Melissa Gurley

May 1997

What makes a friend?

"But if I were to go to them, and they only looked at me coldly, and whispered sneeringly amongst each other, and then dropt off and left me one by one, what then? Would you go with them?" Mr. Rochester, from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontte

One of my favorite childhood books is Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. In that book there is considerable reference to a certain "kindred spirit." A kindred spirit is someone who has so much in common with you that your souls seem to be from the same family. A friendship of two people with kindred spirits is a friendship that will last throughout eternity.

I laugh when I think about that, because just recently a good friend of mine was explaining our relationship. We were sitting in a coffee shop, discussing friendship. Often people wonder why my closest friend is a member of the male gender. Surprisingly, not the people that know about my individual taste. When asked why we were such good friends, he gave a sheepish grin and said "There are really only two things that we don't have in common," pointing in the direction of the "things not in common."

Joking aside for a moment, there are friends that we can't picture our life without; but there are also people who call us friends that could never be. Just recently, a girl that likes to say I'm like a sister to her gave one of her usually offending remarks on the gay community. Since I started going to school there she would sit there and tell me how terrible things are with her boyfriend (not always the same person in mind). She would often wonder why my advice was "Break up with him. If it is that bad, why go out with him?" Secretly, I always believed that this was just her way of reminding me that I didn't have one, because she finally realized that I don't want one. She asked me. She had the nerve to ask me after on of those comments about "queers." I told her I refuse to answer that question, because I know that she would look at that as a reason to treat someone less then human. (after that she complained about a clip of a lesbian wedding she saw on t.v. I wanted to shout "GET A CLUE!!")

Back to my first example. You can probably tell which of the two I consider a true friend, but I have wondered for quite a long time what it is that makes a lasting friendship. I think I finally found the missing ingredient.

Now we were good friends before he knew I that I am a lesbian, but we became the best of friends after I told him. (I once thought it was because we both find the same type women attractive.) There are people that say we would make a good couple (we both laugh at this). It wasn't until recently that I became aware of how deep our friendship ran.

When he went on vacation, we kept in touch through e-mail. He jokingly asked about what happened after I dropped him off, because I was all alone with a beautiful girl. I responded, "No, (sigh) we didn't make out; maybe next time." Well, an unsuspected event happened. His grandmother read the message. Next thing you know, "Is she a f------ queer, or what?"

Later, he told me about the incident and explained how MY sexuality made her think he was gay. It made me feel bad that he was labeled because he was my friend. I told him that I understood if he didn't want to be my friend anymore, since it can bring a label that is considered terrible. (It should NOT be, but in this homophobic society being called gay is often considered the worst of labels.) He simple responded, "Mel, I don't care. Let them label me. Your my friend and that's that!"

That is when I realized that he is a friend worth keeping. He not only doesn't care what our piers think of our friendship, but he is willing to put up with grief from his family. He is willing to do this because we are friends. There may still be no answer for why people become such good friends, but there are definitely signs that let you know if you can trust someone or not.

A true friend accepts you for who you are, and that is much more important than a lover any day. One of Armistead Maupin's characters in Tales of the City said, "Sometimes I don't even know if I need a lover, male or female. Sometimes I think I would settle for five good friends."

If that's all a person needs, I have got it made. Don't get me wrong, I still want a lover. I REALLY want a lover. But I have some friends that I wouldn't trade the world for. They have been with me even after I told them of my orientation, and they will be with me beside me after I come out. I know that no matter what happens they will still be my friends after I come out, and that makes it all worth it.

I think of that, and I see how lucky I am.


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