During an intake interview for a therapy group I was stopped cold by the question, “Do you have a best friend?” This was asked in the context of establishing what existing supports I had, past relationships, etc. Perfectly understandable.
I was absolutely stuck to name someone and, equally telling perhaps, I was very surprised despite evidence in recent years that I have not felt strong, no-more-than-occasional-check-in friendships – for which I assume my share of responsibility. (I don’t mean to offend anyone who has provided friendship of any kind but just ask you to consider whether or not I am your best friend. See?)
This does not feel like self-pity. (Maybe it should, and would, with a little more self-compassion and drilling down to feelings.) No, it’s just interesting – that’s a safe word for it – as I only begin to understand that I experience my emotions through a pile of moving truck-thick blankets.
Think about it (not you necessarily). The last person I could genuinely say was my best friend was Jim (and one of the most earth-shattering things to me at the time of his death was his eulogist claiming the same connection). We had an emotional dust-up at the time to the point where he at least appeased me by editing that a lot of people considered Jim their best friend. It all seems rather childish when I consider how impossible it was for one person to reciprocate “best friend” honours to more than one other person.
Half a generation later this is one of the reasons I won’t rank friends on Facebook as one or more app invites us to do. (It was a quick scan through profile pictures of my Facebook friends that reaffirmed, “Nope, I don’t have a best friend.”)
But of course Mom isn’t on Facebook and, while I certainly cannot deny possible Freud-isms between Mom and her last surviving gay son, I’m glad she doesn’t see all that I post on Facebook or in cyberspace generally.
So, whether or not Jim and I were reciprocal best friends, we can’t be now and no one has taken up the role since his death in 1994.
Since my early involvement in AIDS care-teams and the like I have taken to the idea of “buddies” but the fact that these are quasi-formal matchups means they are less spontaneous friendships than calculated companionships. (The results have, it turned out, been the same.)
Fourteen years ago, around the time of my 36th birthday party when a lot of people (led by me) thought it could be my last, I was matched with a buddy from the AIDSCare Program at Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of Toronto. The resulting friendship has outlasted our respective involvement with the church. It is understood that I am to be the one to call Stephen for a get-together (which from the get-go has usually been a movie and chat). I have no allusions of being Stephen’s best friend. He and his partner have raised two beautiful adopted boys while we’ve known each other and, even when I make the effort to call, I can’t seem to be reassured enough that I’m not disrupting them. Therefore weeks can turn into months.
More recently, since around the time of Craig’s death I guess, I have been paired as a companion with a woman from Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, which I’ve been part of since the spring of 1999. We get together over coffee once in awhile to catch up and I always feel her friendship and genuine care on these occasions.
There are other places I go which, by their very nature, are a bit of a laboratory for social interaction on training wheels. That’s 12-Step meetings. I’m sure I’m not the only one there to notice, however, that I am “sharing” less than I used to before everything rocked my world when Craig died. Does speaking more automatically bring more friendship opportunities? Words and emotions can be both as inviting as a musky cologne and as repelling as the neighbour’s pig farm. It cannot be said, I don’t think, that I have shared too much to bring either reaction.
I have still not begun, I don’t think, the exercise I sat down to do: a check-up of my heart, neither Valentine’s nor the cardiologist’s.
More like “my heart’s desires”.
I desire to desire (it’s at least that well packed) a loving, intimate relationship with another man. While I didn’t acquire HIV from a toilet seat (because you can’t!) none of the many sexual relations I have experienced were in the context of love and intimacy. I must break through the layers upon layers of rationalizations that trick me into having no regrets about that. Love may not immediately follow but the breakthrough would be a start.
My iPod is replete with songs I’ve sung, silently and aloud, in my home bedroom and forty-plus years later, which tell this Carpenter-King-Fanilow (for example) that I get the pain of being without someone special.
I also know that efforts to deliberately find someone in the 1980s, by both newspaper ad and phone connection services, resulted in what seemed like promising meetings but ultimately led to emotional trauma.
Bath-houses, back when they were far less about drugs than sex, nevertheless were not a meeting place of too many suitors.
A review of half-hearted attempts at love twenty or thirty years ago is not very instructive today.
What is this again, but a cataloguing of my heart’s desires?
I’d like to meet someone special someday. I want to be ready for that.
I want to be able to travel more than I have.
I want to write and be published more, focusing first on memoirs (or fiction loosely based on my autobiography).
I want to want to cook for myself better and, secondly, look after my diabetes more proactively.
I want to live like I don’t know how long I have – because it turns out I don’t! Being wrong about this has proven to be wasteful in many ways.
I’ll add more as more is revealed.