I worked on this for months and when I finally finished I lost it so here I go trying to remember all that I had written. It may be a little disjointed and rambling but most of my posts and thoughts are anyway. I was pretty happy with how well I was able to express myself so I hope I can do justice to the original.
During these past months lots of different subjects have come up that I didn’t expect to have to deal with. Things that had always been in the back of my mind, that I kept locked away because I would have to deal with coming out to really understand them. The biggest has been how I’ve dealt with friendship. My desire for friends and fear of letting them get too close. The line between friendship and infatuation I’ve straddled with some guys. Then there are twitter friendships. Something that’s been a topic of discussion recently.
Being on twitter has brought into focus how detached I had always been with most friends. For the first time I was talking with guys who said all the things that I had been thinking but never dared to say out loud to anyone. I would have never thought that there was a place like this out there. Guys who are just as scared and unsure as me, who care, are eager to support you, willing to share their thoughts and experiences. It’s hard to believe that you could feel so attached to people you never met but I do. I’m happy when something goes well for them, worry when they seem depressed, interested in the everyday things in their lives. I’m looking forward to meeting some this summer and creating some shared memories.
It’s very addictive too. Surprisingly so. It seems to fill a hole in my life I never knew existed. You’ll all come to understand this as time goes on but as your friends marry and have kids you fall further and further out of touch. Even those you stay in contact with are too busy to get together often. I find that even though I may be busy I can spend days at a time alone. But having tweeps, you’re never really alone. I can be home, drinking, watching tv but I’m also hanging out with a bunch of guys who are as close as my PC. It’s become one of the first things I check in the morning and last I check at night. It may often appear I’m not on line but even if I’m not tweeting, I’m usually checking in to see what everyone is up to. It’s almost a full time job now, one that I actually enjoy and look forward to. I may joke about it but I do sometimes feel that work is interfering with my twitter time.
Recently I’ve seen some tweets asking whether any of us are there for the long haul. In a place like twitter, where you can disappear with just a few clicks of a mouse, are twitter friends real friends? Will they stand the test of time and distance? I have thought about that a lot. Particularly at the beginning when I tweeted very little and was worried about what I revealed and who was listening. Since then I’ve spoken with a few guys about this and have gotten a range of answers. Some think we’re there for a purpose, supporting each other as we discover who we are, tell our friends and families and start to live openly. That once we’ve come out and begun to live as gay men there won’t be a reason to maintain the friendships, at least not in the same way. Others can’t see how we couldn’t remain friends. After sharing the most closely held secret we have, advising and giving each other the strength to face it. Being there through the fear, pain and joy. I’ve learned to never say never but how could you not stay friends with someone who’s been with you through all that. I suppose time will tell.
I always felt the saying “you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends” had a special meaning for me. I have a large extended family and have not always gotten along with them. In fact, there are some that I would have nothing to do with if we weren’t related. I’ve never had what I considered “normal” friendships. When I was young there were only a couple “parent approved” guys I was allowed to play with. I wasn’t encouraged to make friends, in fact it was discouraged. This wasn’t a hardship at the time. I had plenty of sisters to play with and I never really liked the guys in school. Seeing how so many of them turned out it was probably for the best. By the time I got to Jr High I began to feel the need to grow beyond my family. To have connections to people in the wider world. Even though I didn’t particularly like them, I wanted a place in the pecking order amongst my classmates, to be part of the social group.
In High School I didn’t make friends till sophomore year. There were guys (an all-boys school) that I talked about classwork with but no one I would see outside that setting. When we moved to our new house I decided to take a chance and try to make friends with the guys in the neighborhood. From all my previous experiences I expected to be disliked. Still have that expectation in the back of my mind even today. Making friends was something I wasn’t well prepared for. I was and still am to some extent, socially inept. I grew up talking mostly current events and politics with adults. Speaking when spoken to, giving my opinion when asked. Amongst peers that wasn’t how it worked. I didn’t speak sports, cars or music. I was expected to be an active participant, ask questions, change subjects, offer opinions. Some of you may have noticed that until you get to know me I tend to deal in facts, not so much my own thoughts.
In time I developed friendships with a small group of neighborhood guys. They took the time to get to know me and I knew they were making more of an effort than most. I think they knew I was different even if I didn’t realize it myself, yet that didn’t stop them from being my friends. We were very close. We shared hopes and dreams, fears and regrets. Yet I did something I have always thought was the worst thing one person could do to another, I dropped them as friends for my own selfish reasons. I knew that at some point they would question who I really was. I don’t think it would have made any difference to them, in fact I’m sure it wouldn’t but I couldn’t face that. I was going to protect myself no matter who I hurt. Self-imposed isolation I could accept, at least it was on my terms, my decision. I still remember how I’d look away when I saw them calling to me as I drove by. All the times they asked my parents or sisters where I was and for me to call them. I don’t think I will ever really forgive myself for that. But this was my escape, my form of denial. If I start out fresh, with none of the old baggage, maybe I’ll be the person I’m expected to be. Live the life I’m expected to live. These were the first friends I left behind but they weren’t the last. I’ve tried to never be that close to a friend ever again.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Well throughout college and work I met lots of people and inevitably left them behind. Each time I’d start out thinking I’d learned enough about relationships and that I was ready to find a girl I was comfortable with and live life like everyone else. Remember, most of my friends married the girl they dated in High School. But in the end, when I failed miserably, I’d convince myself I wasn’t ready. Maybe I was a late bloomer and just needed another fresh start. Really though I didn’t want to face the truth and more importantly facing that others knew the truth and what their reaction would be.
Through all of this there was one friend who was always there. Yet now that I’ve come out to him and some of my family I find that I sometimes think that maybe, after 30 years, it’s time to end that friendship. I can’t see myself doing it but I do feel that way from time to time.
