Saturday, June 26, 2010

When old friends change teams

I've already mentioned here how you're likely to run into people you know in this city. It happens all the time, especially at events in the downtown area. Throngs of people are milling, milling, and the chances are always good that a familiar face will surface. I saw an old friend recently, one with whom I'd lost contact for several years. Last time I saw her, she was married with children. A dedicated mom and wife. Settled. Committed.

Well, I ran into her downtown, and this time, she was arm-in-arm with someone other than her husband. A woman, in fact.

I did a double-take, because surely, this person only looked like the person I had known. But no: closer inspection revealed that it was, indeed, my old friend. And there was no doubt that she was "with" the woman by her side. I could distinctly sense their partnership.

Now, I've worked at creative firms before. I've known some folks who made no effort to hide the fact that they preferred someone of the same sex. Some of those folks I've liked and respected, and some I've avoided... So, I've responded to them pretty much the same way I've responded to heterosexual people. Twenty years ago? This scene might have made me more uncomfortable. Now? I've seen it. It doesn't freak me out as much as it used to.

BUT. This person was married with a family. Was I to assume that she was meeting a gal-pal on the sly? That this downtown foray was covert? That she lived a double life? That I was the only one to know her secret? I pondered it as I watched the couple from behind the safety of my sunglasses. I used to know this person pretty well; she's not a secretive sort. That's why we got along well; we were both rather obtuse; straight shooters, if you will. Would I have the ability to lead a double life, let alone a lesbian double life? Hell, no. So, it was pretty unlikely that she was doing that.

Then I started to wonder whether not saying anything would bite me in the bum. Would she see me, recognize me, and wonder whether I avoided her because she was with a woman? I honestly liked her when I knew her, and I would feel bad if she thought I'd give her the cold shoulder even if I did feel a tad weird about her date.

In the end, I approached her and said hello. And she knew me in an instant, and was happy to see me. I met her girlfriend. We caught up on the past decade or two, on the events of our lives—both of us had much to share, although my story couldn't begin to compare with hers for sheer surprise factor... I was glad I'd spoken, but it was a bit awkward; she's divorced now. Her kids are pretty much grown. I wondered how they had reacted to all this change... but it's no use wondering, really. It is what it is.

Still. I just keep thinking about that brief interlude. People change, yes. People pursue different careers. People marry, and break up, and have children and lose children. But to change teams: that's big. It's a whole new level of change; it's sort of like meeting an old colleague who's found religion, or become a fanatic about a cure for some illness or a weight-loss plan, or emerged after a sad period to a whole new existence of possibilities. The person is fundamentally the same person you knew before, and yet. And yet. There's been such a serious shift in the person's priorities and interests that he or she is almost like a new person.

I'm truly not certain where I stand on the whole same-sex thing. Do I think people of the same sex can marry? No, I don't. The Bible states pretty clearly that marriage occurs between and man and woman. That said, I used to know two men who were better at being an "old married couple" than most heterosexual couples. Can people of the same sex love each other? I'm sure they can. Is being a couple always about the sex part? No, of course not; I'm certain almost any married couple who's been together for many years would agree that sex isn't the ultimate glue that holds the pair together.

To me, union with another person is about commitment, about sticking to that person even when you don't feel like it, about companionship when no one else will come near, about helping to lift heavy objects both literal and figurative. Union is sometimes as boring as going to the store for the other one who's sick, or being the voice of encouragement and affirmation during hurtful family occasions. It's sharing coffee and meals, or unloading on the other after a bad day and knowing that the someone will listen. And I feel pretty certain that same-sex couples can do all those things for each other just like married people can.

Yes, it's not biblical. I know that. It's not the way a union between two people was intended. I hate thinking about same-sex lifestyles being presented as a normal option, I do; however, I also balk at most of what's considered normal these days. There are plenty of really messy "normal" couples out there who are lousing up their kids and cheating on each other and making awful, destructive, and selfish decisions. I detest the idea of young, homosexual singles out looking for some fun; I also hate the idea of any young heterosexual person selling him- or herself short by participating in tawdry, meaningless flings. None of it is right; it's all sin, it all cheapens the human soul. I've seen it and was even part of it in my younger years, and none of it is pretty; it's all shameful. We all sin and fall short. Whose sin is worse doesn't seem worthy of argument.

Do I think people choose to be homosexual? I have no idea. I can honestly see how sometimes, consequences might lead a person down that path; abuse by someone of the opposite sex, encouragement in that direction by an influential adult, the confused hope that embracing something less standard will make the person feel more important and unique. But I honestly believe that most people who gravitate to that lifestyle and stay there are drawn to it because it's just part of their makeup. Perhaps it's genetic, perhaps it's determined by the brain, perhaps it's none of those things—but I can't imagine most people would choose to practice any lifestyle that pretty much ensures a tougher road for nearly everyone who takes it. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't know. I've never had any inclination in that direction. But it doesn't seem like an easy choice, and I don't think I would choose it.

Still, people do sometimes prefer someone of the same sex. Some animals, too, or so I've read. Occasionally, the person who prefers it is a person you know. I'm not sure what to make of the whole thing, except now I'm a bit more certain about one aspect: it's a whole lot easier to have opinions on things when you don't have any friends who practice those things.

P.S. It doesn't matter who. Please don't try to guess who—at least not here. Thanks.


Athelas63 said...

I remember reading a book by Philip Yancy (one of my favorite Christian authors) and he talked about a friend who was gay. Said the man had told him he'd prayed to be released from his feelings, tried being married, etc. And nothing helped.

I don't believe it is God's intention for humanity. But I don't believe blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, etc are either. It is an imperfect world, with flawed people. We can't help it; it's the way we are.

And we see evidence of homosexuality in all time periods of history and all cultures (despite what some middle eastern countries claim about having "no homosexuality.")

the simple fact is that the need for love is a basic human need. People MUST have affection, companionship, etc. just as they must have water and food and sleep. I personally don't feel qualified to judge anyone.

I'm glad you talked to her and it seems she was too. She's just trying to make her way through life like all the rest of us. You're not her judge, just a fellow traveler. Let it go and let Him make the decisions.

chris h. said...

My friend had a similar experience. His long-time, groomsman-at-the-wedding, never-in-a-million-years-would-have-believed-it friend, a Mormon with 4 young kids, revealed in a phone call one day that he had "changed teams." (And I believe he used those words.) My friend was shocked, of course, but to his credit, very accepting.

I have dear friends who are gay and dear friends who are not. I dislike some people who are gay and some people who are not. There's so much more to people than their sexual orientation.

Mel said...

thanks, gals--good points all. agreed.