Vital signs: Who's your friend?

Vital signs: Who's your friend? - How many friends do you have to have before you start killing them? The Talented Mr Ripley took it all rather far in his trajectory to Somebody status. He killed his role model, killed another friend who was on to him for

by PETER YORK

How many friends do you have to have before you start killing them? The Talented Mr Ripley took it all rather far in his trajectory to Somebody status. He killed his role model, killed another friend who was on to him for imposture, killed his lover and would have sliced Gwyneth Paltrow if someone hadn't turned up.

Friends can be tiresome. They can make you waste time doing silly things; they can be an opportunity cost - you could be cultivating the chairman or the kindly venture capitalist who'll incubate your dot.com They can be deeply embarrassing creatures, wild and woolly, way off the careerist message. Worst of all, they can know too much about you.

Maybe that's why there's a certain sort of careerist whose friendship group is so startlingly homogenous that it leaves you gasping for air - like those power-couple parties where the men are all senior corporate types or professionals and the wives are doctors or investment bankers. Don't they know anyone else? Or have they culled the wild and woollies, the drunks, the superannuated hippies, the Hartlepool homeboys and the rest.

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