So when is it acceptable to drop a mate?
All men like to think that they're unfailingly loyal, understanding and loathe to engage in petty vendettas with friends. But two encounters this weekend made me consider the dilemma of standing by a friend no matter what they do.
The gifted American actor and director John Turturro made me think of it. His new comedy, Fading Gigolo, was written with Woody Allen specifically in mind for the lead role of a pimp. And whenever he's asked about Allen's controversial past (marrying his adopted daughter) Turturro says he's able to disengage the person he calls a friend with how that friend may have behaved in his private life.
My friend Patrick is one of the most loyal, amusing and intelligent people I've ever worked with. He's also now a politician and leading architect of UKIP, a party with whom I virulently disagree. In fact I spent years virulently disagreeing with Patrick when we sat opposite each other and, despite rarely seeing eye-to-eye (except perhaps when it came to music), I'm fortunate to call him a friend.
Which is something that other horrified mates now seem to regard as tantamount to a betrayal. You see, Nigel Farage is displaying even more worrying signs of racism (sorry Patrick, I have to use that word) and Patrick is there partly to protect his boss from going over the top, and not always succeeding. 'How can you call him a friend when his objectionable political views are so opposed to your own and to your family's immigrant background,' I was asked this weekend. Polish and Romanian grandparents, since you ask.
But why should what someone thinks and does have any bearing on whether I would continue to call him a friend? Just because I disagree with someone's ethos, must it cause me to reconsider the emotional attachment I have to him?
And then Simon called me yesterday. Simon was one of my closest and oldest friends - from school and synagogue - who dropped me like a stone when I married someone who wasn't Jewish. The bond we had formed was broken, in his eyes, because I had acted in a manner that he obviously found morally reprehensible. He objected to my actions, and thus beliefs (or lack of them) and bid farewell.
For 17 years, anyway, until suddenly he popped up again. Has it taken him that long to forgive me or does he finally realise that friendship is built on something more than shared attributes? The best are built on differences not just similarities, on the ability to ignore rather than judge, on the courage to disagree rather than slap each other's backs.
Still, better late than never. When we meet up, perhaps Simon will admit that he was wrong - or, better still, accept that what I did was wrong in his eyes but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter at all.
Just as I suspect Turturro is morally uncomfortable with Allen's behaviour, so I think Patrick is wrong - and he most definitely thinks I am! But that doesn't mean we can't be friends. What a pity the so-called liberal elite I spend so much time with can't see that indelible truth.