Another entry from Steve Safran, whose honesty and humor just make for good writing. As you’ll read below, there was a recent reunion of old college friends. One topic we discussed at some length was Divorce (affecting two of us). I maintain that (my) Cancer is easier. I got medicine, love, and support… and better. Divorce is a Death. And unfortunately, Stevie has no band of churchy ladies making him casseroles. But what he does have is Friends… and now, probably more than one short-skirted reader wanting to join his harem of gal pals.
THE FEMALE FRIEND HITCH, by Steve Safran
My female-to-male friend ratio has always been askew. Many hours have been devoted to this topic, as well as many jealous and defensive exchanges between me and the wife/girlfriend/dinner date who questioned my fondness for an evening of estrogen fueled conversations with the smart, funny gal pals in my life. I fail to see anything wrong with it– I desperately love my friends and don’t really care which naughty bits they happen to be wearing.
My appeal to the ladies began in high school, when I became that guy—the one that girls went to for advice. At first, this was an honor. Surely they are asking me for guidance for I, Steve, am the keeper of all knowledge about men! I am hairy chested and can drink a beer! I, dear girl, will tell you how to snare that guy who treats you so very… badly.
Once would have been a mere data point. Twice, a coincidence. But, as we say in news, three times is a trend. (Four is a special series and Five is a terrible, prime-time documentary.) By the time I had worked my way into Ken Burns-length territory, I started to suspect other motives were at play. Those girls thought I was… safe. Which as all men know, is the ultimate foil for any sort of back of the Honda action.
I’m a drama geek who loves Sondheim. I was in Gilbert & Sullivan. Never the romantic lead, I still embraced my comic relief roles with silly costume and goofy accent aplomb. But this was the ’80s, people. A weakness for the high school stage was code for “queer.” Now, I am pleased to see openly gay students with their own, acronymed clubs at my daughter’s high school. Suddenly, gay is…hip? But in Wayland, Mass., in 1984, it most surely was not. In fact, it was so not hip that I was fag-bashed despite my best efforts to be cool. A musical theater dork with no, real girlfriend? FAG! Close enough.
But this isn’t about any of that.
It’s been a bad two weeks in Depression Land, Population Me, though my friends have rallied like crazy. (Crazy being a terrible choice of words for a man with depression.) Britt, Debbie, Chris, Jason and Tony all came by for a “Let’s dress nicely and have cocktails party.” It was a fun night: all of us dressing up, eating fancy cheeses, re-hashing the past, and drunk dialing Britt’s ex-boyfriends. The guys are cool, but Deb and Britt are equally suited to the task of hanging out. And honestly, they look a little better in short skirts than Bruce Willis-channeling Tony, or Jason: everyone’s favorite Orthodox Jew. Lately, as I stew around in what Britt calls my Big Boo Hoo Disease, I welcome both perspectives.
Well-meaning email from female friend: “I am here for you forever and always. Please always remember that. You are so so so wonderful, caring and kind hearted.”
Well-meaning email from male friend: “Alright, you fucking lunatic, CUT THE CRAP.”
Really, they both say love.
I dated a woman recently who rightly asked “Well, isn’t the idea to marry your best friend?” Unfortunately, to me that smacks of saccharine idealism masking the real question, “Why do you need other women in your life besides your wife?” But I never saw it as a one-or-the-other. Women have given me excellent advice over the years made even more persuasive because it came from a chick. Your spouse is your spouse, but your (girl)friends are your consultants, uniquely qualified for all sorts of advice on what makes relationships work– or how you’re screwing them up.
But I’m not that much of an idiot. And I know that my platonic relationships hurt my ex-wife as she wondered what you’re probably wondering: Why not confide in her, instead? And how hot are these “platonic” girlfriends, anyway? I just happen to like getting the woman’s view of things. Guys: well, we’re idiots. We will never go much deeper than the bottle of whiskey. And though there is always time for that kind of bonding here in Depression Land, it’s my “girl” friends that are a bit more helpful in the “remind me how it’s possible I’m not as bad as The Big Boo Hoo Disease tells me I am.”
In The Post Divorce Reboot, I am going to be radically honest from the start. These are my Friends: male, female, cancerous, depressed, bald, short, talented, uncoordinated, drunk, funny, suited up, dressed down, and… Mine. They are who they are; and who they are is also a little part of me. A little bent, a little damaged. Friends.