Monday, July 18, 2011

Friendship

I think I'm a pretty good friend. And, a pretty good long-term friend, too. I have friends I've known for over .... gulp .... thirty years, and even though I now live clear across the country from some, we can pick up a conversation like we just had margaritas last night.

I count my friends, true friends, good friends, on maybe one hand, if I leave out Carlos and my family, and his, now my, Tia Gloria. And there isn't anything I wouldn't do for them, nor, do I believe, anything they wouldn't do for me.

Now, all my friends haven't been that way. As a gay man, I've lost friends who couldn't 'deal with' my being gay--whatever that means. I remember coming out to a friend, who said, "Hey, that's no big deal. Makes no difference to me" and then never spoke to me again.

His loss, I say now, though at the time I wondered if I should tell anyone else my secrets. But I did, and those other friends, when I came out, said things like "Duh" and "I knew that" and "So?" And our relationships never changed. Well, except for one, or two.



One friend, I'll call her Meg because, well, that's her name, seemed perfectly fine with my gayness, my gay-itude, my gay-ology, even though she's Catholic. But then she's the kind of Catholic who believes in pre-marital sex with numerous partners and birth control; at least until she had children. Then she became the arch-Catholic, religious zealot right-wing Republican.

And, yet, I still considered her a friend. After I moved to Miami we would correspond occasionally though emails, and would have rousing discussions on politics; that was fun. I love a good conversation/debate/argument. But, when I began talking about marriage equality, she suddenly changed. Her "religion" wouldn't allow it.

And she wouldn't, couldn't, didn't see that her religious viewpoint should have no bearing on the laws in our country. When I explained that gay couples can't marry, aren't entitled to the Social Security benefits, sometimes cannot inherit, the same rights and privileges and benefits breeders like her take for granted, her answer was to say, "Well, it sounds like all you're concerned with is money."

I reminded her that in many states, gay couples have no legal rights to visit one another in hospitals, make health care decisions for one another; many things that aren't about  money.

Her response, literally, was, "Well, you and Carlos could always adopt one another."

That sealed the end of that friendship. If she couldn't, wouldn't, didn't understand that two men, or two women, could love one another and deserve the same dignity and respect as heterosexual couples, then we couldn't remain friends. How can you be a friend to someone who considers you 'less than'.

Cut to a year or so later, and I was email chatting with Meg's sister, Cheri, another lapsed, now vehemently radical Catholic. It was about the time Obama was running for president, and when marriage equality was legal in California. The conversation turned to politics and gay marriage, and again, of course, she disapproved for religious reasons, even though as a single gal, she'd been a wee bit promiscuous, and had even dated  a married man.

When we argued gay marriage, and she is oh-so-against it, I replied to one of her emails, "We're here, we're queer, we're getting married in California."

And she responded, because she thought I meant Carlos and I were getting married, "Good luck with your fake marriage."

I know! And I replied, "I remember being at your wedding and wishing you all the joy in the world, but you can't do the same for me?"

"Whatever," she said.

And the friendship door closed there, too.

I say this because I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately, mainly about Carlos and his circle of friends he had long before there was a Carlos-and-Bob. And he has recently gone through his own sort of trifecta of friendship scenarios of his own.

Carlos wants to start a non-profit group so he can do HIV education and presentations in rural areas of South Carolina where HIV and AIDS are on the rise, but rarely talked about. He talked with friends and colleagues about it and everyone was supportive.

One friend that he's known for years, who can be quite selfish, and quite to himself and about himself, suddenly, out of the blue, sent Carlos a free laptop to use in his work. No questions, no money; just a friend helping out a friend, no questions asked, and nothing needed to be reciprocated.

Right after that, another friend with whom he used to work, was passing through South Carolina and came to stay with us for a day or so. They picked up their friendship liked they'd just seen each the day before, not six years before. The conversation, the in-jokes, the pet names. It was fun to see this rekindling of a friendship.

But then he had the other kind; a de-kindling, of sorts, if you will.

He and another friend from Miami have been great friends, for going on twenty years, or so, and have always joked and teased and played. But apparently, he took the joke too far, and sent her an email about feces. Poop.

This, apparently, for his friend, was enough to end things. It was disgusting, she said.

Inappropriate, she said.
I'm done, she said.
Goodbye, she said.

Over a poop mail.

So, all this got me to wondering. How do you define friendship? How valuable is it to you? And are there any rules that, if broken, would end a friendship? Is it something you value, or something you use until you no longer need it and then toss it aside?

9 comments:

froggy said...

My daughter was out of school for 5 months. She had a headache that would not go away. Took us 13 different doctors until we found an answer. It was a hugely worrying and upsetting time. During that time I did before and after school care for a friend. Never once in all that time did she ask after my daughter's welfare. That says a lot.

Cubby said...

Here are a couple of analogies I think of to define friendships:

Friendships are like leaves floating along in a stream. Sometimes they travel along together. Sometimes one will get side-tracked or caught up in something while another will continue downstream. And sometimes the leaves come back together as if they were never separated.

It's not easy to define a friendship between two people. To use an algebra analogy, a friendship is like an equation with two variables. You can define only one of the variables, while the other one is out of your control, and it is up to the other person to define. Sometimes the equation works perfectly. Sometimes you have to tweak it a little or a lot to make it work, and sometimes it's just plain unsolvable no matter how much effort you put into it.

Buck said...

I really get frustrated with these folks who let their religion take the hit for their own bigotry. I wonder how they'd feel if their religion was suddenly okay with same-sex marriage?

todd carr said...

hypochristians are the worst, I don't even understand the concept of 'moral superiority'

they are leading empty lives in some ways, glad my life is filled w/ dramatic friends who fight but also love another for differences and similarities.

designing wally said...

People often remember what they do for you, and seldom remember what you do for them...

A friend is someone that mostly remembers how their life has been made better for having you & can't imagine what they have ever done for you.

I'm quite sure for a long time now that JPB is a good friend.

Kyle said...

Mutual respect, compassion , and empathy are a must. Intelligence, worldliness, and a sense of humor are pretty important too. I guess you can tell we don't have too many friends Bob. That's okay, in a real pinch, the few we do have would risk their lives for us and we would do the same for them. Quality, not quantity is important.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

True friendship, the ability to accept someone for who they are, is the key to friendship.

Ron said...

Bob,

Friendship is something I think a lot. Recently someone who I thought was a friend dropped me as a friend because he said he didn't like something (which I forget) said in my blog. So much for THAT friendship that apparently never was. Five years ago I moved to the east coast "gay capital" of Rehoboth Beach because I thought I would have more of a social support as I grew older. Didn't happen. Unless you're in a clique (usually the Washington D.C. crowd), you're not "in." Others I have found are only interested in me for what I can do for them. I have found that the only true friends I have are my partner, my brothers and a couple of guys from my school days. I don't know if I can count new blogger buddies but that's it. I have a few straight friends too. Maybe it's me.

I agree with Bucko (aka Ken), that the ability to accept someone for who they are, is the key to friendship. Not for who you want them to be or what they can do for you.

A very insightful posting Bob. I like your way of thinking.

Mind Of Mine said...

Friendship plays a big part in my life, they are the family I choose but over the years, I have had fall outs with some and forgive me for my rampant generalization but it was always the girls, suddenly finding something I did wrong, or picking out on little flaw and honing in ot. Girls are bitches.