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New Year’s … past and present

Last night, I walked along Siesta Beach — something I rarely take the time to do. I meandered … mosied … along the water’s edge. Nudged seashells, watched some kind of dive-bombing kind of bird — not a pelican … had the tail of a swallow, I thought. Stood in sun salutation with a ragtag army of gulls, and tried to stand still in a swarm of sanderlings. The best part was I saw a dolphin — a young one — making his way through the water; slipping down under the small waves and then reappearing again a few feet away.

I was thinking of New Year’s Eve — thinking I might make a sojourn out to the beach that night to celebrate the coming year. Thinking that watching the sun go down on 2008, maybe with a shot of Sambuca in my pocket, might be kind of sweet.

Thinking about the eve of the New Year coming up, made me reflect on past New Year’s Eves since I moved to Florida … and that made me remember a column I wrote on the very subject just a couple of years ago.

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After a rough 2006, I found myself in late December looking forward to a quiet New Year’s weekend and a better year to come.

So, I was completely unprepared when one of my oldest friends – someone I’ve liked and respected for 13 years – ended our friendship on the eve of the new year.

Though we’ve seen each other only once or twice since 1993, we’ve been longtime, regular correspondents (the old-fashioned, hand-written kind). Recently we’d talked about how great it would be to catch up in person, so in October I dropped him a note, letting him know that I had a futon with his name on it anytime he wanted to catch a few rays in Sarasota.

I didn’t hear back from him until the end of the year when I got an earful during a late-night phone call.

My mistake, it seems, was that I had offered up a futon and friendship instead of my bedroom and a little booty in the bargain. Apparently, my longtime friend wanted to go from good friends to bed friends in the wink of a three-hour plane ride.

I listened, shocked, as he bluntly told me that there was something “wrong” with me because I wouldn’t sleep with him if he visited me. “There’s a reason you’re alone,” he said. The implication being, I guess, that if I was a little more “friendly,” I might not be alone on New Year’s Eve.

Now, there are plenty of things wrong with me, I’m sure, but being selective about whom I sleep with is not one of them. Did he really think I would fall into bed with a man I hadn’t seen in eight or nine years? Even if I desperately desired him, wouldn’t I think long and hard before risking a treasured friendship?

Call me crazy (oh, wait, he already did), but I believe men and women can really be “just” friends. I’m not big into the whole “friends with benefits” trend that has obliterated the line between friendship and romantic love. And, I’m generally opposed to using sex to get to know someone or “see if there’s something there.” No judgment for people who do; it’s just not my gig.

Over the years, I’ve been ditched by a few men who jumped ship because I wasn’t willing to jump into bed, but never before by someone I called “friend.”

Once, after a dinner date, a guy actually jumped out of the cab at a stoplight because I said no when he asked if he could come in and spend the night when we got back to my place.

Another man had this to say one night after just a few dates, “Look, I don’t want anything ‘serious,’ but I’d love to have sex with you.” Just friends. Just sex. Was I interested?

I gave his charming proposition careful consideration for oh, 20 seconds at least before showing him the door.

But then I sat up all night, chain-smoking and feeling sorry for myself, wondering, when, if ever, I’d meet a half-way decent guy. By the time the sun was rolling up its sleeves, I was over it, reminding myself that at least I had a few male friends I could count on.

And I thought that right up until New Year’s and the phone call from my erstwhile friend.

So, is it me? Is it men? Or is it just the world we live in?

Listen, I’m no saint (sorry, Mom) – and I believe sex is a necessary, healthy, and if you’re lucky, pretty fabulous aspect of life. But I also believe that making a beeline to the bedroom is, well, kind of stupid. Doesn’t it take considerable time and more than a plane ride or three dates to know if a person is worthy enough – funny enough, committed enough, decent enough – to share your bed and your body with?

Maybe I’m a dinosaur, stubbornly clinging to outdated principles in a world where sex, money and status are the only valued currencies. But I sincerely believe that friendship, real friendship, is the most valuable currency two people can share — far more valuable than a little boot-knocking in the bedroom.

So, yes, my friend may be absolutely correct about why I’m alone. After all, I have lost a few dates along the way, and now I’ve even lost someone I thought was a friend.

But so far, at least, I haven’t lost myself.

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Posted on December 17th, 2008Comments RSS Feed
One Response to New Year’s … past and present
  1. Hi Mary Catherine,

    As usual, your column was funny and to the point. Although this one was a bit sad. I totally agree with your demarcation between friends and lovers. After I was divorced, one of my cousins asked me why didn’t I pursue one of my friends in a romantic way. I quickly and forcefully responded that there was NO WAY I would screw up a quarter of a century friendship by going that route.

    You are right. The guy was wrong. (We often are.)

    Reply

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