Tuesday, October 11, 2011

With Friends Like This.....

I recently had the (mis)fortune of running into an old (!) friend. We had worked together at my school for a few years before she moved on, and then on, and then on. She couldn't stay still in one site for too long. She was the proverbial rolling stone gathering no moss.

In the beginning of our relationship she was very supportive of me, because we met as I was coming out. She encouraged me to be myself and to hell with what the world thought. This was in the mid 80s and gay rights were still coming along, and prejudices were still common, but progress was being made, albeit slowly.  She encouraged me to date a variety of men (after all, she did and a couple at the same time) in order to find out what I wanted in a partner.

After she left my school, we lost contact for a while, which was a good  thing, as I had come to realize it was a one sided friendship, of sorts. I believe in equality and fairness in all relationships, including friendships. I would suggest a movie, we'd go. I invited her to my aerobics class, she went. I would ask, she'd go. BUT, she never reciprocated. And when it became obvious she wouldn't, I let the relationship die. I still considered her a friend because of her earlier support, but realized it wouldn't be the type of friendship I was used to.

I would occasionally get a Christmas card from her, as she got my address from a mutual friend. I never sent one back. And time went on.

I first ran into her again about seven years ago at the retirement of a colleague, but we didn't get the chance to catch up, so that was that. When I got an invitation to her retirement a year ago, I decided to go, more to celebrate her career as an educator, but also to visit with her (and see if any other old friends and colleagues might be there.)

She greeted me at the door and introduced me to her husband. (Knock me over with a feather! She settled down with one man?) I told her I was married (legally), she was happy for me and wanted to meet my honey and why wasn't he there with me? (That is another post.)

Three months later I sent her an email saying I was getting divorced. She replied that she was sad for me, but life throws us curves and it's best to move on, it's all for the best, etc..... All those tired but true cliches.

I didn't hear from her again until I ran into her this past weekend at a reunion for some classmates for my school. She had been the teacher for some of them and wanted to catch up with them and some other staff members who came.

After a while, she approached me and wanted to know how I was doing since my divorce and if I was seeing anyone. I was doing fine, I've come along way since the divorce, it's now finalized and all, and no, I'm not seeing anyone any longer.

Any longer? she wondered. I elaborated on my recent situation and how I felt about him.

Oh, no. I wasn't ready for a serious relationship, I was still too needy, after all it had only been a year since my husband left. She took over nine years to be ready for another relationship, she spent all that time with herself, getting to know herself again, because after her first husband left, she immediately got into another relationship and woke up one day wondering where she was, who she was and who this man was she was with. And that would indeed happen to me because it was too soon for me since a year was too soon for her. The more I tried to discuss with her that I felt I had made tremendous progress since my divorce, the more she argued against it. It was still too soon, I still felt I needed someone. I didn't know what I wanted, she could sense my energy. Well, my energy was all confused because I was still hurting from this last man. Part of me was hoping to salvage a friendship, part of me was needing a completely clean break.

All the while I was politely listening to her, I couldn't help but think she was full of shit. Just because it took her so long to grow, didn't mean I had to wait nine years to meet another man, we all grow at different rates. Maybe she went looking for that second relationship, I wasn't actively looking for anything but a good friend when I met him, and happened to fall in love with a friend, which I believe makes for a better long term relationship than actively looking for one. Remember the butterfly? And I am very determined to let my next relationship develop slowly over time, mostly to allow a firmer foundation on which to build the relationship.

And the worst part of what she was saying: no man would want to date me because of my finances, it's a deal breaker. Oh, kick a friend when he's down. Bitch.

But, maybe, just maybe there's a tiny grain of salt in her words. Tiny. While I do think there are some men who wouldn't want to date someone in a financial situation like mine, there are some who would. They would see the value in the person, not the circumstances. But, I would feel more comfortable being able to contribute to a date, and that would make me more comfortable with him in the long run.

I did come away from the reunion feeling worse about almost everything. None of the actual students who showed up were ever in my class, but it was still nice that they remembered me from the school, and it was nice visiting with the staff members who were there. Except one. I do think my friend thought she was trying to help me by comparing our situations, but she didn't end up helping. Or maybe she did. I am reminded of a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  And while she may have had to take over nine years to be ready for another relationship, I don't need to. And while she may feel she needs to juggle several men at once because that is what she wants from life, I don't need to. Nor would I want to. Initially I was feeling worse because of what she said, but her situation isn't mine, she isn't me, and besides the Universe, only I know what's best for me. I am not giving my consent to feel inferior, or like shit, because things didn't work out the way I was hoping.


  1. No excuses for your friend, but I know how hard it can be as a friend no hear someone share their struggles or pains an not have a magic wond to fix it. MAYBE her intentions were good. Hopefully they were. But of course, you're right: all you can control I your reaction. :-). You're so amazing, Jeff! I love your insights. :-)

  2. I do believe her intentions were good, but she has always been a bit egocentric and lived a somewhat hedonistic life. She always was free-spirited and had difficulties with people who weren't as open as she was. I tend to be a bit more grounded, due to my religious background. But, thank you for your comment and for reading.