Dear Danger & Play:

Most guys my age are really lame. You have written somewhat abstractly about the important of “building your crew,” but never gave any practical tips on how to do so. What is your advice?

Someone could write a treatise about friendship, and I encourage you to read the Nicomachean Ethics. I’ve distilled all of the writing down to one heuristic. Like all heuristics – which are just thinking shortcuts – this rule is not 100% accurate. There are exceptions. NAMALT.  This rule will serve you right more often than it will steer you wrong.

Does he have friendships dating back at least ten years?

Why is this so important?

I hate to break it to you, but we are all diseased. 2Wycked is one of my favorite manosphere bloggers and he writes about narcissism. Yet he seems to miss the joke: He’s every bit as narcissistic as those he observes.

That’s not a dig at him. It’s simply a recognition of reality: A man cannot escape his culture. We all suffer from varying degrees of sociopathy, narcissism, and alienation.

I, for example, am not particularly narcissistic. But you could tell me that your mom died and I wouldn’t feel anything. It takes a lot for me to register anything approaching emotional pain. (One exception: Sarah McLachlan Animal Cruelty Video.)

My friends tend to be highly narcissistic and needy. They need “fed,” as I like to put it.

Yet my friends and I are all self-aware. We know we are sick and we’re OK with it and we form symbiotic relationships based on our respective psychopathologies.

The relationships work because I’m not needy. I don’t need fed. Thus we’re not competing for attention/ego feeding. In public they can go seek out attention and I just do my own thing.

Men who do not realize they are sick are users and parasites. They cannot have functional relationships because they lack the self-awareness to understand that they are takers. They do not “even the ledger.”

Someone who doesn’t have meaningful friendships dating back ten years (for you younger guys, maybe it should be the Five Year Rule) have blown everyone out. What do I mean by blown out?

We all know the guy who shows up at the bar and never buys the first round. Using a form of game theory, he optimizes his free drinks by always letting someone else buy the first round. If you buy the last round, you aren’t immediately spotted as a cheat because you did buy a round. Yet look at a game involving 3 men and 5 drinks.

  • A: Buys 1st round
  • B: Buys 2nd round
  • C: Buys 3rd round
  • A: Buys 4th round (his second round)
  • B: Buys 5th round (his second round).
  • C: [Everyone goes home; avoids buying second round].

There’s always that one guy who puts himslef in C’s position, right? We all know that guy who is never the designated driver. He never buys the first round. He never greases the door guy. He never wants to do something that everyone else wants to do. He always looks out for himself, foolishly unable to recognize that it’s better to be long term greedy rather than to skim off the top in the short term.

Those freeloaders and mooches can get away with that for a while, but eventually your brain picks up on it. We have evolved to play tit-for-tat:

Tit for tat is an English saying meaning “equivalent retaliation”. It is also a highly effective strategy in game theory for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. The strategy was first introduced by Anatol Rapoport in Robert Axelrod’s two tournaments, held around 1980. Notably, it was (on both occasions) both the simplest strategy and the most successful.

An agent using this strategy will first cooperate, then subsequently replicate an opponent’s previous action. If the opponent previously was cooperative, the agent is cooperative. If not, the agent is not. This is similar to superrationality and reciprocal altruism in biology.

Much of this is subconscious. Men don’t usually do a full accounting of the meal when the check comes, unlike women. We are “rough justice” animals. Sure, maybe one guy had a glass of wine while you drank water, but why not split the check 50-50 anyway? Or why don’t I just grab it this time and you can grab it next time?

Who keeps track of who bought the last round? We don’t consciously note it.

When some guy is always in position C, you start resenting the guy, even if it’s only subconsciously. You don’t return his calls and he falls off the shelf.

The guy who can’t name friends he has had for several years has been person “C” in every relationship.

So my advice is this: Look for men who have several long-lasting relationships. Even if the person is a nut, he at least understands how to even a ledger. He’s not going to skip out on checks, use you for your cash, try banging your girlfriend, or pull any of the other bullshit that 90% of modern guys try pulling.

And if you do not have friendships going back decades, perhaps it is not other men who are lame. Perhaps the problem is you.

Read next: Building Your Crew.