Getting lots of friendly compliments on my “Gay Purride” t-shirt at Costco today. Happy gay pride weekend, Phoenix!
Getting lots of friendly compliments on my “Gay Purride” t-shirt at Costco today. Happy gay pride weekend, Phoenix!
I don’t mean for the title to sound like a personal ad, but it’s the truth. Plus I can’t resist a catchy title. At 50 I’m certainly middle-aged, and faddish as the word may be, I went with bromance because it’s the kind of friendship I’m looking for. I certainly don’t expect this blog post to catch me a bro; I just feel the need to write it, and I imagine a lot of other men out there can relate.
My situation is that I am a 50-year-old man married to a man, yet I don’t have a friend. I have a friend within my husband, but without my husband I have none. The only friends I have are the coupled ones my husband and I see together; I don’t have a friend of my own. I am not writing this as a cry of self-pity; I am saying it to speak the truth. I am taking stock of what I have and what I haven’t. I must recognize that I am married to one person who could conceivably die at any moment and leave me without any kind of mate at all, either romantic or bromantic. Anyone could die at any moment, of course, but my husband has health problems that are constant reminders of his mortality, and my recent achievement of a half-century alive is a reminder of my own mortality. I mean, I’m a survivor so far, that’s for sure, but how much longer will I survive? No one knows, but I sure don’t want my remaining years to be lonely.
My husband is not lonely. He has not only me but also a best friend. He talks to this friend from his hometown on the phone everyday, several times a day, for maybe an hour a day, maybe more. This does not bother me at all; it just worries me that I don’t have the same kind of relationship in my life. All his phone calls with his friend remind me that I don’t have one. But I want more than phone calls. I want a guy to “bro out” with.
How does a man whose spouse is a man justify wanting to spend time with another man? A straight man can say he needs time away from his opposite-sex spouse to spend time with his same-sex friend so he can be with his own gender; a gay man cannot say that. A straight man could justifiably say that he wants a friend as well as a spouse, but how would it be if a husband told his wife “I need a friend as well as a spouse, so I’m going to be spending a lot of quality time with my new friend, Julianna”? I have a feeling that wife would be jealous, wouldn’t you? It is one thing to spend an hour on the phone with a friend who is a member of your preferred sex; it’s another to leave home to spend hours at a time with that friend. I would not be jealous if my husband’s best friend lived here and he went out with him, because I know their friendship very well by now, but I would probably be envious and lonely since I can’t currently do the same. I am not saying my husband will be jealous when I start spending hours of quality time with my new buddy (I say when because I am hopeful), but I’m not saying he won’t be, either. And how will I feel? Unfaithful? I’m afraid so. It is certainly a guilt I will have to get over if I ever want a buddy.
One solution to “the sex problem” could be having a best friend who is a woman, but I don’t want that. I am homosocial as well as homosexual; I’m a man’s man. I like to be with my own sex. I want to have a male friend. I don’t want a “girlfriend,” and I don’t want to be a woman’s gay best friend. A gal pal is not what I’m looking for; it’s just not. “Never say never” and all that, but I think I want a buddy, a mate, a bro.
I have read many articles about the importance of friendship and the health hazards of loneliness. I am not going to quote research here. You can read that by following the links below if you want. What I have done is spend hours reading about having a best friend because, until I have one, I don’t know what to do with myself but get myself ready. I guess reading everything you can about something you don’t have yet is a lonely nerd’s way of prepping for the “test” that is the real thing. One’s never fully prepared for the challenges of reality, but at least I’ll be as ready as I’ll ever be.
Where will I find a best friend and what will I do with him? These are two of the biggest questions. As a matter of fact, the question of what we will do together once we find each other is even more puzzling to me than how we will find each other. What is it I want to do with a friend that I don’t or can’t do with my husband? Then again, do I have to justify the things I do with my friend by telling my husband they are things he won’t do with me? No! Now that I write it and say it out loud, I see how wrong it is. That’s one good thing about writing!
