sorry i never see you anymore

At our just-for-shits-and-giggles-non-legally binding 2012 big gay wedding we invited our closest friends and select family, 75 people.  This past Saturday when we appeased the suddenly-progressive legislative gods in Harrisburg with our legal wedding, we had two guests — our kids. We used to be very social people.  We used to host parties.  We used to have a lot of friends. The same people I would routinely see four hours a days five days a week I now see maybe once a year.

I sometimes think people are still waiting for us to host the party or organize the dinner, but then I realize that they’re all hosting their own parties and organizing their own dinners. I keep expecting the phone to ring, but it never does because we aren’t invited.  The cynic in me thinks it’s because we no longer have anything to offer, that we fell out of fashion, but the truth is things are different.  And not just for us.  For everyone.  Life went on.  While we were busy having kids, all of those friends we used to see every day have been living their lives, forging new relationships, moving into new homes, starting new jobs, creating new paths that just don’t include us.

Sometimes I feel bad that I no longer see these people.  Some days I mourn the perceived loss of those friendships.  I admonish myself for not being a better friend, for not keeping in contact, for not hosting that party.  I tell myself that all the other parents out there still see their friends every day, still host big parties, still stay out until midnight on a school night eating wings and singing karaoke at the Rivertowne.

Of course even if that were true — and I doubt it is — those parents have had a lifetime with their kids.  They had nine months to prepare and then every day thereafter to enjoy.  Chris turns 9 tomorrow and two years ago we didn’t even know he existed.  Elijah has been in our house for less than two weeks.  I don’t want to miss a minute with them because I’ve already missed so many.  I need to drink up the now before they grow up and resent me.

So I’m sorry I never see you anymore.  I wish I did.  Maybe one day I will.  And to the person a few weeks ago who mentioned that we should have them over to our house: I’ll pencil that in for sometime in late 2023.

i unfriend you

In this age of social media — where friendships live and die by the click of a button, where an acquaintance of an acquaintance of an acquaintance of the guy who cuts your hair knows what you had for dinner and how you voted in the last election, where high school never ends — what is a friend?

I have had more than a few epiphany moments since becoming a dad sixteen months ago. Chief among them is the realization that my friendships are no longer just about me. The company I choose to keep also affects my kid.  And some of my choices have been lacking.

I have unfriended people for many reasons — some legitimate, some whimsical, some ridiculous. I once hit the unfriend button because a person (over)used the phrase YOLO, as in You Only Live Once. I’ve unfriended people for political opinions that were deeply personal and personal opinions that were offensively political. I’ve unfriended family members.

I know what kind of person I am and I knew that I would be littering Facebook with personal stories of parenthood and photos of Chris.  I knew I would be that parent.  So in the weeks leading up to meeting Chris, I deleted 150 people from my Facebook friend list (more than half my list).  These were people I knew casually — the girl who acted in a play I directed three years ago but had not seen since; that homophobic guy from high school who I wouldn’t remember if he came up to me and said, “Hey I’m that homophobic guy from high school you don’t remember”; the seldom-seen cousin who stated there should be zero gun control less than 24 hours after the Sandy Hook school shooting.  These people were a no-brainer — they either weren’t really friends or they were people I wanted nowhere near my child.

But in the real world — that ever-shrinking dimension where face-to-face interpersonal communication still exists — ending a friendship is not as simple as clicking a button. It’s one thing to erase a person in cyberspace, it’s another thing to wipe out their existence on this earthly plane.

But sometimes that’s just what you have to do.

So I took an inventory.  Peter Pan.  The “every-other-word-is-fuck” guy.  The slutty one.  The emotional vampire.  The passive aggressive narcissist.  The lunatic.  What was I thinking?    

At one time it was cute. Their unwillingness to grow up. Their foul mouth. Their neediness.  Their dangerous mental instability.  Their overt sexuality so in your face at times you felt like their gynecologist. But what was once colorful now seemed — I was going to say sad, but that isn’t fair — it now seemed, so not where we are in our lives.

I’ve been told that I burn bridges.  That I’m quick to judge. Incapable of forgiveness. Someone once called me an asshole (to my face!)  And while it’s true that I am an asshole, I also think I’m honest. Some friendships go the distance. Some do not.

that’s what friends are for

I judge my level of commitment to a friendship based upon what I would do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Meaning if I really like you I will most likely drive fifty miles out of my way to save your ass from the zombie uprising, but if you happen to be one of the three people in this world whom I truly dislike then I’m going to most definitely accidentally push you into the waiting mouth of a zombie herd (while loudly reciting my detailed list of the many grievances I have against you, by the way).

Because friendships are complex. Certainly more complex than love. Love says, “I will do anything for you.”  Friendship says, “I will do most things for you…after I evaluate the situation.”  Which is exactly the point: love is the heart, friendship the brain.

Friendship is encouragement with caution. Faith with doubt. Laughter with tears. Friendship is being told those jeans make you look fat. It is giving, while expecting nothing in return…but secretly kind of hoping you at least get a free Starbucks out of it. Friendship requires work, but is not in itself work.

True friendship is rare. True friends, even rarer. Friends like Tom, who spent part of our eight hour car ride this past weekend teaching Chris the lyrics to a certain song so that when walking down the streets of Chicago the following day, Chris could spontaneously belt out, vibrato and all, “Chicago! Chicago! It’s a helluva town!” Friends like Jackie, who is such the perfect maternal foil to Chris’s paternal upbringing, it prompts Chris to say, “If I had a mom, I’d want her to be you.” And friends like Tyler, who Chris looks at as the big brother he so desperately wishes he had, the ultimate role model.

I hope one day Chris finds his Tom. Or his Jackie. Or his Tyler. I hope he finds those people he would rescue from the zombies and he learns to steer clear of those people he would accidentally push into their waiting mouths. I hope he finds that circle of friends who become his family.  That’s not too much to hope for, is it?