Friday, August 05, 2011

A Mile Wide and an Inch Deep



Down on Rt. 9 towards Georgetown there is a furniture store on the right side of the road called Beschels.  I've been in the furniture store a few times, checking out their wares.  The furniture store is unremarkable except for one feature.  Outside of their building they have a big deck with a wooden statue of an Alaskan fisherman clad in an yellow slicker rain gear.  The deck this fisherman stands on overlooks what is a vast, large pond.  Every time I ride down Rt. 9 I look over at the this pleasant sight of the fisherman by the pond.

However, this summer we've been having a drought here in Lower Slower (aka Sussex County, Delaware).  The pond is dried up.  The yellow rain gear clad fisherman still stands on his deck but now he overlooks a dried up pond.  Now when I ride by Beschels and look over to my right, I feel sad.  What is supposed to be isn't.  And that is because that "pond" was only a few inches deep.  When there is water in it, it looks vast.  Without water it looks like what it is, a dried up indentation of land.

Tonight I went to our usual Friday Night Dine Out group.  Tonight's restaurant destination was the Ocean Point Grill in Lewes.  On this early August summer evening I decided to join my gay friends for our weekly get together.  I walk into the restaurant looking for my friends.  No one was there. I tell the owner/manager who is at the cash register "I'm here with the group."  He looks at me like I just stepped off of a spaceship.  I say "There should be a group meeting here tonight."  He says "I know of no group that is meeting here but we have tables if you would like to eat here." Uh oh, I better check my e-mail.  I tell the owner/manager that I'm going to check "something."  I go outside and bring up my e-mail on my iPhone.  There it is, a message from the organizer of the Friday Night Dine Out group.  The message says that only me and one other person have responded.  He said he didn't reserve a table and if we're interested that we should contact one another.  Well, I don't think so. It's another "blind date."  I've already had one of those this summer.  I'm not up for another.  Embarrassed and humiliated that I put myself into this position, I don't respond to the e-mail.  I get in my car and leave.  I won't do this again.

As regular readers of this blog know, one of the reasons I moved to the Rehoboth Beach area of Delaware was to make friends with other older gay men like myself.  Since we moved to Delaware in November of 2006, I have met a number of people, both gay and straight.  Most of them are nice and pleasant people.  A couple of strange ones and one or two real creeps but for the most part, nice folk.   However, I've only been able to make one true friend.  I will not state his name here but he knows who he is.  I have made several really good straight friends.  In fact, I've made more straight friends that I have made gay friends.

I've met and know a number of gay friends (all male, lesbians don't want to be friends with gay men no matter how hard I try.)  But, like the "pond" in front of Beschle's Furniture Store, the pond is a mile wile and an inch deep.  Tonight the pond dried up.  Tonight I had a true picture of what my gay friendships are really like here in Gayberry, DE.  Nothing.

Now this could all be my fault.  I may not be quality material for friendship.  I know some gays  can be very superficial.  Gee, do you think? I remember all too well one of my early friendships.  Oh he was the Toast of the Town with Potlucks and Big Involvement in the Gay Community with the local gay organization called Camp Rehoboth, which is really a private club for two longtime lovers whose only goal seems to be raising money for gay slave auctions and gay dances to raise more money all under the guise for "creating a more accepting community for gays." I could go on about that fallacy but that is a subject for another whole posting.  Back to my friend (and he knows who he is because he reads this blog...sometimes and will probably post a bitchy comment).  Once Mr. Involvement in the Community needed help because of the breakup of his longtime union with his partner and had no place to live, not one and I mean NOT ONE of his circle of friends came forward to help him.  I helped him short of inviting him to live in my home which was not possible.  I help him move, I helped him find a job, I went out to dinner with him when no one else would.  I'm not bragging on myself and I don't expect anything in return but only mention this to illustrate the shallowness of gay friendships here in the East Coast Gay Capital.  I don't recall anyone from Camp "Inclusive" Rehoboth busting down his door to help him in his transition from Gay Couple to Gay Single Man and all the trauma that he had to go through in this chapter of his Passage of Life.

