I have often compared friendship and dating. In fact, finding people who I really truly value and want to have as really close friends is more difficult than finding someone with whom I would have the other kind of relationship. Maybe part of it depends also on how one defines dating and friendship, so maybe I should start there.
When I talk about close friendships, I am talking about cultivating relationships where, from an actual psychological perspective, there are various forms of intimacy. Keep in mind, the term intimacy is not just confined to couples and sex – even physical and emotional intimacy. I need to connect to people who not only share some of my various interests, of which there truly are many, but with whom I really can connect intellectually. There needs to be honesty. The best ones balance me, and can get me to relax. It sounds like I’m asking for the moon, but I know they exist. Rare as they are, I have met them. For these people, I would move mountains and keep their darkest secrets. Jesus. Sounds like criteria for a relationship.
Dating. Well, this can be a much more superficial pursuit for me. My standards for an actual relationship are the same as the close friendship + throw sexual compatibility into the mix. My standards are pretty high. Things go awry either with the conversation or the sex. I generally do not just date well. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t have to have any kind of emotional connection to have sex with someone, so let’s just say that has worked better with the guys than the ladies. (No, I’m not bisexual. That’s just one example of a bad-decision making with alcohol involved.)
Do you see the conundrum? There is a reason that all of my “friends” are straight. It would be easy to want to cross a line otherwise. That’s the dangerous downside to the whole “gay thing.” The best friend is a potential girlfriend. Hahaha…*groan*. (Then again, I have a guy friend who has a joke about straight women, “so is spaghetti, until it’s wet.” Yeah, well, sometimes that is more trouble than it’s worth. Been there, done that. But I didn’t tell him that.)
I have had a few really close friends in my life. Outside of relationships, I can think of 3 that have had impacts on my behavior today. Two of whom, no longer speak to me, for unknown reasons. I lost both of them at different stages in my life.
I’ll get the one still with me out of the way; it’s the one from high school. (Ummmm, let’s call her Victoria.) Yup, the captain of the cheerleading squad, whom I was in love with for years, best friends since 2nd grade. I don’t tell her everything anymore, but we are the only ones we actually talk (like on the phone) and text to from school. We’ve been friends for over 30 years. She certainly doesn’t know I ever felt that way. (That experience does make me a bit wary of getting too close, because of the gay-straight thing.)
The other two, well, one was right after high school. I’ll call her Elizabeth. (She was one of those girls who was absolutely gorgeous and had no idea. Never dated. Spent her weekends home from college baking cookies with her mother.) She wrote to me while I was stationed in Texas, and was always excited about me coming home to visit, because she was always home on weekends.
I decided to come out to Elizabeth on one of my trips home. I did it in “hypotheticals.” She and I were supposed to go out with my ex and her girlfriend that night, so I wanted to prepare her. I said “what if I told you that hypothetically, I might be gay.” Her response: “Hypothetically, I would be fine with that. It wouldn’t matter to me.” When I went to pick her up that night, her mother, who at one time absolutely loved me, barely let me get on the sidewalk by my car before telling me from the doorway of the house that Elizabeth had to work late and wouldn’t be able to go. I never heard from Elizabeth again. I saw her at a cross-country meet for our siblings the following year, and she looked right through me.
The other was when I was when I was in my mid-20s. She was 13 years older than I was. (Hmmm, Jenn sounds like a good name.) She was actually my boss, and, unlike E., she knew she was beautiful. We were there for each other through breakups, anxiety attacks, and deaths. I briefly lived with her and her kids after one breakup. We were in the “do anything for each other” category, then there came a point when I started a new relationship, and our friendship started to tank.
I was called into HR, and Jenn said that I was being suspended because she was worried about me and whatever was going on with the relationship was affecting my job performance. There was something about how she said it though that wasn’t about caring. I retaliated and filed a complaint with her profession’s licensing body, because Jenn allowed me to do much more unsupervised than was within my scope of practice. Needless to say, that relationship ended. Jenn and I would hear about each other through a mutual friend for a little while after this all happened.
To this day, I have no idea what happened with those two relationships. I also dream about them with a good bit of frequency. I guess maybe it’s the lack of closure? I have considered trying to contact them both. I never do though.
I honestly know I don’t put a whole lot of time and effort into building relationships. I think it’s the rare bird who comes along who compels me to do otherwise. Do I tend to be guarded? Yes. Am I more so now, because I have something a bit worse than being a homo to disclose? You betcha. Again, it takes someone special for me to be able to allow the vulnerability to build a true friendship. With the knowledge of my mental health issue, does that person feel safe with me? Truly safe? Would that person trust ME with their life? That is the question now. Otherwise, the friendship becomes one-sided.
So this is why I have a lot of close acquaintances and surface level friends, who suppose they know me well, because of the information that I choose to let them know. But the reality is that I prefer things the way they are, for the time being. Call me a coward, call it cold. Just don’t call me lonely.