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Friendship: The Unspoken Casualty of Same-sex Politics

Written by Beverly Eakman. Posted in Blog

Originally published at AmericanDailyHerald.com...

Voters in four states—Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington—will have same-sex “marriage” on the ballot November 6. In Washington and Maryland, state legislators took it upon themselves, as did other states earlier on, to pass laws expanding “marriage” to include homosexual couples. Now their citizens will decide whether to let the laws stand. Poll-watchers say at least one of the four, Maryland, appears to be a shoo-in, and two more are leaning in the same direction. Some 32 states have rejected the legitimacy of “gay” unions at the ballot-box, but the measure has a habit of reappearing even when voters balk, as in Maine.

Same-sex “marriage” is legal in the District of Columbia and six states, and civil unions are legal in five others. State Supreme Courts are increasingly ruling that bans on such redefined “families” are unconstitutional, and there is little doubt among legal experts that the issue will reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

All that said, the issue has been argued to death—except for one aspect: FRIENDSHIP.  Facebook and “circles” or not, same-sex friendships have taken a hit. From toddlers to seniors, friendship has become a casualty of the gay-rights movement and its ground-breaking predecessor, the hook-up culture.

Here’s how the fate of friendship is affected in real time:   

Maude and Sherry had known each other since second grade. They played with dolls together, became “tweens” and teens, and could hardly wait to grow up. They were close confidantes even after they both married and moved to different states. The two women sent each other’s kids birthday gifts, chatted by phone every week, and later played Scrabble via the Internet. They shared each other’s tribulations over issues at work, their teenagers’ rebellious streaks—and politics. They were there for each other when a parent died, when Sherry’s husband got sick, and through Maude’s near-fatal car accident. 

So, when they at last managed a face-to-face visit in 2011, among all the catching up and other “fun stuff,” the conversation turned serious: What, God forbid, would they do if a spouse died?

Both had been happily married since their twenties—but now they were empty-nesters, and the statistics spoke for themselves: They were both 63. Remarrying, of course, was always an option, but neither of them had “dated,” as such, for years—and that whole scene had changed so drastically that neither woman was enthused at the prospect of life “on the make.”  Computer-dating services seemed ridiculously dangerous, and the “shopping around” mentality of their teenage years was unimaginable. Although both ladies were, as the expression goes, “well preserved” and attractive, nobody was getting younger.

Maude and Sherry reminisced on their parents’ era, when friends of the same gender moved into the same house, shared expenses and enjoyed companionship. Even young people, fresh out of college, often shared living quarters to save up for a place of their own—or until one of them got married. While most loved their parents, “leaving the nest” was a landmark that defined a person as an “adult.” Mom or Pop might move in with the kids if, and when, they got to the point where living independently became perilous. And if they lived close by, they might stay overnight to babysit the grandkids. But young adults out of school typically didn’t move back in with their parents, as such an arrangement among able-bodied young adults was seen as a sign of weakness.

In fact, there used to be something called “boarding houses”—quasi-apartment-style living, in which young women shared a small building, but each paid for her own “flat” as an individual tenant. The same arrangement applied for young men. These boarding facilities were owned by a landlord and usually came with a live-in manager to promote safety, health and maintain services. The old college dormitories were based on the same principle:  separate residences for male students and coeds.

In the armed services, young men had their own barracks, as did women. The military’s “no-fraternization” policy was aimed not so much at banning male-female relationships as it was heightening soldier morale. If a GI worried about his buddy being shot in an adjacent foxhole, how much more angst would he suffer if he had to choose between the mission and his wife or sweetheart, just a few feet away.

Clearly, such a choice was no contest, and this led to a code of “propriety”—a term all but forgotten today. As one standard after another fell, from single-gender universities, to mixed-sex dormitories to cohabitation, “appropriate” behavior became meaningless.

In an era when both sexes wander in and out of unisex showers in various states of undress and grunginess, the spill-over into other aspects of life has sullied the general culture. Whether it’s attending a concert or a theater performance, jeans, T-shirts, stringy hair and running shoes are the norm—unless one is going to a “singles bar.” There, it is important, especially for females, to simulate the same sort of exhibitionism as people have grown accustomed to seeing in “gay parades” and “Slutfests.” The prevailing philosophy seems to be: Leave nothing to the imagination!

How times had changed, opined Sherry and Maude! The trend toward cohabitation in the 1970s and casual hookups in the mid-1980s meant that the only thing that tarnished a woman’s reputation was not sleeping around. Now, that was fodder for gossip! The “spinster” and “bachelor” of yesteryear were tolerable only in the context of multiple “partners.”

Sherry and Maude stared at each other miserably. Even if they were in their 80s when their spouses passed, pooling their resources and living in the same home would result in their being pronounced “lesbians” no matter what they said. Even spending “a lot” of time together could spark such a perception.

Neither woman was interested in that kind of relationship. Like so many others, they couldn’t even grasp the appeal of such attractions. Yet, there it was, pervasive and “mainstream.” The only way they could possibly live closely as friends was to head for the nearest “retirement community.”

Today, individuals as young as 55 are intimidated to invest—if not move immediately—to one of the nation’s many burgeoning retirement homes, long before they are in need of any assistance. Such places advertise the advantages of relocating to another wing or floor as one becomes…enfeebled. Once situated, social directors plot out group activities and offer a smorgasbord of “wellness programs.” One’s children and grandchildren are welcome—as visitors. In the course of such stopovers, these youngsters will catch a glance, in passing, of the “golden years” that await them. That, combined with their prospects of finding an entry-level job which will enable them to live safely “on the cheap,” or to date without the necessity of being compared to a long list of sexual “partners,” is hardly a reassuring image of impending adulthood.

Friends…like the 1994-2004 TV sitcom. Suddenly its glamor makes us queasy. Maude and Sherry want to gag. The Millennial Generation suppresses its collective, unspoken and visceral dread of growing up.

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