I will be the first to admit that I am a freak. Nothing about my life makes sense on the surface. For example, for the last 17 years or so, I have had incredibly intimate friendships with straight men. Now, I identify as bi-sexual, and you might say that being married to a woman (she’s gender queer, so even that is questionable…her gender identity, I mean) makes these friendships necessary to my bi identity, but the truth is I don’t know exactly how bi I am. It’s definitely not 50/50. Maybe 70/30. And the only way being bi-sexual is relevant after staying with the same woman (sort of woman) for the last 24 years is that I lead a bi life style.
In other words, though I am mostly lesbian, my friends are a complete mix.
There’s a whole history of how I came to really know my male friends, which includes me offering a class for all men when I taught writing, and the men in the class were into the men’s movement so I read all those books (Yes, Roberty Bly and Sam Keen, etc, etc) and the freakish thing was just that an all men’s class was taught by me. A woman. A sort of lesbian.
I will say this. The wives were so JEALOUS. I mean, I had the in. I got to listen and watch men relate to each other. And because I was in a lesbian relationship, that was somehow okay with them. I think. At least, they didn’t hold back. I was enthralled.
Anyhow, I have a number of extremely close friendships with men. Don Foley was my guy in Boston, and I feel so lucky to be a woman who gets to know men in this way. There’s a tipping point with guys…what happened with Don is that the last play we co-directed had this meltdown scene. The young recovering female drug addict just starts to fall apart in front of the audience. Don directed it first, and I watched, and then we talked. And then I changed it and we talked. We looked at each other for a moment, in the silence after we’d talked it out, and we both knew that we’d just shown each other what we were like when we had meltdowns. We were good enough friends to know the general facts about our life difficulties, even the embarrassing ones, but this was different. For a moment, watching, I was in his skin. For a moment, watching, he was in mine. And then we looked at each other and knew it was perfectly okay to know this about each other. We both understood. It made us love each other more. It took us from friends who loved to act together and create together and talk about personal things sometimes, to friends who wanted to be with each other just because of who we each were. After that, I wanted (or needed, to be truthful) to be in touch with him more often, and he said the same thing. We didn’t talk about acting so much any more. We talked about our lives. We shared the figuring out, the search, the struggle.
I love friendship. It is my favorite relationship. If you can’t be friends with your spouse…well, good luck with that. That invisible line…when you just want to be around someone because you love who they are, how they make you laugh, think, how sharing new pockets of experience is so warm, if a little scary…I love that. I have always given my heart to my friends, which is probably why getting close to me is hard.
I have to say this. I’m a little mad at Don Foley for making me love him so much and then exiting the scene. I know it’s not his choice, but still. I have been remembering how gentle his voice sounded when we had the most personal talks, and I miss it.
I am sending the thought of his voice and how I loved it on imaginary wings, and I don’t know where it goes, but I hope it finds him.
Losing Don has made me think about my friend Steve, who was so quiet so much of the time. I love the way these quiet men friends will just come and throw this blanket of protection over me. At my wedding, Steve didn’t talk a ton, but he was at my elbow making sure I was okay the whole day. I could feel him, waiting to pull me out of any awkward social interaction. When our wedding dance went on FOREVER, Steve pulled his girlfriend up and kept us company on the dance floor. (Do not use the Indigo Girls’ song Power of Two as your wedding dance unless you want to be up there with all those people watching you for eternity. I’m just saying.)
I’ve been thinking of John, my guy in New York, who called me back asap when I emailed him about Don, and who has told me his life, and who has listened to the hardest, hardest parts of mine.
I had one other male friend, in the mid 90’s, who apparently fell in love with me. It still makes me uncomfortable to say that, because I loved him, and I didn’t see it, but my partner and his old girlfriend have no problem saying it, over and over and over and over, ad infinitum until they finally convinced me, sort of, and then he sort of confirmed it, and well, even I am capable of denial sometimes. But for the rest of the men in my life, I think for them it’s this odd chance, to have a really close friend who is primarily (if not exclusively) interested in the other gender romantically, but who is still a woman. At least, I feel privileged by the trust, by the vulnerability, I feel lucky to have known my male friends so much more intimately than I’ve ever known any of my male lovers.
And it’s weird–all three of these very close friends that I’ve mentioned also needed to be powerful with me, to have me see them as powerful. Two of them told me very clearly the way they needed respect and parity in our friendship, and Don…well, I’m married to someone who can be as accommodating as Don often was, and she often regrets accommodating, so I was careful of Don, and I talked to him about my fear that he would resent my very take charge personality (if you’ve read my fault blogs, you’ll know I am bossy), so he stepped forward with me, and as he got more comfortable collaborating artistically, he got assertive, he disagreed with me. I was actually kind of looking forward to our first fight, because I hoped we’d get even closer if we really disagreed and made a mistake with each other. We’d been so good about apologizing and catching things, no conflict ever became very extended.
Sometimes, because of these men, I forget sexism exists. I forget what it’s like to not be respected. How beautiful is that?
I love, love, love these men. I love my male students in a similar way. And by definition, I am a woman who loves women. (Or sort of women as the case may be.) So, I may be a freak. I may be uncomfortable in homogeneous environments of any kind (I am!). But I get to know these guys, and have a sense of wonder about being close to them.
I hope they feel the same way about me.
PS–Of course, I have straight women friends and bi friends and lesbian friends and gay male friends. I am an equal opportunity relator.