Saturday, March 24, 2007

Analysis of Friendships (or a very long rambling post)

Sometimes I'm amazed that I ever met txrad, that I was immediately in love, and we've been together almost 17 years. I'm not so good with friendships and I constantly analyze myself to figure out why I'm so content with virtually no social life.

I only have one friend from high school with whom I've stayed in touch. Her name is Elizabeth (she sent the picture of Georgie in the cat post below) and we communicate almost every day via email or instant messaging. I was so excited to graduate high school and get away from that godforsaken town. Elizabeth and I wrote letters to each other for the first few years after graduation.

Five years later I went to London for 14 months. I felt as if I had a new life. I came out of the closet while in London and formed a bond with my co-workers. There were some fun parties and drinks at the pub quite often. I became very disconnected from my life in the states. I was also not enjoying my exchange of letters with Elizabeth. I know the reason was because I was gay and I had not yet made my orientation known back across the pond. So my letters to her were omitting a key aspect of my life.

I sat down one day to compose what I expected to be my last letter to her. It was the usual letter about what was going on in my life, and I told her I was gay. I wrongly assumed that would be the end of our correspondence and the last thread of contact with anyone from that high school would be cast away.

About two weeks later I received a letter from her and I was very surprised. The bomb I dropped about being gay didn't exactly detonate. It was as if I had announced that I like spicy mustard or something. And I felt rather silly for imagining the news would be received harshly. And so our friendship and regular communication continued -- only now it felt more real and honest.

I came back to the US in 1984 and slowly began to build a life here again. It was much easier as a gay person who was at least open about it with new friends. Once while out seeing a band at a club, a girl approached me to chat and I felt reasonably certain she was flirting. I nipped that in the bud immediately by mentioning something about my boyfriend being at the bar in the other room. Then she shifted gears and instead of leaving me alone as I expected, she continued chatting and we became friends. Rather than use her real name, I'll call her Ms. S.

This was 1985 and I was involved in a rather large circle of gay and gay-friendly people. I was constantly being introduced to new people -- some would drift out of my life as quickly as they entered it; others would be friends of mine for a few years longer.

I enjoyed Ms. S because she was loose and carefree and we both enjoyed music. Some of my experiences with her I treasure, such as our meals at an Indian restaurant. In 1988, at that restaurant, she introduced me to a guy who had just turned 18 -- I was 28. He and I had a fling for about 2 weeks, and then a longer period of major confusion and frustration, with an occasional fling thrown in just to really fuck things up. The relationship was doomed and that hurt. It seemed to hurt for years, but in reality it was only 2 years later when I met txrad. That's the part that really blows my mind: how, in retrospect, those two years seem to have lasted an entire decade now.

One of my other good friends was preparing to move to Denver. He encouraged me to move with him. It seemed like a good idea because I needed to get away from things for awhile. Ms. S was starting to get on my nerves frequently and it usually involved financial matters. Off to Denver I went -- hoping to find love, new friends and more adventure.

During the 18 months or so that I spent in Denver I did meet some new people and had a couple of friends with whom I was close. I hit it off particularly well with a woman (I'll call her Ms. K) I met there and she decided to move to San Diego and convinced me to move with her. I said goodbye to some of the friends I made in Denver, packed my bags, and moved. What's odd is that I didn't say goodbye to everyone. For a few people I just apparently disappeared. I had one close friend, another woman I met in an art gallery, and I was hoping we'd stay in touch. We basically hung around each other almost daily, and yet after I moved, I never heard from her again.

Ms. K and I found a cute little bungalow walking distance from the beach and began settling in. We'd barely been there a month when I met txrad. Ms. K and I had gone out to a club. I was sitting alone at a table sulking for some reason, and just staring into space when I suddenly noticed someone standing in front of me. It was him. Little did I know of the impact he would have on my life.

Ms. K seemed thrilled that I had the hots for someone. That thrill was short-lived. After a week or two, she became annoyed with me, and insisted it was just a temporary infatuation. The friction continued to build until one day she threw a diversion in my path. We had recently taken a day trip to L.A. together and she fell in love with the town and wanted to move there. My long-term plan in moving to San Diego had been to use it as a stepping stone to L.A. as well. So we plotted a move.

I made it quite clear that we'd only live together until I found a job and then I'd get my own place and txrad would then move to L.A. We found quite a nice apartment in Hollywood and I started the job search. Every weekend I'd drive back to San Diego to be with txrad. This annoyed Ms. K and our troubles started again. The situation quickly escalated into warfare of sorts.

Finally, after several weeks of searching for any kind of work, I landed a position at an advertising agency as a data entry clerk. The pay wasn't much, but I could afford an apartment, and more importantly, txrad could quit his job at Wendy's and leave San Diego to be with me. Thankfully, he did. And we proved Ms. K wrong. The friendship disintegrated.

