Column: Are Loyalty, Friendship and Gratitude Among Gay Friends Obsolete?

Pier Angelo

“Life Is Not How You Survive The Storm, But How You Dance In The Rain” -unattributed

There is a tendency among many gay people to consider friends as their only true family. It comes from years of painful rejection from our own blood relatives who are too shocked, stupid or incapable of dealing with who and what we are. So we run to our friends and find solace in the illusion that they can fill the void we all feel. We somehow make them our surrogate or adopted brothers, sisters, parents. After all it's not blood or Facebook that connects us, but experience.

It works, up to a certain point. I would like to believe that most of the time it does. Unfortunately more often than not this is not the case. In fact, the most burning betrayals and disappointments come from the people we consider our "friends". Help them find a job, or better, give them a job, lend them money, support them during times of trouble, be there when they need a roof, a meal or a bed, bail them out of jail, and see what happens. It's the kiss of death. They will walk out on you, lie to you, steal from you, find excuses for not socializing with you, stab you in the back at the first opportunity, and, of course, tell everybody how terrible you are. If you search for gratitude I suggest you rescue a dog instead, you will then know what unconditional love and loyalty really are.

Europeans are always amazed when they first meet an American at how “friendly" we are. That's all they talk about. Not how smart or cool we are, not how fun we can be, just "how friendly". They can't believe we immediately address each other by our first names, often turning Roberts into Bobs or Cliffords into Cliffs, Anthonys into Tonys, without a second thought. To them it is an alien concept because getting to know one another and be friends with someone is considered a life-long process, a very serious and difficult endeavor. And it is true, when I came to this country I was amazed, even funeral home directors told you; "Have a nice day" as you left to bury a relative.

Unfortunately, we Americans are very superficial, often phony, we live for the moment, for instant gratification, for “what have you done for me TODAY" and of course have no room for, or concept of, gratitude. Never expect anybody to be grateful for what you have done for them. Always prepare for the worst. In fact bank on it. And, seriously, do not take it personally. For stupidity, you know, there is no cure.

I continuously suffer disappointments from people I have been nice to or people I have helped in a moment of great need, alas it will not stop me from doing it again. Not because I'm a masochist but because, and it might sound corny, what goes around comes around. Besides, what else am I supposed to do? I still do not understand what the purpose of life is, it becomes slightly meaningful only when I can make someone smile and lift their spirits.

How many friends can you claim truly care about you? Not just the people who are fun to hang out with but those who feel good when you are happy and successful, feel bad when you are sick or going through a hard time, people who will put their lives on hold to help you with yours. How far could you count when you were four years old?

So as another year comes to a close, I lick my wounds but also count my blessings. Always remember you cannot exorcise the past, it has to be remembered, thought about it, accepted, perhaps even cherished, because it teaches you how to survive. Yes, lots of people have disappointed me. Yet, once again, I welcomed them into my life, they took what they wanted and left without a second thought, but in the multitude there are still a few shiny beacons that make it all worthwhile. For that I'm grateful and will continue to nurture and hold on to even the most fragile of relationships.

"What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others is and remains immortal."- Albert Einstein

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