I miss the days when I was just ‘one of the guys’.

One sticky summer day 32 years ago, I was catching lizards in the backyard with my next door neighbor and friend Barry.  We were both 10 and in addition to catching lizards, we’d climb up walk on the top of the cinder block fences that separated our yards, and we’d daydream under the sunlight.  I felt brave around him.bridge1

[Bridge to Terabithia picture borrowed from Jeff Swindoll’s movie review]

When I was 16, Roger, my best friend in the whole wide world, and I would go for long walks in the local forest preserves of a Midwest suburb and we’d talk about our hopes and dreams while we struggled to stay sane while we dealt with dysfunctional families.  I had hope when I was with him.

When I was 17, I’d wax philosophical about life and human nature into the wee hours of the morning with my friend Dave, a university sophomore would teach me the value of Nietzsche aphorisms – “That which does not kill me makes me stronger” – and imprinted in me Shakespeare’s wisdom “To Thine Own Self Be True”.  I felt strong enough to stand firm in my beliefs because of him.

It was these earliest experiences with boys that made me appreciate the company of men, rather than women.   I was just never able to replicate that kind of bonding with girls, and I never questioned the wisdom in having mostly male friends.

Until mid-life, that is.

I went on from these friendships to have other platonic male friendships.  But…something strange happened.  Every male friend I had in the last 5 years made a pass at me.  Every. single. last. one.  It seems as if mid-life struck them hard, often their marriages were either in the process of divorce or seriously considering divorce, or safe from divorce but unutterably boring and completely devoid of touch, affection and intimacy.  Maybe death anxiety was looming high.  Whatever it was, I can’t blame them for it.

I get it, sort of.

Everyone needs love and affection and reassurance through the rough patches in life.  We fail to nurture healthy interdependence in this country, but pride ourselves on our fierce independence or demand other’s dependency while depriving them of their needs.  And then we finally feel how empty our lives have become and so turn to others in our need.

But what I don’t get is why every single last one of them reached out to me for needs not being met by their spouses, instead of someone who didn’t know their wife?  And while my marriage was unsteady at times, touch and affection was the glue that kept us together during the tough times.  And I thought our friends knew that because I was always affectionate and cuddly with my husband around our friends.  It’s just how I was.

And sadly, for me, there were some really close friends I just had to walk away from, because they were so insistent on continuing the provocative talk (really, why do people talk about body parts as if they were not a part of the person?  or as if the whole person was reduced to their reproductive parts?) and the hands that don’t belong where they “accidentally” brushed and the hugging way too long and too close to be chaste, or suddenly turning their mouths towards mine when for years and years, I’d give them a peck on the cheek.

I admit, the extra attention was nice, for a little while.  But then it got confusing.  It got to be too much coming too often from every guy friend I had, that I figured something must have infected them with the same kind of sickness.  I lost trust not just in my friends, but trust in myself, because I was feeling confused about my own body’s reactions to people I never gave much of a thought to.

Men who had no attraction to me (or I, to them) in our younger days, were all of a sudden pushing boundaries in mid-life (boundaries I soon discovered weren’t really firmly in place).  It wasn’t just one or two.  It was every male I had ever been good friends with.  And I had become so uncomfortable I had to break some really long-standing friendships with them because the pressure got to be so much.

Soon I discovered they no longer wanted me around for my mind, but they wanted me to take care of their gnawing loneliness.  It reached a crescendo not too long ago, when I totally had to break contact with the last of them.

[I’m trying to think…I don’t think any of husband’s and my old friends know I blog…so I’m not getting anyone into trouble with their wives].

I tried to find new friends, and come to find out, it’s not as easy as it used to be to be, because no girls want to go out for a cup of coffee with me even when I ask, people in general are so flaky and the concept of philosophy is so foreign to them that asking them to parse Nietszche with me is utterly impossible (and the only  real life friend in recent years who could died), or so “addicted to Jesus” and trying to sell me on their religion, or talk so fast and hyper (to me, a sign of an anxious mind) it sends my skin crawling, or so lonely, all they want is a relationship to make them feel better.  Well, at least until the other person fails to fill their bottomless cups.

With any new male friend, I got the feeling any attention I paid them could easily be taken the wrong way – especially since I was told by a 60-something writer friend of mine that when a woman smiles at him, he thinks she’s into him and if she’s married, he’s going to wonder if that ring comes off.  I just thought, ‘great, if that’s what is typical these days, I have no hope of finding safe friendship’.

It got to the point that I just stayed home.

My recent experiences with my guy pals have disenchanted me and I’ve had to learn to become my own best friend.   Not easy when you enjoy being sociable and relish the art of conversation.

That’s been the hardest adaptation I’ve had to make.  So I stay home, read the works of great minds, meditate, learn to be happy in this friendless place, and hope I learn a lot from this latest challenge.  All the trauma books say one shouldn’t isolate oneself, and yet, how can I NOT isolate myself when I have experienced what I have?   I cannot solve the world’s loneliness, though I admit, once upon a time, I actually thought I could by being a good friend.

