Uneasy Lies the Friend

June 18th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Sleeping, just sleeping, with a friend can carry a surprising load. I think of two examples from my mid-20s that present good and silly examples.

One was a former girlfriend who converted seamlessly after hiatus into a friend. She shared my West Village apartment as her pied-à-terre as she spent her weeks at cooky school in Hyde Park at the Culinary Institute of America. We often shared my queen mattress as well, without sexual contact.

I have conflicted thoughts about the cliché that men and women can’t be friends without huge sexual tension and a drive toward intercourse. It is most certainly easier to have all that behind you to allow a non-physical friendship. In this case, she and I had worked through that when we dated in high school.

Yet, I have women friends I never chased nor lusted after and am comfortable with them. Granted, I don’t share sheets. Also, I am pretty fastidious and have my Southern breeding allowing for context as well as behavior controls.  So, perhaps I am the anomaly for this.

The other was more telling of my shortcomings. Also in my mid-20s, I headed to Tampa on a loop from Manhattan chasing the woman I’d marry. I stayed with a sandbox-era chum.

On one level, all of us in that circle who knew him were aware he was gay and always had been. On another, he really didn’t admit it aloud or even to himself. He lived in the small West Virginia town where I summered with my grandparents. We spent a lot of time over decades together.

In my several days in Florida, he and I shared his king bed. On the second or third evening, he came out to me. He came to terms with his sexuality a few years previously in college. He was now telling friends and family.

He immediately seemed calm after seeing that I didn’t exhibit any negative reaction. He was soon asleep.

I laid there oddly alert, thinking and feeling. I really didn’t feel his revelation was negative at all, but I stayed awake. I wondered why. He had made no effort to be sexual with me. We had shared beds and tents numerous times over the years. Basically nothing had changed in our relationship, other than he felt more candid and trusting with me.

After an hour or two, I also calmed and that moment passed. To this day, I am unsure what my problem was that night. Other friends and acquaintances were gay and self-outed. Something I have never been able to identify kept me awake.

Perhaps this is simply like a Seinfeld episode —  nothing much happened and much was made of nothing because that’s how we humans often act and think.

Gay or straight, friends can be fine to sleep beside…no sex required.

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