Thursday, October 01, 2015

Friends and Lovers

When I was living in Los Angeles and very active in the gay "scene," many of my friendships stemmed from having met someone in a bar, gone home with them, and our then deciding—either before, during, or after our time in bed—that we would like to get to know each other better aside from the sex. Usually, the element of sex eventually dropped out of the equation completely. This was simply the way gay culture at the time worked and I suspect still does. It's not coincidental that in my Dick Hardesty mystery series, many of Dick's closest friendships began with sex.

As a minor digression, I find it fascinating that the gay lexicon has changed dramatically when it comes to the description of long-term relationships. The word "lover," which was used for most of my adult life, was almost totally replaced by "partner," which I personally prefer, and "lover" is now almost never used.

Of all the relationships I've had in my long and checkered career, only two "partners" stand out as having a major impact on my life: Norm, who was my first real relationship, lasting six years, and Ray, which lasted nine years, on and off—mostly off due to the alcoholism which inevitably destroyed him. After our breakup, Norm and I segued from partners to loving friends until his death in 2010. I realize that I have largely fantasized my relationship with Ray, who I did indeed  love deeply—seeing only the incredibly sweet, kind, loving young man he was when sober and ignoring the monster he became when drunk. For those of you who follow my books, Ray was the inspiration for Dick's partner, Jonathan—which is hardly surprising since I, in my fantasy world, am Dick.

In our lives, if we are lucky, we have many friends of both genders and a variety of sexual orientations. If we're very lucky, some of them remain friends or a lifetime. 

The word "friend" covers a broad spectrum of, for want of a better word, "intensities." Simply put, some friends are closer than others. Friends tend to come and go. A mark of a true friend is one who may have drifted away for whatever reason but who, when re-meeting after many years, can pick up a conversation in mid-sentence as though the intervening years never existed. I've been blessed to have several of those, and the re-establishment of the friendship is a joy hard to describe.

But throughout life there are relatively few we consider true "best friends." I've had three in my life—and I hasten to add that the term does not apply to lovers/partners, who are in a special category of their own. 

When I was in high school, my best friend was Lief Ayen, who looked like a young Charles Laughton, if any of you are old enough to remember him. We were both outsiders who knew we did not belong, and this awareness and our shared sense of offbeat humor was the glue that bound us for many years. We eventually drifted apart and, when I tried a few years ago to find him in hopes of re-establishing our friendship, I learned he had died. And even though it had been well over 50 years since I last saw him, I felt a great sense of loss.

Russ Hogan was my best friend in college and for 40 years thereafter. We drifted apart for reasons I've never fully understood, but for which I always felt oddly guilty, and I only learned of his death through a mutual friend. I still miss him terribly.

My current best friend (of coming up on 20 years) is Gary Brown, who is also my webmaster, my designated listener-to-my-real-and-imagined woes, and my run-to-every-time-I-have-a-problem-with-my-computer (which is at least several times a week) guy. He is infinitely kind, generous, and patient with everyone, but I know I must tax his limits frequently. It is simply understood that should either of us ever need anything, the other will be there.

Why, then, you might ask, are we not lovers/partners? Because the key element necessary for lovers/partners—missing between best friends—is sexual attraction/romantic love. Gary is the brother I never had. I can’t imagine brothers being any closer. But again the element of romance is totally lacking. (On a trip to Paris, arriving at our hotel after having been awake for over 30 hours, we were mistakenly given a room with only one double bed. Though we were exhausted, we waited four hours for them to find us a room with two double beds. Sharing a room, fine. Sharing a bed...uh, no way in hell.)

I hope you are blessed with at least one "best friend" who brightens and eases your life and without whom you cannot imagine your life.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

This was a lovely post, D. =) Friendships are hugely important, especially good, long-lasting ones. Ralph started off as a friend and we got to be very good friends during the first 3 1/2 years. It was only after that time when we came out to each other did we begin the relationship it's turned into. I'm grateful for the time we spent as friends and without all the sexual tension that often comes with that.