Best friends. We all have them, and more often or not, they’re different from us. In modern times, friendship has taken a range of variations, such as friends with benefits, frenemies, Rent-a-friends and buckbuddies (friends you go deer hunting with.) But with such possibilities for configuration, it’s no wonder some friendships find themselves uneven, with unimpressive people associating with people who just have more going on with them. I call these lucky people “sidekicks.” Have I raised your interest? Good. That’s the idea behind an opening paragraph.
Identifying which one of you is the sidekick
You may be asking “How can anyone be a sidekick? Aren’t we all equally important and special? Aren’t we all the main characters in our own stories?” Technically, you’re correct. But if you want to find out whether you or your friend is the sidekick, just make use of the storybook metaphor you just established. If you’re not the sidekick, then your life story will sell better than your buddies. If you more often or not find yourself living vicariously through your friend, then you’re the sidekick in that friendship. Here are a few other tests you can do.
- Look at your social circles: The sidekick will have a smaller one, and will more often or not be only known to other people as the friend of the other guy.
- Compare your daily lives. If you’re not the sidekick, you’ll have stories about stuff you’ve done and you’ll be able to keep the sidekicks attention all night long.
- Do the math and calculate which one of you is likely to die first. The sidekick always dies first. Always.
What to do if you’re the sidekick
If you’re the sidekick in the friendship, don’t let the above point worry you. Most sidekick/main character friendships end before the sidekick needs to sacrifice his life for his friend. But it can be a bit demoralizing to think about your position. I mean, depending on how cool your friend is, it can be like the Earth hanging out with the Sun. That being said, friendship is important no matter what form it takes, and as a sidekick, you are part of a very special relationship. If you’re still feeling overshadowed by your friend, try keeping these tips in mind.
- Support your friend. This is true for all friendships really, but in your case, you should be able to see how much potential your friend has, and do your part to help them fulfill it. It may not seem like it, but the sidekicks support can really make the difference in whatever exciting conflict the main guy gets into.
- Live your life. Just because your life is not as impressive as your friends doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own it. Dr. Watson lived a very fulfilling life, chronicling the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as did some of the Robins. Even Andy Richter still gets to do things now again. If you spend your life comparing yourself to others, you’ll never improve your own life. You never know, one day you might find yourself with a sidekick, and you’ll want to set an example for them like what was set for you by your friend.
- Don’t listen to hate terms like the flunky, or crony. You know who you are, so don’t buy into the labels. Unless you and your friend actually commit crimes or bully others. Then you’re a straight up crony, no doubt about it.
- Know when it’s over. The main guy will no doubt be much busier than you, and there comes a time he may not need your support or have time for your hilarious/thrilling/sexy adventures. When that comes, it’s time to move on, and maybe become a main guy yourself if you’re lucky. Basically, if your friend gets married, don’t bother asking him to come paintballing with you. It’s done.
What to do if you have a sidekick
This next part is for those of us on the other side of the relationship, (myself included. No, really.) This next point is for you. When you realize you have a sidekick, you should also realize that you have a great responsibility. Having a sidekick is like having a younger sibling or a semi-independent pet. The sidekick/main guy relationship has tons of potential to go sour, and as the main guy, a lot of the burden falls on you. But, if we weren’t up for the task, we wouldn’t be the main characters, would we? All the same, here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a good relationship between you and your lesser known friend.
- Don’t be neglectful. I know being the interesting friend requires a lot of time between accomplishing your goals and being the centre of attention, but the attention of main guy can mean the world for a sidekick. And this isn’t just a courtesy, as sidekicks often find themselves endangered and in need of you to bail them out. This could include getting kidnapped by terrorists and needing you to rescue them, or succumbing to depression after realizing they’ll never measure up to your accomplishments. You have to live up to your main guy status by being there for your sidekick just as often as they are there for you. Also, studies have shown that sidekicks who don’t get enough attention from their partners have a higher chance of becoming someone else’s villain.
- Give your sidekick room to grow, and encourage them to that effect. Just because they’re your sidekick, doesn’t mean they don’t have things to offer on their own. Just like flowers will wither and die in the shadow of a big tree, your sidekick can’t come into their own if their always in your shadow. So give your sidekick the opportunity to be better then you once in a while, because odds are there’s one area in life they better than you at. In fact, if you can think of reasons why you’re better known and your sidekick has expressed admiration of these traits, you should share your secrets with them. If you’re worried about your sidekick getting confident enough to no longer need you, stop being selfish. If you don’t let your sidekick a chance to stand out, they will come to resent you for it.
- Don’t forget your other friends. In every relationship, there’s a level of time spent together that becomes unhealthy. This is true with sidekicks as well. Having to be the go-to guy can be a huge burden on people, and your sidekick may not be as up to the task as you are. So go out with your other buddies once in a while, so your sidekick doesn’t have to worry about being your only source of camaraderie.
- Don’t be afraid to reconnect with your sidekick after it seems the relationship has ended. This might only be true for men, who can pick up their friendship right where they left it without hours of catching up with each other, but just because the sidekick relationship has ended doesn’t mean it can’t become something else. You could advance to being friends who are equals. Or, take this situation. I reconnected with my childhood sidekick, and now we go out for drink now and again when we’re both free. So my childhood sidekick is now my adult drinking buddy. And to further prove my point, if we could drink in 6th grade, we probably would have, so it’s like we never missed a beat, to prove my point. Hopefully, if your sidekick has grown in your absence, now you’ll have two interesting people swapping stories, with no one having to fake interest.
I hope you enjoyed this primer of the dynamics of the sidekick relationship. However, periphipyschology, or the study of sidekicks is a grossly underdeveloped field, probably because I just made it up during this sentence. Stay tuned for further installments, as we examine this through the context of different races, genders and ages. Unless this article doesn’t get enough views, in which case I’ll probably write some stupid shit about the last movie I saw.