Friday, May 9, 2008

Birthdays and Friendships

So went to my friend Rich’s birthday get-together at Splash last night.

Yeah, Splash. But, you know, it can be fun even if I have been there a thousand times since 1991. Not that I feel particularly nostalgic when I’m there since it has been renovated multiple times and now has a dance floor which, I guess, is kind of nostalgic in Footloose-era NYC. It feels familiar yet stimulating in that it is gay, gay, gay in an increasingly mixed world. The density of gay men, gay entertainment and gay cruising make it comfortable while also providing plenty of eye candy and social frisson.

The party was a reunion of friends who I don’t see as often as I did, or perhaps should. I get grief for not keeping in touch which, admittedly, I am horrible about. But then I also think “The phone works both ways”.

I know I should make more of an effort to keep in touch with friends who I consider my gay family. But in daily life, I’m more likely to just go out with R instead of calling friends to hang out. Which I guess is laziness. Or perhaps shyness. In either case, I know I need to make a concerted effort to keep in touch with my network of friends. They are a key pillar to a happy life along with family, lover, health and career. The challenge is to juggle them all. But I tend to lose sight of one or two pillars at a time as I focus on the others.

I remember my father, who was even less of a social being than me, making a big production of calling one friend each Sunday night. It always struck me as strange that it was such an effort and drama. But now I think I might need to adapt that model. In busy adult life with a partner and family and career, maintaining contact with friends can be a challenge. But just as my father was always a happier person after he made those Sunday night phone calls, I think I would be a little more content and balanced if I rebuilt some of those friendships that I’ve let decay in 8 years of coupledom.

When I got to the party, it was a little awkward since I only knew Rich and one other person. In the past few years, Rich has developed a new network of friends who I don’t really know. So for the first hour I talked to Rich a little and made some small talk with another guy. And watched the videos as if I was really interested (which is what I love about video bars). But mostly I reminded myself how much I hate social situations.

Eventually, our mutual friends showed up. It was good to see them all though everyone was a little awkward since, at this point, there were about 20 people all crowding around a small table and surrounded by a growing crowd.

We had a few drinks and everyone relaxed and had a good time. We shared the ups and downs of work and boyfriends and the fears of aging. We pretended to be the hip, pretty, young clique that we were in our 20s. If only for a night.

It was like recharging a battery. Renewing and tending friendships can be so invigorating. It reminds me that everyone is struggling. Everyone has their own busy, challenging lives. But we still remain friends. I remember I have shoulders to lean on and ears to bend other than R and my family. Which takes the pressure off of them and makes me feel less constrained and alone. We’re all in this same struggle but we have each other. Even if it is only once a year for our birthday.

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