I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately. It started with two email conversations with two close friends of mine. In the first, I was asked if there is such a thing as altruistic friendship, or is there always a value proposition between friends. The second dealt with whether a friend should reconsider a friendship based on the consistently bad life decisions a person we know makes.
As I pondered these questions, I began to wonder if I was really qualified to answer them. After all, I’m 46 years old and I don’t have a best friend.
In fact, I haven’t had a best friend in nearly a decade. Not since just before Gus was born.
I realize most people would assume that Kelly is my best friend. And it’s true that along with being my husband, we are very close friends. But he’s not my “best” friend.
The idea of your spouse as your best friend came up during those philosophical email exchanges. As my friend said, “That friendship includes sex. And THAT changes everything!”
Not only does sleeping with your best friend potentially mess with a good thing, but the whole idea of having a best friend is so you can complain about your significant other.
Having friends is important to everyone, obviously. But I think they’re even more important to gay men and lesbian women. Gay people so often have had relationships with our families terminated that we turn to friends to create new families.
It’s not as if Kelly and I don’t have friends; we have many wonderful friends who enrich our lives in more ways than we could ever count. As a couple, we even have our best friends – John and Sabine. But I don’t have my own.
I recognize that becoming a father has made it that much more difficult for me to have a best friend. Before the boys came along I had a lot more free time. Plus Kelly worked later hours and every Saturday, so I’d go out with friends.
Now, of course, any free time we have is reserved for the boys, or jealously guarded to spend alone with each other.
As I’ve thought about this over the past several weeks, it dawned on me that as I was growing up I don’t think my dad had a best friend in the traditional sense of the word. Sure, he and my mom had – and continue to have – tons of friends. They’re the kind of people everyone likes. And of course as a couple, my parents had best friends: the Browns were a staple in our lives growing up. But dad didn’t seem to have his own.
I know he had had one once. It was Uncle Dan, who wasn’t related to us whatsoever but for whom one of my brothers is named. He was the man who had introduced my parents to one another. But Uncle Dan died when I was in high school.
It wasn’t until he had retired and all his kids were grown that I’d argue my dad really had a best friend. George and Dad were inseparable until George’s death a few years ago. Maybe Dad finally again found someone with whom he had a lot in common. George not only had worked at the mine with Dad, he was also Greek.
Of course, in all the years they hung out together, I never heard my dad actually refer to George as his “best friend.” I just always assumed.
The weird thing about this whole situation is that I feel like I need to have a best friend for my kids. Like somehow they’ll miss out on me not having one.
But my logical side reminds me it is precisely because of the boys I don’t have the time to dedicate to foster a deep, meaningful friendship.
I just read the above paragraph back – Jesus I can be a whiner.
The fact of the matter is that the boys are my number one priority for the rest of my life. And over the next 15 years or so, my focus on them is going to be laser-sharp. Not having a best friend isn’t the first sacrifice I’ve made and it won’t be the last.
Besides, I know from past experience that best friendship isn’t planned, it just happens. It’s a little like falling in love that way. One day you’re sitting in the movie and you lean toward your buddy sitting next to you to whisper some smart-ass comment and you realize, “Hey, he’s my best friend.”
So I’ll wait. I’ll focus on the task at hand – raising the boys – and I’ll keep myself open to opportunities. Who knows, maybe my best friend is reading this column right now.