I want so badly to go back to those days when I could just be ‘one of the guys’, of being able to be ‘friends without benefits’, when friendship could be more enduring and edifying, and above all else, safe.

Instead, I spend way too much time writing blog posts, talking to invisible people on the internet, watching Elementary and wishing I was Joan Watson, trying to feel connected in a world that is disconnected.

And try to learn how to be in this world without being trapped by it.

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About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Friendship, Safety, The Absurd Life, Withdrawal. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to I miss the days when I was just ‘one of the guys’.

  1. thenerdyscribe says:

    Sounds tough having to lose those friends. I have lost friends due to a lack of contact mostly. I made friends using the Internet which helps. Otherwise I am pretty isolated. Hope that can change someday. I wish you well!

  2. Casey says:

    Thank you. I wish you well, too.

    Yeah, some friends of mine (my work colleagues) just have dissipated because they live an hour away from me and it’s too hard for all of us to make time. But we try to get together at least once a year.

    I think the loss of the people is getting to be more manageable. What is harder is the sense of trust I lost and the fact that I can’t be as open and friendly as I once was, so now I feel really constricted. It got to be that I felt really conflicted around people. I cared about them, but couldn’t give them what they wanted, but I also felt bad for that too.

    The more I read about the human condition (either from a spiritual, or psychological or a philosophical viewpoint) or talk to people online, the more everybody wants someone to come along and ease their loneliness, but for many people this translates to something sexual, not something spiritual.

    I am both frustrated and saddened by this, because there have been some online friends who’ve pushed the boundaries too. On one of my favorite message boards, we have had a stalker who played himself as a hurt, lonely old man, then one by one try to adhere himself to the women on the boards. But he would then fight with them at the least bit of disappointment he felt or persecution he perceived. Then he’d leave the boards, then come back, then when he got blocked, he changed his screen name and the new email address he used? “cleverpete”. I no longer believed his lies, and one or two women thought he was downright dangerous.

    This was on a board for gifted individuals…but yea, most pyschopathic people are highly intelligent.

    I have one online female friend who I really enjoy. Which reminds me. I owe her a letter.

    But as nice as online correspondence can be, I still miss the sensory experience of sitting face to face with another person.

  3. I too can sympathize with the loss of a lot of friends, male and female. I live with bipolar disorder. Most of my friendship losses were caused by poor communication; I was horrible at it. Horrible and needy, I think. I am really trying to do better.

    • Casey says:

      I have a great deal of empathy for you.

      One of my most favorite internet pals has been labeled by others in his life as bipolar. I kept asking him whether or not he could be, but he never really accepted ANY label for himself. He’s a beautiful soul, and he’s taught me a great deal about acceptance and ditching the labeling and focusing on strengths, not weakness.

      A lot of the actors and writers I’ve adored has had bipolar. Something about these people just shine brighter than ordinary folk.

      In my journey to understand the causes of mood swings, I learned a lot about bipolar. The most successful people out there have bipolar or some other mood disorder.

      You might appreciate Douglas Eby’s website about Talent Development. A great deal of his site is devoted to creativity, developing multiple talents, succeeding despite (or even because of) depression and bipolar.

      http://talentdevelop.com/

      Here’s a whole page devoted to bipolar. You’ll be happy to know you are in some great company and there is a lot of new support for bipolar that you may not know about:

      http://depressionandcreativity.org/

      Highly gifted and talented individuals are often misdiagnosed as bipolar. Depression accompanies with the gifted/creative/sensitive mindset.

      And you can be gifted AND depressed or bipolar, but I wonder how many people with depression and bipolar are getting their needs for expressing themselves in ways that build on their strengths.

      I think if people had appropriate and validating environments, plenty of creative projects they care about to do, and better self-care plans for the down times, the severity of symptoms might actually lessen.

    • Casey says:

      I’d look into the Nonviolent Communication “method” developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg to help you if you want to learn better communication skills. He’s used it even in prisons and difficult political meetings.

      Here’s an article about it.

      http://www.drlwilson.com/articles/nonviolent_communication.htm

      “NVC is a system designed to help one apply these principles in daily life. It consists of four basic steps that one can use when attempting to communicate with others, particularly in a difficult situation.

      The basic four-step process is: 1) making a pure observation without judging, 2) identifying a feeling within yourself, 3) finding the human need behind the feeling, and 4) formulating a request (not a demand). I will add a fifth step as well, which is to ask for feedback.”

      Everyone has needs. A person only becomes SO needy when too many of them have gone unmet for too long.

  4. Casey says:

    Oh yeah, have you seen Tom Wooten’s videos or books on The Bipolar Advantage?

    http://www.bipolaradvantage.com/index.php

    There is a great clip on youtube called From Bipolar Disorder to Bipolar In Order?

    http://www.youtube.com/user/BipolarAdvantage

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