Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 February 2004

Quick Thoughts on Friendship

This idea was spawned by an interview on "Fresh Air" with Errol Morris, who directed the film The Fog of War: Eleven....  They were kind of talking about people's ideas about Mr. McNamara before they went into the film, and how people have a definite disconnect while watching the film between the McNamara they know and sort-of hate and the McNamara of the movie (now an octogenarian).  I didn't have this disconnect at all, and that is of course because I'm not a child of the 1950s and I basically knew nothing of Robert S. McNamara before the film.  My approach to the man, therefore, is very specific.  I don't have much ambivalence about the man as he is now.  He seems like a man in deep grief with a keen knowledge of the actions he has undertaken in life.  He appears to me to be a man who considers himself a war criminal, but who was asked to do what he did by his society.

All of this to make the following point.  The relationships that I enjoy the most in my life are relationships that have always stayed new: relationships with people who haven't decided that they "know" me yet, but who are still trying to get to know.  I think this may be why we have trouble being human with our parents.  Our parents don't know who we are.  They only know who we were.

As a person who has changed a great deal over the last, say, five years, I value most those relationships I have with people who get my personality now.  There are people in my life who want me to be who I was, who are put off by my more zen attitude toward life, my love of teaching, my pursuit of theatre as an artistic form, etc.  As a gay man, my parents, in order to have a relationship with me, have been forced to get to know me all over again, and our relationship has benefited phenomenally because of this.  My Aunt Heidi, though, as an example has not tried this tactic, but has decided that the dreams she had for me were great and that I should probably stick to those.  Our relationship, naturally, has suffered.  My brother takes a similar tack with me.  He likes the way he used to think about me.  Some of my very close friends, I think, do the same thing.  They got used to the sullen, biting wit, and have no use for the smiling, more accepting Aaron.

All of us, I think, get sucked into having dreams for those we care about, but I think a key to having living, breathing relationships with these people who we love is to allow these dreams to change.  We must always get to know the people we love again: today.  They change... we all change.  (Yes, I know men change less).  Sometimes I think of how I felt about some of the people who I now consider my dearest most trusted friends.  I used to be so critical of some of them... but there is change.  I change and they change and in a whole other life (sometimes as short as a year later) we can be so close to one another. 

Hurrah for friends.