I think I will end here for now. There is plenty to write about this subject, and I don’t have to do it all at once. I just wanted to get some of these thoughts out of my mind and into written words. I hope maybe this helps other men who have these doubts know that they’re not alone. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment. Thanks!
As I start a new year of teaching I aim to say less and mean more.
Before cruising to the Canary islands (Spanish), Madeira (Portuguese), and the cities of Málaga and Alicante along the coast of Spain, we stopped in Casablanca, Morocco, on the north coast of Africa. There they spoke Arabic and, lucky for me, French. I ended up speaking and listening to people who spoke to me in French and got along quite well. Many of them also spoke English. After walking all the way from the old medina to the Hassan II mosque, we were ready for a Taxi ride to a restaurant for lunch. Just then, at the steps to the plaza of the mosque, a taxi driver introduced himself to us in English and said, “I am taxi driver here for 27 years. This is my city. I will show you my beautiful city, take you to places you want to visit, and wait while you eat or look around. Here is my taxi; please come with me and let me give you beautiful tour of my city.”
I usually might be wary of such offers, but he seemed quite genuine and trustworthy, so we took him up on it. While getting into the taxi I asked him if he spoke French, and he said “Oui, bien sur” (yes, of course). I told him I would like to practice my French with him and he said he would like to practice his English with me and we could each speak to the other in our second languages. That is what he said, but in practice, we ended up speaking mostly French. He did prove himself trustworthy by first taking us to an authentic Moroccan restaurant called L’Etoile Centrale as well as running in with my husband’s phone which had been left on the backseat of the unlocked taxi. We had a delicious meal, heard Arabic, French, and English spoken around us in various turns by the same people, and got back in the cab with Mumu (that was what he told us we could call him though his given name was Muhammaed).
The only thing Mumu did that I really, really didn’t like was take us to a rug store. I told him before he took us there that we weren’t interested in rugs, but he said we must go look at this “textile cooperative” because it was their culture. I hoped it might be like a living museum. When we got there, they took us into this showroom, brought us a silver tray of mint tea, and said, “This is Moroccan hospitality, you will please accept our offer of tea.” Then they proceded to show us various kinds of rugs— thicker, thinner, rougher, softer, this one of silk and this one of wool, of this design or that design. They asked us which one we liked the best, and there was a soft silk rug with a background of blue decorated with yellow, orange, red, and green. I said I loved it and it was beautiful. They said this was valuable, the more you use it, the more valuable it becomes, it becomes more valuable with age, we will cherish it forever, they will ship anywhere in the world, and “How much you will pay for this?” I explained I was simply answering their question about which rug I liked the best, but I couldn’t afford to buy it. There was a lot of pressure, and my husband even thought seriously of buying it (with money we don’t have), but I insisted that we did not come into the shop or even on our vacation to buy a rug, that the rug cost more than our whole vacation and we had to save for months to afford to travel, etc. They kept pushing and pushing. Finally, I decided the only recourse was to be rude, so I said “goodbye” and told my husband we were leaving.
Then Mumu took us to an oil and spice shop across the street. This I could do. I had already been thinking of buying Moroccan argan oil for my hair, as I have been growing it out, so I bought a bottle for 10 euros. Not bad, considering what they charge in the states. We walked back to the taxi and the manager of the rug store accosted us again. “I make you deal. How much you pay? How much?” “No much” I said, and he finally left me alone. Mumu then drove us around, and I have neglected to say how riding in a taxi in Morocco felt terrifying, even death defying, as the streets were so narrow and twisted, and our driver had to wind his way through them past double-parked cars and opposing traffic turning around curves with double-parked cars on them. Anyway, he took us past various impressive areas including the king’s palace to the new medina.
