This is not about the television show "Friends" which ran from 1994-2004 and what it might be like with a gay twist. This is about life. Though, ironically, many of their episodes' plot lines I now find mirrored in my life, and maybe that should be a new direction for future posts; "My Life as a Sitcom."
A friend shared an article on Facebook and it caught my eye. Friends of a Certain Age (click here) by Alex Williams ran in the NY Times on July 13, 2012. It hit home. In short, it talked about how difficult it is for adults to make friends. As children it's easier. They are trapped in classrooms for six hours a day, and there is recess and lunch, so the children are somewhat forced to find someone to play with. Throughout middle and high school there are still more opportunities to make friends; sports teams, club activities, study partners, etc. And these same activities last through the college years. And many of our adult friendships are formed during this period of life.
Post-college adds a twist; relocation for that wonderful career, or even the career itself can affect friendships. Having relocated many times in my early years, I understand all too well how that can affect friendships and the ability to sustain them. My ex and I were both teachers and often the fatigue of being "on stage" all day in front of the students, trying to keep their attention, and all the grading plus the housework tired us out so we hardly went out. Friendships atrophied.
Following this stage in an adult's life is the family. A spouse enters the mix and then usually children, though not necessarily in that order. But, both can play factors in finding and maintaining adult friendships. But, what if the spouses don't get along, or maybe they get along too well? What if the children meet through school, perhaps, and the adults get along well, but then the children have a falling out. What do the parents do?
Other factors in sustaining adult friendships came up in the article with financial inequity being one of the biggest. It can limit what the friendship is able to do. Vacation together? One friend is talking a fifteen day cruise in the Greek Islands, the other a one day cruise in the Channel Islands. Maybe cruising together is not a good idea.
Add a divorce or death of a spouse into the picture and the newly-single adult finds him/herself starting over. And it becomes more complicated the older one is. As adults we have grown, hopefully, and now look at things differently. In our youth, loyalty was a prime factor in a friendship, "I've got your back and do you have mine?" Later on, it becomes more complex. We learn we no longer tolerate certain personality disorders, egomania, for example. Our definition of a friend has narrowed, we want someone with similar values and interests.
I no longer am in contact with any of my closest college friends for various reasons, family and their children's education among them. Via Facebook, I have reestablished contact with other friends from college with whom I'd spent less time, but enjoyed my time with just as much and am grateful for this renewed contact. And over the years I've moved away from the gay male community, due to the pressures of work, the house, changing interests and the lack of time and money to actually step out and socialize.
The article was very well written, yet as a gay man I was invisible. That was one wrinkle the writer didn't address in his article and as a straight man, he probably wouldn't think of it. As I am newly single, and looking to make friends, yet with an eye for a possible partner, and I don't mean tennis, how do I go about sorting out the wheat from the chaff? As I begin stepping out into gay male social circles, I find myself drawn to certain men more than others, though not necessarily the types of men that I am physically attracted to like muscle bears or daddies, and I find myself invariably thinking "Hmmmm, is he Friend? Mr. Friend-With-Possible-Benefits? Mr. Let's-Just-Be-Friends-at-these-Social-Events? or maybe, possibly, could he be Mr. Right?" This adds a whole different gay dimension to the Making-Friends-as-an-Adult conundrum.
Stepping into a social event gives me one advantage, I can get a 'feel,' not cop a feel, for the guy at the first introduction. Plus, I also get to see him interact with others, and if he's been at an event with this group before, I can see how the other members react to him. And then, I have to just trust my instinct. At these events, I meet men I do want to find out more about; more about their life, more about their work, more about their interests and do we have anything in common? And then just let it go from there. And hopefully, it will be mutual.
But, using social networking sites and apps to find gay male platonic friends is a different story, and I've already addressed the literacy problem. Sometimes, the photos can give me an instinct to the man, sometimes not. It's the actual meeting that can tell me what I want to know; the real first impression. For the most part, the apps are for hooking up, which is not on my agenda right now, and many men, assume that just because I am 'advertising' for friends only on an app designed for hooking up, I truly don't mean what I write. Then I become a challenge, they want to wear me down, which leads us back to the whole adult literacy issue and then the difficult part of getting out of a meeting that isn't going well.
As all of my life seems to be in transformation; this, too, will take care of itself.
In its own way.