Now, back to Ms. S. She had visited L.A. a few times and lived there a few times, and visited us there a few times. She had no problem accepting us as a couple, and there was no love lost between her and Ms. K., so in that regard she was our ally. Nevertheless, my level of agitation with Ms. S was increasing. I was settling down, had stable employment for the first time in years, and I was happy. Ms. S continued to drift from job to job, city to city, basically just surviving on the kindness of others. She was a skilled manipulator and took advantage of my easy-going nature and generosity on many occasions.

I can recall one such incident, long before I even moved to Denver. I was visiting her in L.A. after she had moved there (one move of several, back and forth) and she suggested we take a road trip to San Francisco for a long weekend. Gee, that sounded like fun, so we hit the road. We weren't even outside of Los Angeles County when she suggested we stop at a donut shop. She began digging around in her purse and proclaimed with some amusement, "Oh, I only have three cents." Not only did I pick up the tab for the donuts, but the rest of the trip was also on me. This was a typical scenario.

Another time I loaned her my credit card so she could get a plane ticket back home when she was down and out. She was going to charge the plane ticket, and once home she agreed to mail the card back to me. She was true to her word on that one. But when I got my credit card statement I knew it wasn't me that had gone out to eat, and also purchased a pair of shoes, and a few other things.

After a few years of working and getting promotions at my agency, and then moving to Austin after accepting a position at another agency, it just really bugged me for some reason that she continued to drift from place to place, holding down a crappy job here and there for a few days before moving on. She never seemed to take any responsibility for her actions. I still liked her as a person and a friend, but I just didn't want to be around her. We'd have long phone conversations but whenever she mentioned coming for a visit, it got to a point I'd cringe and make up some excuse for why it wasn't convenient.

She found a work-around for that little problem. I got in the car one day to run to the store and before I got out of my neighborhood, I saw someone in a car waving at me. I stopped because this person was vaguely familiar. It was her. She had driven down from Arkansas for a surprise visitation. I don't know about the rest of you, but konagod does not like those types of surprises -- particularly when they are coupled with an expectation to provide some food and definitely the housing aspect of this "vacation" she had planned.

A year or so after that I seem to recall having a voice mail from her that she was in Dallas and was on the way to Austin for the weekend and wanted to see us. (Read between the lines.) Instead of calling her back, txrad and I packed some bags, got in the car and drove to Houston and Galveston for the weekend.

There was another similar incident about 3 years ago in which she and her husband planned a trip to Austin, showed up, and expected a red carpet to be rolled out. Rather than come right out and ask if they could sleep here, she just lingered, waiting for an invitation. I was annoyed and finally got up and went to bed, leaving txrad to deal with the situation. He stood his ground and finally Ms. S and hubby left in a huff I'm sure.

I don't think I've seen her again since that time. We spoke a few times on the phone for a couple of months afterwards. She moved to L.A. again, then moved to Dallas (which made me nervous), but she was never doing anything to improve her financial life and I'd just had enough. I had bought her a CD for her birthday 2 or 3 years ago and I never sent it because she was living with some guy after separating from her husband, and she was talking about packing up and leaving in a few days. I never knew her address, or if she'd even be there long enough for the package to arrive, before she moved on somewhere else. Finally, I quit returning her calls and I quit responding to her email messages. Her friendship was literally stressing me out and I have enough stress in my life.

So, dear readers, do I have the problem? Or do I just attract crazies and other people who succeed in making me insane? The people I consider to be my best friends all seem to be as aloof as me. Most of them I haven't seen or spoken to in years. I'll get the occasional email or holiday card and that's about it. The friends in my life with whom I had the closest connections all went sour for one reason or another. Another thing I've noticed is that the friends who actually had the most negative impact on me were also the ones who provided the catalyst for some of the most positive changes in my life. It's ironic that I might never have met txrad were it not for Ms. K and I moving to San Diego from Denver. And that friendship which started out so strong, lasted 2 years at best.

These days, my new friends are.... bloggers. Some of them (or some of you) I may someday meet, and hope to. Others I'm sure I'll never meet. But I'm OK with it. It's safe and it's easy. There's no baggage. You stop by my blog and chat awhile and I'll visit yours and chat awhile. No advance notice required, no urgent need to change any bed linens, I don't need to tiptoe around the house at 6:00 am, and you won't keep me awake by chatting long after I've gone to bed. No inconveniences whatsoever. It's relaxing and easy. And it's quite strange.

Oh, that graphic I inserted above... "Doesn't Play Well With Others" -- it's a sticker which was given to me by none other than Ms. S. Hmmm....

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