I had told him I wanted to buy some authentic Moroccan pastry. He very wisely took me to a shop called Pâtisserie Bennis Abous (pronounced the French way, Benny Aboo). This place was like a little walk-in closet covered with bins of all kinds of pastries along every short wall. They have these beautiful boxes and they cram whatever you want into them as fast as robots with ten arms assembling a circuit board. I asked for one of just about everything in a little box. Oh my God they were delicious! I must admit they all tasted about the same — a kind of marzipan filled dough baked to perfection — but it didn’t matter. This place more than made up for the rug store (sorry, “textile cooperative”). And they cost something like 3 euros altogether (or maybe 5 €; I don’t remember).
After getting pastries I said I’d like to get a couple of souvenirs “not made in China.” We went to a little stall where they had clothing and other items. I liked the kaftans, and the shopkeeper showed me the one I picked out in blue and insisted on putting on me a fez and shoes to go with it. I didn’t want the fez and shoes, but I did take the kaftan. We haggled in price and he didn’t come down as much as I thought he would, but it seemed fair enough, except we didn’t have enough cash and he didn’t take cards. We discussed with our driver about going to an ATM and he said he could pay the shopkeeper and then take us to an ATM and we could pay him back. He handed the shopkeeper to twenty-dollar bills and I said, “Oh, I have two twenties” and handed my twenties to the driver. They then argued in Arabic and I couldn’t understand why. I looked up the French word for haggling in the car and said to Mumu “j’ai reconnu assez beaucoup de chipotage là-bas,” (I noticed a fair bit of haggling there), and he explained that they looked at the date on the bills and valued the currency based on the date of mint. I asked him why, that there was no sense in that at all, and he said, “mais c’est comme ça” (but that’s the way it is). Something my husband said to me this morning reminded me of that resignation to the way things are even if they are make no sense, and I thought to myself, “mais c’est comme ça.” I think that phrase will be one of my lasting souvenirs.
I was very glad to know French because it made our time together much more interesting. At one point he had a lot to say about his family in response to my questions and he rattled it off quickly in French and said “Wait! Don’t tell him yet!” when I was about to interpret to my husband; then he kept telling me his story and said, “Et maintenant vous lui expliquez!” (and now you explain it to him!). His insistence on holding court made me laugh, as well as his control of me as an interpreter, which I am not quite used to experiencing even when I’m doing it for a living. I was proud, though, that I understood him and was able to interpret what he said, even though I wouldn’t have been able to say even half of what he said half as fast as he said it.
All-in-all we were glad we went with Mumu.I told him I felt like he threw us to the sharks back there at the textile cooperative, but other than that we had a good time. Between our walk by ourselves and our ride and stops with the taxi driver, we had a decent time in Casablanca. I don’t know what it would have been like if I hadn’t spoken French, but I think it helped that I did. I imagine he earned a commission of some kind at each place he took us to, or at least some sort of kickback. At the restaurant he got a sandwich, and I imagine he would have gotten a lot more if we had bought a rug– or maybe he owed them and that would have cleared his debt; I really don’t know how it works there. At any rate, I felt what we paid him (I think about 50 Euros, though I don’t recall) was worth it. We had a good time. He did what he said he would. I asked for this selfie to remember him by.
I saw the French movie Mon Meilleur Ami (English title My Best Friend, an aptly literal translation) come up on Amazon Prime today, and the synopsis immediately reminded me of the American movie I Love You, Man— guy who seems to have everything has no best friend and suddenly needs to find one. He goes in search for one, has some funny mismatches, finally meets his match, has him teach him how to be a friend… and I won’t give away the rest (spoilers, darling).
Of course, I am in the same boat as the protagonists of both movies– I have a romantic partner and a number of friends but no best friend. I’ve been curious to watch I Love You Man again, but I was happier to watch this foreign likeness of it, which I suspect the American film was based on, though I can find no statement to that effect.
Anyway, let it suffice to say that Mon Meilleur Ami / My Best Friend is a great movie well worth your time to watch. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn something. And you will probably cherish your best friend or want one even more– maybe with a bit more wisdom about what a best friend is.