I am very fortunate in that I have Bill, my longtime partner.  Bill doesn't and won't involved himself in any of these gay friendships because he sees them for what they are, false and shallow.  As I said earlier, we have made one friendship since we've been down here and we value that friendship very much.  Bill expressed surprise that we have that one friendship.  Bill has been around a lot longer (13 years) than I have and he knows how these things work.  He was on the gay scene long before me.  When we met, he withdrew from the gay social whirl and hasn't regretted it one bit.  He has often told me how foolish I am to expect to make any gay friends and apparently he is right.  There is no doubt that I felt like a Big Fool tonight standing at that cash register looking for my group of "friends."  The laugh was on me.  One thing is for sure, it won't happen again.

During my time on this earth I have made many friends.  Most of my friends are straight.  Some are from my school days, who I still keep in touch with.  Some are former friends from work who I also keep in touch with.  Of course I have relatives who are friends but most of them keep me at arm's length because I am gay.  They still think that is some kind of sickness of illness but they "forgive me" for my "deficiency of character" and accept me in spite of my gayness.  I've made  some friends in my neighborhood but ironically of the three gay couples in my neighborhood we are not friends.  Two of the couples are lesbians and as I said earlier lesbians generally have nothing to do with gay guys unless they want advice on a window treatment.  We were friends with the other gay couple in the neighborhood for a short time until I found out one of them was an unapologetic racist who freely uses the "N" word and the other a constant critic who was always belittling us.  We couldn't keep that friendship.  Just because they were gay doesn't mean we were compatible.

A long time ago I heard the definition of a true friend.  It went something like this "A true friend accepts you are, not the way they want you to be."  I am fortunate in that I do have some true friends who know me well.  They know the Good Me and the Bad Me and they accept me just as I am.  They ask nothing of me. They like me for who I am.

Unfortunately, most of the gay people I've met down here either want something from me, want to control me, or don't have time for me because I have nothing to offer to them.

Ironically, one of the main reasons I moved to Delaware (other than the low taxes and I did just get my tax bill today which is the same as it was five years ago), was to be with my one true gay friend that I meet over 50 years ago when we were both serving in the U.S. Army.  Unfortunately, a few years ago he started to show signs of dementia.  In the past couple of years he has slowly gotten worse to the point that he called me a few weeks ago asking "What night does the Friday Night Dine Out Group meet?"  He has no cognitive skills and doesn't remember anything.  He still remembers my name but our conversations are always one sided (with me doing all the talking) and minutes after our conversation he doesn't remember what I've said.  He may be here in body but his mind is gone.  We can't do the things we used to like taking rides, dining out, and just having late night conversations on the phone catching up on the latest gossip.

I know this has been a long post and I offer no apologies.  If you're this far in my post than I guess I'm of some interest to you.  For some others, I probably have bored you to tears.  Well, that is just the way it is.

This morning I went to a local graveyard and took about three hundred pictures with my "friends."  When I work in my back yard I'm with my "friends" the birds, bees and plants.  When I walk, I'm with my "friend" nature.  I have a good friend from my school days that I call on FaceTime in the early morning.  He's straight and doesn't discount me as a human being because I just happen to be gay.  We always enjoy each other's conversations.  I talk to Bill every day.  He says I don't talk to him often enough.  I tell him that's because if I talk to him too long then he starts with the criticisms and our conversations end in an argument.
 
Yes, even after forty-seven years together, we still have to work on our relationship.  It's not all his fault though, I have a low tolerance point for constant criticism, probably because I had to endure so much growing up from my father but then again, that is a story for another blog posting.  How ironic I ended up with a man who is so much like my father.

I have a longtime friend from my workdays at the bank in Philadelphia who asked me once when I wrote a similar post like this "What are you looking for in friends?"   He sounded a little bemused when he asked this question because I think he thinks I have a lot of gay friends down here in Gayberry the Rehbooth Beach/Lewes/Milton area because of the large group that goes to the Friday Night Dine Out.  Not so, that large group of "friends" is like that large pond...a mile wide and an inch deep.

11 comments:

  1. I started reading today's blog listening to your happy music. Then I got a phone call and got to go to one of my neighbors to pickup some of her home grown tomatoes. I come back, finish reading with the yoga music playing and I felt really sad. Gay or straight, you have shallow people everywhere. Ron, as I wrote before, and even though I don't know you, you just don't put up with crap and just tell it the way it is. It is what I really like about your blog. Never hold back!
    Some friends! Their loss.

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  2. anne marie in philly12:37 AM

    how effing rude of those people!

    baybee, if I lived closer, friday night would be our "date night"!

    and those lesbians don't know what they're missing by not knowing you!

    smooches!

