Sunday, December 6, 2009

Gay Old Friends

Dear Dr. Bill, Love your blog. [Thank you! "Dr." Bill]

I grew up with a friend I will call "Nate" in elementary school from K-8. He and I were very best friends -- joked together, played together, trusted in each other, worked on many projects together. (Nothing physical ever happened, in terms of experimenting.) He and I essentially went our separate ways when we went to different high schools. There was little contact during high school, mostly because he never seemed to want to be in touch with me at that time of his life. Then, I went to college in New York for pre-law and he went to college in Canada for architecture and we lost touch altogether.

I do a lot of Google sleuthing to try to find old friends, for whatever reason (maybe I find it hard to let go of the past; or maybe it's just hard to find friends now who seem as great as childhood friends). Anyway, I discovered through Google searching that my Nate (who I have not seen in 30 years) is gay. Just like me. I suppose I always wondered if he was. But I never knew for certain until I saw various things on the Web that make it clear he's gay, and out, where he lives.

The thing is: Nate doesn't seem to want to communicate with me, and I don't know why. I have sent a few letters and emails and just get back silence in return. In one long email I came out to him and really expressed a sincere interest in getting back in touch, reminiscing, catching up. It just seems that we would now have more to talk about than ever. But he seems to have no interest, or something is holding him back. I can't think of any arguments or bad feelings between us at all.

Naturally I don't want to phone him and put him on the spot, if he cannot even bring himself to write to me. Talk about awkward. I don't want to make Nate think I am stalking him or that I am really needy and won't just let him be. And yet, we were such a big part of each other's lives as kids that it bothers me he is ignoring my efforts to reach out. I feel rejected, or that the friendship is being betrayed (even if it's not exactly a current friendship).

I know, I know, get a life, right? Move ahead, not back, and don't live in the past. All good advice. But why is it so hard to do that?

Possibly it's hard for you to move ahead because of some dissatisfaction with your current situation? Maybe it isn't this guy at all, but what he represents? I'm assuming that childhood was basically a happy period for you, and maybe you hope that reconnecting with this old friend will bring back some of those happy experiences. However, a person can find happiness with new people and new experiences at any age.

You have to remember that you haven't really seen this guy or interacted with him in thirty years, and his memories of you and the fun you had together may not be as sharp as yours. He's all grown up now, as are you, and despite the fact that both of you are gay, he may feel like the two of you have very separate interests or attitudes [just because he didn't reply doesn't mean he didn't read your letters or emails; you may have revealed things that made him feel the two of you would not get along as you did in childhood. And I definitely would not phone him!]

You also mention that he didn't seem interested in staying friends when the two of you went to separate high schools. Sometimes old friends just grow apart and not just in distance. It doesn't necessarily mean he has anything against you but more that he's dealing with his own reality -- then and now -- and connecting with an old friend he hasn't seen since he was basically a child is not a top priority at this time. You may just have caught him at a bad moment.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to reconnect with a childhood friend, and I can understand that you feel a bit rejected and disappointed, especially as it turns out that both of you are gay. If you had some kind of special feelings for him during those youthful days it would probably intensify the feeling of rejection. If you're like most people you've fantasized about what it might be like if you two of you met face to face after all these years, and you're frustrated that it may never take place.

The truth is that some people really don't want to go back into the past. I had great times in college, for instance, but not once have I ever had any desire to go back for a reunion. Your old friend may have so much going on in his life right now that he just doesn't have either the time or desire to renew acquaintances -- and let's face it, you and he haven't really been friends -- or even acquaintances in any realistic fashion -- in many a year.

It's possible that he's just going through a busy period and will get in touch with you when he has a chance to catch his breath. You've told him how you feel, offered the invitation -- the rest is up to him.

But if you don't hear from him try not to feel too bad. People change as they grow older. They need different things, have different attitudes.

In other words, it may be more about him than about you.

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