This year I resolve not to waste time: not to waste time doing things I don’t have to do, not to waste time wondering what people think about me, not to waste time feeling guilty about my errors, not to waste time making excuses not to do what I want to do. This from a man who agonizes over every little decision, from a man who spent an hour just yesterday agonizing over which liquid should go into which of the six travel bottles he bought (two sets of shampoo and conditioner, a conditioning shampoo, and a body wash in two pink, two blue, and two clear bottles), who spent a half-hour in the men’s section of Target yesterday agonizing over how to spend $35 worth of gift cards. Should I get these compression pants? Should I get these shorts to wear over these compression pants? Is it wrong for a man to wear compression pants without shorts on top? (A Google search taught me the term MAMILtoe.) If I get these shorts, what color shorts should I get to go over these compression pants of medium blue and black? Black? Medium blue? Or this contrasting maroon? This from a man who spent weeks over the summer hand-coding an XML database containing a listing of 115 interpreters to get the formatting out of tables within tables within tables and into a more moble-friendly format. Or does this look better? Or did that look better? Should all their degrees be abbreviated with or without periods? Or… Or… Or… until he spent his whole winter vacation not using a computer (nor using social media, thank-you-very-much) yet hurting in his shoulder from all the editing and re-editing over the summer. This from a man who just this morning spent 15 of his first minutes of the new year Googling whether it were true that Vera Ellen’s costumes in White Christmas all had high necklines to cover up a neck ravaged by anorexia (apparently not). This from a man who will spend too long writing this post and still publish it with errors, or at the very least feel a fool for publishing what was far less than his best work.
I will fail at my resolution. I will fail again and again. But I am more resolved than ever to try. God help me make progress! Or if there be no God, may my highest self pull my agonizing self, slave to its own tyranny, out of its misery. I have so much to give. I have so much time, really– time that I waste doing things I don’t have to do. I have a feeling I have a higher purpose than to waste minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of my life on things of no importance. I have things to do this year that will require that I make the best of my time, and I will do it. I have the will to do it. I will myself to do it.
Granted, the judgment of whether time is spent or wasted is a matter of perspective, and all is relative. Certainly there are worse things I could do with my time than decide how to use travel bottles or edit a database or choose an outfit. How long “should” it take to make a decision? How long “should” one take to get something right? How long is too long to lie in the grass watching the clouds drift by? I don’t know the answer, but I do know it shouldn’t take me as long as it does to do things other than relax. I need help. From without and within, I need help managing my time. It isn’t that I don’t get done what I need to get done; it’s that I do too many things I don’t have to do. It isn’t that I don’t meet deadlines; it’s that life has a deadline, and I deserve to enjoy what time I have left either creating or recreating, not demolishing myself with indecision.
Another of my resolutions is to have a buddy, a mate, a best friend– a “bromance,” if you will (I’m using “How to Start a Bromance” as a guide). Having a friendship in addition to a marriage will take time; that’s where the time for recreation comes in. It is already a challenge to limit the time I spend on work so I have enough time for family. It is going to be an additional challenge to limit the time I spend on work — and mindless minutiae — so I have time for friendship. I was taught when I was young that in order to have something you want you have to create a space for it. When I met my husband, I had done the internal work I needed to do to be ready. I had created space in my head, my heart, and my schedule for him before I met him, and when I met him, I was ready. Now I’m 50 — and oh, I am in the throes of a midlife crisis! — and I don’t even have a friend. Yes, I have colleagues, Friends, as Facebook calls them, and couples my husband and I occasionally have dinner with, but I do not have a friend. I do not have a person, as Merideth Grey would say. I do not have a mate, as the British would say. I need a friend, not just a husband. The idea that one’s spouse is one’s best friend is no longer real to me. I believe I need at least two significant others– a spouse and a friend. And for these and other priorities I am resolved to spend my time wisely.