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  3. I thought you did a splendid job summarizing what a lot of us feel and experience.

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  4. Ron,

    The last time I walked down by Hidden Pond, a bit more than a week ago, that large body of water was totally dry. It was no longer Hidden Pond. It was now Hidden Mud Hole. The Brandywine, which this spring had flooded mightily, had now receded to a point that large islands had formed in it and the shoreline had extended. All the cornfield I have been hiking through were turning brown. We have had some rain over the last week and on the past weekend the Brandywine had grown somewhat wider. I don't know about Hidden Pond, I haven't been up that trail lately. I have not been walking much this week, except Thursday, a particular adventure that morning I have written about in my latest Post. I have worked everyday this week, except that Thursday and am actually working this Saturday morning.

    As to the rest of your post I feel perhaps I missed something. As I read, it said the Dine-out Group was not where expected. You checked your email and the organizer said he had not heard from anyone, so didn't make reservations.

    I don't understand a couple things. First, why should you feel embarrassed and humiliated because you inquired of a restaurant host about a group who wasn't there. I'm sure restaurants have these type of things often. Miscues happen and this wasn't your doing, unless there is something not told here. The worse that might be said is you didn't check your email early enough not to show up.

    But what really confused me was you go on as if there was something more. I didn't see anything in this that would make you say, "Now this could all be my fault." Do you have reason to believe no one came because you would be there?

    As to friendships, I have never looked at people as groups. You know, at least I hope you know, my friends have been a varied, eclectic, sometimes motley crew over my lifetime. I do not look for friendship because of the cloaks we people wrap ourselves in, the labels we stick upon our foreheads. I try to peel those things away to the person beneath and it is the depth of humanity and character I base friendship on.

    Do I care if you are Gay? Do I care if Stuart is Jewish? Do I care if my other friend named Ron is Black? Do I care if my friend Tracey is a woman? No, because I know the person and I ignore societies stereotyping of what we each should be. What ever groups the elitists attempt to stick each of us in so we might be to their political advantage, to keep us as people distrustful of each other, I reject. Underneath I find people with humanity and sours, people of character and shared needs and concerns.

    Groups demand conformity and I do not conform easily. I simply embrace individuals where there that something mysterious is that says this person is a friend.

    I guess a long-winded post deserved a long-winded comment.

    Lar

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  5. Thank you Dr. Spo. As always, your comment is right on the mark. At my age I have to be careful that I don't become bitter and paranoid like my Mother during her last year. My Mother was such a sweet woman, so giving and generous but she was often taken for granted and not appreciated. She got so bitter at the end that she began to lump me and my brothers in that category which hurt us deeply. Her bitterness blinded her to those who really loved and cared for her as her three sons did. My goal in the remaining years in my life is not to let my disappointment at the shallowness of some of my "friends" turn me into a bitter old man.

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  6. Lar,

    Thanks for your "long winded" response (I think). A couple of things. The guy who organizes the dine out group hasn't shown up for two months. Yes, that's right, the man who organized the dine out group doesn't even show up. He's a nice guy but he is much younger than most of the oldies (like me) in the dine out group. He has his circle of friends who, when they come, make disparaging, rude remarks to us oldies. They think it is funny. I should have taken that as a clue and stopped going as some of my other "oldie" friends did a long time ago. As to feeling humiliated and embarrassed, wouldn't you if you showed up for a party and no one was there?
    And the other point about labeling people as groups. You don't' quite understand Larry because you're straight. Straights take a lot for granted that we gays cannot. One of them is marriage and all the benefits that go with it. Another is living in a community that is caring, supportive and comfortable. I as a gay man cannot take those things for granted. All my life I didn't want to end up as the OLD SINGLE MAN WHO LIVES IN THE BIG HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET. Remember those men Larry in our town of Downingtown? Remember those old women who lived in the big old house by themselves? Well, most of them were probably gay and lived the years at the end of their live in splendid isolation. Oh occasionally young kids would throw stones at the old house they lived in. God forbid that the young boys would know the old man was gay. His life wouldn't be safe. One of my goals in my old age was to live in a community that is caring, supportive and loving. As a gay man I am not going to find that in a straight community. I thought I would find it in a gay community but I have discovered that isn't possible because of the inherent selfishness of most gays, men and women. That has been my experience and I don't expect it to change. Thus, I will probably be one of those old gay men who live in that big old house by myself. At least here in Delaware I have a lovely home and enough money to keep it going. That is if the Republicans don't get into office and cut back my "entitlements" like Social Security, pension checks and Medicare. I live in fear of that happening more than I do any terrorist bomb.

