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I wear confidence like a perfume at work. I slip it on like a comfortable dress when I dine with close female friends. I don't know where to find it when I am trying to establish a close relationship with a male friend. That is, more than a friendship.

I am good at friendships. In my twenties, I was the group therapist for my little gang of music majors. I was hopelessly attracted to Bob, who was clearly and unalterably gay. It was easy for me to talk to him about problems he was dealing with. As the friend-therapist, I listened, I cared, I sought clues in his words and repeated them back to him. Because there was no way we could ever become lovers, I was "safe" loving him from a distance, pining for what could never be. I liked being valued this way. I did care about him.

Bob wasn't the only one I listened to. My music teacher called me "Biz", the enzymatic cleaner, because I rooted out problems like a laundry additive. He also accused me of falling in love with him, "Uncle Milty", the soulful Jewish 40-something piano teacher to whom our gang was all attached, one way or another. I denied it vehemently, but I knew it was true, or at least that I had some kind of crush on him. It was too embarrassing to acknowledge, that this more-than-chubby, intelligent but moody, gifted but awkward, monster of a student could be any kind of match for this super-teacher. But safe, once again.

For years I was attracted to the unattainable: married and gay men, men who lived ten thousand miles away, men too young or too old. I broke away from this in my early 50s so now I am attracted to a version of the unattainable that is actually more of an indictment of my ability to find love: I find those who idealize women, certain women. At first, gangbusters, I can do no wrong, say nothing wrong. Then the real me emerges and whoa! I'm not who they thought I was. There have been exceptions, of course.

I give Dwain credit for finding me sexy. He also cared for me, loved me, when I was at my very worst, my least sexy, when I was preparing for a sigmoidoscopy and cleaning out my system in the worst way. (I remember that as being the ultimate time in our relationship.) Did I leave that sexual being with him when he walked out of my life? It seems like this is what's missing, what I can't find, what I don't feel comfortable expressing, this sexual self. I feel like part of a person, not all there. I think it has, in part, something to do with seeing. I saw through his eyes, and what I saw was a woman capable of giving herself, capable of surrender. I am that woman, I think she's attractive, and I wonder why I hide her.

The first time I went out with my children's father, I didn't realize it was a "date". I thought we were co-workers having dinner together. I don't think I've changed much. I get clues more often but I am still, first and foremost, a "friend". I know this role. I knew the role I had with Dwain, too, a very different one, but where is it now?

I know it comes down to confidence. Do we need to have the experiences multiple times to build that confidence? I suspect not. I will be asking Jill about this Thursday, in my monthly therapy session, if I remember that long. I will make myself a note.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 10th, 2003 10:12 am (UTC)
Hi Judith!

Hey, when you figure this out, will you let me know?

I believe that the best thing in the world to base a relationship on IS friendship. Sexual attraction is great, but if you try to have a continuing relationship and REAL LIFE comes into it, there is nothing there to hold it together.

My bf and I have been going through our own garbage what with the extreme depression and anxiety I had. He was my Superman and was such a great help. Now that I am feeling better he is suddenly going through his own stuff. It honors me when I feel I am even half as supportive to him as he was to me. The sideline of this is that the sexual attraction that was there sinks to the bottom of our priorities and hugs and gentle touches, and shoulders to cry on become the most important. The sexual energy will be there later when we are back to being ourselves. THAT is what I am confident about.

Don't pooh the friendship aspect. It is one of the most important parts!

Hang in there. You'll find your soul-mate!

Mar. 10th, 2003 12:39 pm (UTC)
I don't pooh-pooh the friend part, but I just can't seem to get past it through ordinary means. I met Dwain through an ad posted in a sexually-oriented newsgroup. We both knew what we were doing from the start. I have since decided it is not a good idea to meet people for sex first, then see if they develop into friends later. I really prefer the other direction. Maybe I'm just too impatient, need to keep up the efforts.

I have thought of you lately, Dar, and was wondering where you were and how you are doing. I am glad you wrote. I hope you post more now.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Judith Lautner
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