friends with asterisks

i came up with the term “friends with asterisks” in this entry (“adrift”), which i liked the sound of.  in any case: four vignettes of friendly people, where i still sort of felt uneasy.  provisions in the friendship contract.  my attempt at writing in a thought-catalog/hannah horvath style:

w and i met for a coffee date at the same place where i went on my first okcupid date with chris just 3 years prior. i was excited, the first guy who i met from gay mobile dating! we met, we got along alright. he was clever, but i would always feel a little bit on guard during our conversations. and i could slowly feel the seesaw tilting, like he always wanted a bit more. an invitation to meet his friends. badgering me to stay over on a weekend night. one day, as we were falling asleep, he goes, “i like you, james.” i was caught off guard. i laid silent. awkwardly. what do you say to that?!  i enjoyed his company, but… that didn’t seem like an appropriate response.  our future hangouts were going to become more complicated: w was a friend who wanted something more than hooking up.

i guess that’s a pretty straightforward situation. the consequences or an intervention were luckily largely irrelevant, given that he was moving away for a job. “i always wonder what would have happened if i weren’t moving away” he would say.  i would awkwardly stammer a response. he gave me some magic cards (!??!?!.  i mean, <3, but !?!?!?!?) that his friend gave him. before things got too weird but still after the novelty wore out its welcome, i luckily had the easy out of dating daniel, and the rest was history, now relegated to a dormant facebook friendship.

s and i were coworkers, though the coworkers label seems to cheapen our relationship.  more like…. soul mate coworkers. like… i told him everything that happened in my life, he knew all my secrets, my insecurities, my desires. he could read me or make me double down in laughter at the snap of his fingers.  we had endless inside jokes and always joked about forming our own company together. running away to a different company together. two things happened: s’s fiance was visiting sf, but s didn’t even care to invite me. which… was fine, more of a proverbial affront. later, at my company’s annual offsite, he was reunited with his friend from a different office, and s was clearly more interested in hanging out with him than me. and i struggled to find people to hang out with while they ran off to play beer pong. i still had fond memories of us drunkenly playing around in the photo booth and lounging drunkenly next to a firepit from the year before, but those memories would not come to fruition anymore: s was a friend only during business hours.

i remember swearing to other coworkers that i was angry at s and would start withdrawing from work social life.  i felt so betrayed.  “things have been different since the offsite,” he later confided in me. the story remains largely unfinished; he became more absorbed in his studies and i was transferred to a different department and later left the company. we had rebuilt much of the rapport but not the intimacy. which i suppose is all that matters.

s and i met at a circuit party and slept over semi-regularly. despite not doing drugs/alcohol, he was quirky and prone to rambling and spoke with the authority of a software engineer. in an open relationship. in some ways, he acted like he was interested in my life. he was generous with rides, we talked a nontrivial amount on nights we saw each other, and he offered friendly advice on many of the issues i was dealing with. but he also was generally nonresponsive and i couldn’t tell if he was just friendly as a means and only cared about the physical side of things. and then, at one of our monthly circuit party run-ins, i also got the number of of a tall guy named daniel, and the countdown timer to the ending of the sleepovers began: s was a friend only when he could sleep with me.

“i’ve been dating this guy! things are going well!” i stated cautiously, fishing for hints. channeling my inner carrie matheson, reading his microexpressions.  “that’s GREAT!!” he exclaimed, without missing a beat. later: “dating a nice guy is a good thing.” i remember my giddiness leading up to EDC. “you get to whisk away some guy that you like?! what could be more romantic?!” i smiled. i had told the edc story to several people, but s was really the only one who got the point of the story. i really appreciated his support and encouragement. the last time i rode in his car, i hurriedly worked through the conversation. “this will probably be the last time i can come over” caveat caveat caveat, “i totally understand if you don’t want to talk again” caveat caveat caveat “but i would enjoy hanging out if you were up for it.” “sure,” he replied as i hastily shut the door behind him. i didn’t really think it was any more than a perfunctory response and left it at that. we ran into each other at badlands one day, and we caught up on all the stories left in mid-sentence that had paused since we stopped seeing each other. he remembered things! he cared! “it was nice seeing you, james,” he texted. “we should catch up!” we meet about once a quarter, platonically. it’s really nice.

m and i had a serious falling out.  we had an awkward run-in at a party after not talking for a year.  words were exchanged, and a burial of the hatchet/rekindling meal was arranged.  i was…. hesitant.  i’m not one to rehash the past or point fingers, and we largely glossed over the hand-wringy “hey……” conversation.  i said that the past was the past, that the bitterness had eased with time, and i was fairly sure that was the case. “we have fun together now; that’s what counts” i proclaimed, as the enlightened, hyper-rational, new age persona that i have grown into.  conversation flowed, and by the end of the dinner, 4 new inside jokes were already established.  the subsequent hangouts were effortless, uncontrollably enjoyable.  the banter and rhythm fell into place, as if we had been friends this entire time.  i could not be cold if i wanted–but boundaries had to be set: m was a friend who i did not want to care about, no matter how much i enjoyed his company. 

it turns out that it is not quite that easy, that you can’t really set bounds like that.  at the end of the day, despite his contrition about the past and promises about the future, i don’t really trust him, but i simply can’t help it.  in any case, we have a lot of fun together now and he is now one of the people that i have the most fun with these days.

WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF FRIENDSHIP

i wanted to revisit ONE of the ORIGINAL CLASSIC THREE blog entries that launched the blog, things i can’t wait to do to my single friends.

oh, how the tables have turned, my friends!  all i can say is that, i have greatly enjoyed doing all and more of those things to all my single friends.  it has truly been the best.

joking aside, as much random life philosophies i spout on this blog, i really do think that there’s something to be said for consistency and not ignoring the philosophies when it becomes inconvenient to me.  in some ways, i hold high expectations of those around me, and i fully intend to hold myself up to those same standards.

it’s been difficult trying to continue being a good friend while still devoting a fair amount of time to the relationship.  the last 7 months have flown by, i really can’t think of very notable other developments in my life other than daniel this summer.  (okay, new job, fine.) once a week friends become once every two week friends; once a month friends become once a quarter friends.  generally just behind in a lot of tv.  doubling your social obligations when you have half the available time.  it happens, i’m not complaining.

part of it is still setting aside time for friends (and i honestly think i’m doing a fairly good job doing so), but i think what is even more important (as alluded to in the blog entry) is showing that they still mean a lot to me despite my spending less time with them (and not flaunting the relationship).  anyway, that’s the goal; i’ll be doing a friendship inventory later next year to ensure that nobody is getting lost in the cracks.  i obviously encourage anyone to tell me if they think that i am not respecting the friendship now that i am dating someone.

a non-passive-aggressive mark calling me out.  (though we did have a serious talk about it at some point) (angeles also called me out, in a nicer “JAMES I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER HOW FLEXIBLE I’M BEING ABOUT YOU AND DANIEL FOR YOU TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN I GET IN A RELATIONSHIP” way)

Mark: party-cat like times again
what are your thoughts
me: haha
those were good times
Mark: do you think we’ll ever have those times again
sadface
me: we=me and you
or in general
Mark: i guess me and you
and maybe not even +you
because
you’re busy
with
things.

party cat 😦

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