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?