- Anais Nin
I think I was seventeen years old when someone told me that you're lucky in this life if you can count the number of true friends on one hand. I must be very lucky, because at this point in my life, I'm also counting on the other hand.
When I was a kid I didn't seem to have any trouble making friends, but the superficial friendships were never good enough for me. I wanted depth, even at an early age. For the longest time I thought it was something wrong in me. I was too needy, or something like that. I was probably difficult to take. No one knows what to do with this thirteen year old who wants to reveal his soul. There are still who don't know what to do with a forty seven year old doing the same thing. That's just me. If I can't be who am I with a friend, what's the point? If we have to pretend, then I might as well be pretending with characters on a stage or those revealing themselves to me as my fingers clack out the words on the keyboard.
I'm not saying that I'm not capable of a superficial conversation at the bar or at an evening of theatre, but those are not sustainable to me. Basically I'm an introvert. Those conversations and interactions require a huge amount of energy from me. The conversations and interactions that fill me up and renew that energy are the one on ones or the small group conversations about the meaning of life, the existence of God, the stuff we're all searching for. Those interactions empower me.
As I recently moved, I came across some things from the past that have been hidden away in a box somewhere. One of those things was an award I won in college for a writing contest. I won first place in an English writing contest my professor entered for me. I had no idea I was even a candidate. Afterwards the professor told me he was so moved by my research paper on male friendships, he had to enter it. The title of the paper was Bonding: The Barriers to Male Intimacy. It was all about how men are programmed at an early age that friendships with each other are about doing, not being. Women can sit around and just "be" with each other, but that was not acceptable for men. Men had to be "doing." Playing sports. Drinking beer. Something we consider masculine. My research went on to show that as men age and are less able to "do", those friendships often disappeared. One study showed this to be the cause of a shorter life span for men than women.
I'm happy to report that while I have only a few close male friends, those friendships are very important to me and don't seem to be based solely on the "doing" idea. I can be myself with those men and know I'm not judged and I'm loved because of who I am. As are they.
Friendships with women have always come easier to me and I'm extremely grateful to those women who I call friends. A few I've only met in the past few years and are in my writing group, but the bond was quickly formed.
As I reflect on my friendships today, it's interesting to note that my first novel, Postcards from the Desert, that I'm finishing revisions on, is basically about finding oneself based on who we find to be our friends. It's that theme that powers my writing.