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  7. Nadege,
    Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the negative posting but I just had to get those feelings out of my system. If I don't and let them stew, I become even more bitter and cynical. There are things I didn't write in that posting because I know some of those folks read my blog and I don't want to make things worse they already are. I remember something a friend said to me years ago. He said "Ron, you are the most naive person I know. That is your greatest fault." I was taken aback when he said it but the more I thought about it the more I realized he was right. I set myself up to be disappointed. I am naturally a happy person, and I expect the best from most people. I'm always surprised and disappointed when that doesn't happen. In one way I am very fortunate that I have Bill. He has been my constant these past 47 years. He has never wavered in his friendship and respect for me, more than I can say for most of my "friends." I also remember something Phyllis Diller said many years go. She did some "housecleaning" and dropped many of her "friends" who weren't friends at all but just people who used her and had no respect for her but were only friends for what they could get out of her. That's what I will do now, housecleaning. I am so tired of all this and I will not waste any more time on "friends" like this.

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  8. Interesting indeed and I do not feel negative as much as a reality check. It could partly be a generational thing and its ashame! Now down south the lesbian couples love to hang out :-) This qoute has been on my mind for several days ...... There is more to life than winning. So much to gain beyond mere scores and petty victories. Having the last word is rarely as great a result as learning something. Sack that accountant in the brain keeping tally of every exchange and looking for deficits. A crucial rule of success is "Never be the smartest one in the room" - if you ever are - change rooms." Far to many gay men have that "accountant" in their heads keeping a tally which is a just sad ! Keep on writing what you feel !

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  9. 3rdnlong,
    I agree with you, I think it is partly a generational thing. I know when I was young I kept my distance from older gays. Now I am one. As for the lesbian couples, I am very comfortable with lesbians. As a matter of fact, many times I prefer the company of lesbians because I don't have to worry about someone hitting on me like I do with the gay guys. But as much as I try to keep up my friendships with lesbians I have met, they just let it die. I don't feel as if it is anything I did or they don't like me, they just don't have an interest in maintaining a friendship. But then maybe that's my problem with most gay men. I feel the only ones who do want a friendship want something from me either sexual or a place to live. That has been my experience. I've been told that you're lucky if you get through life and have two or three good friends. Well, under that criteria I am fortunate because I do have several good friends who don't want anything from me other than my friendship. I was hoping to pick up a few more friends when I moved down here five years ago. I have made one friends. That's it. But then that's probably the same for everyone.

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  10. the comments here are as interesting as the post! i agree with a lot that has been said, including the idea that one-on-one friendships are deeper and easier than group friendships. i am not a big group person. i love one-on-one. it sounds to me, ron, like you should organize your own dine out group, and just invite who you want to invite. friendships come in all shapes...many are just social, and then there are usually just a few, if we are lucky, that are there in the good times and the bad. but that requires that we do the same for them. what i know of "generalizing", is that pretty soon we start to only see that which matches our ideas--reinforcing the negative thought. if you don't like your current group of friends, for pete's sake, go get some more. i too have a fear of becoming the "old man at the end of the street", but i also know that i have some control over whether or not that happens. and i am doing my damndest to make sure it does not happen.

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  11. Tony,

    Again, you offer the best advice. We think alike in many ways. I have come to the conclusion that in the future I will form my own dine out group. That means I'll dine with my own friends. Within the dine out group I did make some friends...Scott and David and Ken and Don. I've already asked my new co-worker Robert to go out. He's quite a bit younger than me (26 to my 69) but we get along good. I'm not interested in him sexually which is good because all I'm looking for is to expand my social circle. I'm way past hanging out at bars. In fact, I haven't been to a bar since I've moved to Delaware in 2006 nor do I intend to. I have no interest in that. A lot of the older gay guys go to church. I've done that but I'm not a religious person. Singing hymns in a choir isn't my thing. In the meantime I'll focus my attention and energies back to my genealogy research and Find a Grave postings. Doesn't sound exciting but those activities do sooth my soul. And of course my blog postings, which I love. Thanks again for your input Tony. You are an interesting man.

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