. Some of the popular kids and jocks of my youth didn’t turn out so good in the long run.

  9. Julie - April 14, 2020 2:06 pm

    When I went to my 20th high school reunion, it was such a revelation to see that all of the popular, cool guys — who had been so intimidating and unreachable in school — were now just like the rest of us: receding hairlines, pot bellies, showing off pictures of their kids, just average, nice folks. How I wish I could’ve gone back in time to show this to insecure, dorky teen me!

  10. David Doom - April 14, 2020 2:29 pm

    If you lend a “friend” money and you never hear from them again, you made a good investment.

  11. Bobbie E - April 14, 2020 2:52 pm

    So true about “real” friends. I’m 84 and over my lifetime I can count on one hand the true friends I’ve had. It’s not the quantity, but the quality that counts. Hold on to the ones you have, they can’t be replaced. Thank you for another good read…always something there to ponder. David is among the majority …I was a typical “wallflower”, always wanting to be someone else, but when you think about it, which I was too young then, God made us to be us, to learn along the way…find out who and Whose we are and in the end, to know we’re ok.
    I call you my friend even tho we’ve not met…but I feel that we have. From your writing, I know your heart, it’s big and it’s kind. That’s enough for me.
    God bless you my Friend😊

  12. AC - April 14, 2020 3:38 pm

    David friends come and go some you remember well others hardly at all. But I will say that during that time when there is no one around a good book can pull you through. By reading lots of different things you never know who you will run into who has the same interest and you will become friends. These are the friends that will last. Getting a hobby is another thing, some of my best friends are people who I have met in hobby clubs. I think you will be fine. You are able to go out, so go to an elderly person in the neighborhood and do some yard work, you can call and find out what they need help with. They might have a cute granddaughter.

  13. Linda Moon - April 14, 2020 3:48 pm

    Nobody should be licking other people’s fingers now….COVID 19…remember? There’s a difference in being popular and being liked, and I’m not referring to a “Thumbs-up Like” on a screen. I’m referring to real smiles and thumbs from real faces and hands, before the internet and quarantine replaced and/or restricted our time together. Some younger people and I have discussed this difference several times. Your reply to David’s letter was spot-on, my “friend”!

  14. Gale Smith - April 14, 2020 6:19 pm

    He should adopt a dog. He will never be alone. He will be entertained. And, he will be loved by a wonderful creature whose ultimate joy is to be with him.

  15. Susan Kennedy - April 14, 2020 7:29 pm

    Hang in there David! You are valued and you are loved!

  16. Bill in FL - April 14, 2020 10:42 pm

    I know about not being popular. I had to work after school since I was 16 and had no time to socialize or play sports. At 129 pounds not many sports interested me anyway. When I was a senior in HS, a friend got me a blind date with one of the rival school’s cheerleaders. Had a couple more dates with her and fell in love. Then no more dates. Went in the Army, overseas and returned home nearly four years later and found out my cheerleader was free and home. Well it turned out my dream girl listened to me this and we have been happily 62 years. So David, hang in there, it will happen……

  17. James e inman - April 14, 2020 11:46 pm

    I have family that loves me and acquaintances galour. I have one honest to goodness, 100%, no doubt about it friend and I feel lucky. Love em, they hard to find.

  18. Melanie - April 15, 2020 3:13 am

    Fir David…It is really, really hard to be in high school. Being a teenager makes it even harder. I don’t think most adults appreciate how stressful it is. Maybe it will help if you have someone to talk to. It may not be your parent(s) but it should be someone who won’t give you a hard time and who you can be yourself around. If there still isn’t anyone that might be a good listener go see a counselor at school. It feels like you are all alone but you are not and it really does help to talk about it. ❤️

  19. Melissa Plumley - April 21, 2020 1:37 am

    Vienna sausage??!! 🤣🤣 Lol! Tell David I care how he is and hope he is doing okay!!


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