Something has happened that I never expected. I’m no longer as comfortable with the people I’ve come out to. It’s nothing they’ve said or done, it’s something inside me.
I’ve always censored the things I say. Most people think that I’m just a quiet person, that I will sit in a group and not really engage in the conversation much. Maybe that has become true over time but actually there is a conversation going on in my head. Comments and wisecracks that I think about, deciding if I should say them. Usually by the time I’ve decided, the moment has passed. It was so ingrained I never gave it a thought, but lately I have. I blame twitter and Skype for that. I’ve become so comfortable saying exactly what I am thinking there. That there is nothing wrong with what I’m thinking.
I first noticed it about a month ago. My best friend was over and we were watching Star Trek. I was about to make a comment about Chris Pine. I thought for a second and stopped. I’d never commented on a guy to him or anyone else before, except online. What could he say other than uh huh? Would he be uncomfortable? He still comments on girls we see and I agree or join in as I always have. Should I expect the same from him? But wouldn’t it be halfhearted, just as my responses to him are?
Since then I’ve noticed it more and more with everyone. Yet it seems so much more annoying with those who know. I’m just being my old self and I understand they’re not treating me any differently but I really am not the same person. There’s a part of me that’s surfacing, has surfaced, that is different from who they know. Is any of this talk, straight or gay, off limits? Should it be?
The more I think about it the more I realize I can’t just have straight friends, go to straight places and expect that I’ll find someone I’ll fall in love with and share my life with. I need to explore a world I’ve been taught to be fearful of. But I know it’s the right thing for me to do. And if I’ve learned anything over these past few months it’s that there are guys like me out there looking for the same thing. It really makes so much sense. Everything that’s happened these last month’s proves it. But it still begs the question, do I sensor myself or avoid the topic to some extent with my straight friends? Is this a part of me I should share with just like minded friends? Can I still be friends with my straight friends? I don’t know the answers yet but it’s put a new wrinkle in my current friendships I hadn’t expected.
Thinking about all this has made me realized that there were some friends in my life where my feelings went beyond friendship to infatuation. Have you ever met someone that you really hit it off with? You knew they were straight and you were closeted, but you still found them attractive and your personalities just clicked. You try harder to make the friendship work. Go out of your way to be available to hang out. Develop an interest in a sport or some activity that they like so you have more in common. There have been maybe 3 or 4 guys in my life that I’ve felt that way about. Where I’ve changed myself to be more like someone they would want to be friends with. I seem to do that with all friends. Become the stoner, jock, punk, nerd or preppy I think they would find a more appealing friend, to the point I don’t really know who I am or what I like anymore, but with these few the effort was so much more. It’s been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing that there was someone I felt that way about and who returned those feelings in a fashion. A curse that I knew to them we were just really good close friends and that there would never be more to our relationship.
I’ve been thinking about why I felt that way. Why I invested so much emotionally in them. I know I liked them but why weren’t we just really close friends? There seems to be many reasons for it. I believe the most important is proximity or availability. If you’re in the closet there usually aren’t any like-minded guys in your circle and if you do know any, having feelings for them could cause you to slip up, to out yourself. You may not really have any stronger feelings toward one straight friend than another but being attracted to one and knowing they are straight is “safe”. You can let your emotions and imagination run wild knowing that nothing will happen, your secret remains safe. This was as close to a real boyfriend as you were going to get. The need for that level of emotional closeness is so easily transferred to someone you are already close to. It will find an outlet.
So if there was someone who met those needs, would I still be as emotionally close to those guys but as best friends? Would I still love them, but in a different way. Would I still love Bill like a brother if I had a partner who was the love of my life? It’s a difficult question about the human need for companionship and how you make do with what you have if other avenues seem closed to you. And now, if I do actually find someone, will there be a demonstrable change in these relationships? Will I feel any sense of loss or a distance between us, like falling out of love? Will I subconsciously create distance?
This brings me back full circle to twitter again. This may be unique to our particular group but I think that most of us don’t have any gay friends or at least none who knew we were gay. I know I came into this a little rattled, defense down, with all the friendship baggage described above. I didn’t know what I wanted or expected from it. Yet through our mutual need to talk about something we’ve never talked about, to see if there was anyone who understood or felt the same way, I know I began to develop friendships, my first gay friends. There are times when conversations are really rolling along I want to say let’s meet at x bar for a beer, like we’re in neighboring towns. Then I remember that we’re thousands of miles apart. If we lived closer, I want to believe we would be the group of friends we envision having irl. We’d meet up after work, hang out on weekends, go the beach, plan concerts, ballgames and getaways. If only it could be.
I’ve said things to some tweeps that I firmly believed I was the only one to think or believe and found that in fact I wasn’t the only one. What an indescribable feeling that is, to suddenly find that you’re not the only one. To be comfortable enough to say something that you had always assumed was a little “deviant” for lack of a better word. Then to find out you’re not and you’re off on a conversation you never thought you’d have. Two guys being completely honest about stuff you always assumed would shock people. What a feeling of validation and acceptance. Isn’t that what friendship is all about?
Don’t know if I should admit this but it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve developed minor infatuations for a couple of the guys and through conversations found that, again, I’m not the only one. It’s not really unexpected when you think about it. The conversations and things we’ve shared I never expected to share with anyone other than a partner. Maybe that’s part of the process, learning to open up to someone else the way you would with a guy you’ve been dating for a while and have developed real feelings for. The conversations are similar to ones I’ve had with straight friends. Though, being gay oriented, it’s uncharted territory and not surprising I’d transfer those feelings to the guy I’m confiding in so closely. This brings me back to my original comment about twitter friends. By all the measurements I can think of, other than proximity, they really are real friends.