Friday, February 25, 2011

Leaving Never Land

Part of why I have felt so lucky for most of my life is that I have been rich in friendships since I was in elementary school. As an adult, during my involvement with ex-gay ministry, I didn't know if I would ever get married to a woman some day. It didn't bother me because, strangely, I was comforted by the fact that I knew who I would ask to be my groomsmen if I ever were to get married.

Ben, Eddie, and Tedd are friends that I have known for over a quarter of a century. I met Tedd when I first went away to college. After dropping out of college, Ben and Eddie quickly became two of my closest friends when I started working at Disneyland.

I realized early on that I usually bonded over shared memories of 70's children's shows and cartoons with those who became my close friends. Tedd, for all of his advanced academic status (he was a college freshman at age 16) and overachieving ways, still loved many of the same cartoons that I did, such as "Super Friends."

"Wonder Twin powers - activate! Form of ... an icicle! Shape of ... an orangutan!"

Backstage at Disneyland, Eddie and I used to ride the tram together from wardrobe to the step off point for the Electrical Parade. I'm sure we annoyed our fellow Cast Members with our hyperactive renditions of songs from the New Mickey Mouse Club, circa 1976.

"Surprise Day! Surprise Day! It's Mouseketeer Surprise Day, anything can happen and it usually does!"

Ben and I were roommates in three separate abodes. We were thrilled when the Sid & Marty Krofft shows came out on VHS tape, singing along to the opening theme songs for "Lidsville" or "Sigmund & the Sea Monsters," and of course, Witchiepoo's big stage number on "H.R. Puf'n'Stuf" - 'Oranges P'oranges!'

As I got older, I became suspicious that the Peter Pan syndrome was the consistent, common denominator among my friends, myself included. My own tribe of Lost Boys had organically formed itself in the early years of my young adulthood.

My time with ex-gay ministry gave me interesting and different perspectives. Part of the therapy we learned pointed out how emotionally stunted I was. My friends and I relished being overgrown boys, even if somewhere in the back of our minds we knew that we might be somehow stagnating. Who needed girlfriends or wives or marriage? We were young, and too busy having fun!

At 44 I don't feel old. But I become more aware of how much we've aged when I get together with these good friends (and not as often as I would like) and, as usual, we can look back and discuss over two decades of memories.

Eddie is not the wonderfully spastic boy he used to be, which is good and appropriate, now, but part of me mourns the young man who always seemed to be bouncing off the walls from a sugar rush (which, at times, I'm sure he was on, high from an overdose of Pixie Stix and Kudos bars).

Tedd is married and has three children. We can no longer be the big kids at heart as much as we used to be now that there are actual children in his house. Our extended adolescence was over-extended. We had a good run, and we can now look forward to being little old, energetic Asian men together.

My friendship with Ben has been the one that's most bittersweet to me when it comes to accommodating our middle age, adjusting to it. It was a few years ago when, after a day off of enjoying lunch and a movie, we couldn't fall into the same social patterns that we used to as roommates. Normally, as younger men, a day off would extend into more than one movie and maybe more than one meal out, or at least renting videos and ordering takeout pizza. Instead, I had to get home to feed and walk the dogs, and get dinner started for Domestic Partner and myself.

I felt a bit like I was abandoning Ben that day, even though it had been years since we were used to seeing each other on a daily basis as roommates.

I hadn't counted on the fact that getting into a long term relationship would mean leaving behind the support network that I had always enjoyed and maybe even took for granted. I have married friends, of course. We all do. Friendships do not end because of marriage, not all of them. I know it's normal and natural for a committed relationship to take precedence, but still . . .

Tedd gave me the honor of asking me to be his best man when he got married. Ben and Eddie are still single. I will grow old with Domestic Partner but we will probably never marry each other (why fix what ain't broke?), which is good. I wouldn't be able to decide which of my super friends I should ask to be my best man (or maid/matron-of-honor, as it were).

Not even if I could combine them all into one Super Friend: Beteddie! Form of ... Lifelong Friendship!


Cheryl said...

Loving cartoons does not equal immaturity. But maintaining a long-term relationship and multiple long-term friendships, accepting the ways they ebb and flow and evolve, takes plenty of maturity. So I don't think you have anything to worry about. :-)

Peter Varvel said...

Cheryl, I'm counting on these friendships for the next 25 years and beyond.
I'm also counting on being in your reading audience for the next three decades or so.