Friendships, Relationships, and Leadership
Originally printed in the "Monthly Breeze"(04,10-24)
A very dear friend of mind, nay I say one of my best friends, recently came to Hollyweird to spend the weekend with his old pal Breeze. Accompanying him was another gentleman who he recently befriended whose sexuality was up for debate but not his rugged good looks. The three of us palled around all weekend and in short had a damn good time. Then Sunday came. While going to the mall, the Maybe Gay But Really Cute Guy puts in a MeShell NdegeOcello CD; Peace Beyond Passion. Track 2, “The Way” to be exact. After the chorus, They say you’re the light / The light so blinding / Am I not question / Your followers condemn me / Your words used to enslave me / Hear my prayers / My sweet Jesus
My best friend proceeds to say that he is mortally offended then eventually ejects the disc out of the CD player.
While at the mall, I am insanely curious about what he found so mind numbingly offensive. We sort of went in circles trying to get a real answer. We probably would both agree that I didn’t really get the gist of his negativity, but it seemed as if, MeShell was praying to God that Christians think she is irresponsible and they won’t support her and he, as a Christian, felt it was irresponsible for her to say such a thing... and refuses to support her. I was just confused. So... should she not feel that way or... should she feel that way and not say anything about it or... I don’t know, forget the whole idea, put on a cat suit and sing about how toxic her boo’s goodies are? Now this is my friend, my good friend who I am not ashamed to say that I love. But I sat across from him and the more I listened, the more I was realizing how dangerously opposite we are. The tiff about MeShell NdegeOcello surprisingly enough led us all down other topics. I sat there in the food court of the Beverly Center holding onto my baked ziti for dear life as everything I thought I knew about my friend and the ties that bind us ferociously began to blow away in this hurricane of right wing politics and old school religion. He’s a republican. He’s in the closet. He preaches. He’s against the death penalty... in any and all cases. He’s pro-life... in any and all cases. I guess what most upset me was the MeShell thing. Not because he dissed somebody that I adore, but because he seems to be against everything that I stand for. That line could have been taken verbatim from my journal. So when he said he was offended by it, I was just amazed. “Why exactly are you friends with me?” I wanted asked him. We just seem to be on such opposite poles.
I remember once watching a news report which followed this rag tag group of kids from different countries who went to some multicultural camp in Africa back in the ‘80s. Well the kids are adults now, and two of them proved to be an interesting coupling. One was Muslim and the other Jew. Best friends as adolescents found themselves on opposite sides of a war as adults. The two have mad love for each other and concern for the other’s well being and families’ well being, but still, political antagonists in each other’s eyes. It made me wonder, how positive can this friendship be? Can a Jew and a Nazi be true to themselves, their causes and their friendship? A Black Panther and a Klansman? Brittany and Christina? Can you truly be friends with someone who, at the end of the day, is totally against what you stand for? And even in the midst of that incongruity, is the common ground found really worth turning your back on what you believe in? In the past decade, I have voluntarily cut ties with three amazingly close friends; Corey, Robin and Michael. With each I felt a little piece of my heart die. Over time I tend to think of it more as dead skin that I let the maggots eat away so the new skin can start to grow underneath.
I grew up with Corey back in the Ida B. Wells Projects in Chicago. We were buddies since we were born. But as we got older there were just a lot of personality differences and annoyances. I felt like I was his lap horse, I was the standard he always measured himself against. He was only skinny because I was fat, he could only be tall because I was short, he could be extroverted because I was a latch key kid. When I left Chicago, he was on top of the list of things I was intentionally “leaving behind.” He recently flagged down my brother and had him call me on his cell phone. It was not a good feeling talking to him again. It was not a joyous reunion. My brother tells me to be friends with him again, we were friends for so long, stop holding grudges, life is too short. I tell my brother it wasn’t a case of holding a grudge, there wasn’t a specific incident, it was just decades of absurd behavior and life IS too short to be putting up with that. My brother asks me, “What would Jesus do?” To which I reply, “Do you really think Jesus would put up with that SHIT?!” Robin is my coworker. We share an office together that’s approximately 5’ x 5’ big. But it was cool because we instantly became the best of friends. The black Will & Grace we were, we would talk all day then call each other all night. Until she got it in her mind to consistently acknowledge the porn on my computer in front of my superiors and other coworkers. We had a flat out drag out southside of Chicago argument with me being every kind of ignorant little boy and her being a million one bitches. In the end, thankfully, we still had our jobs. Unfortunately, our friendship never recovered. Not even a little bit. The MOST we say to each other is “Good morning” and “I’ll see you tomorrow”. It’s over. Michael was a doozey. Michael was my bestest of best friends when I moved here from Chicago. We were joined at the hip. He had his inconsistencies, I had mine, and we were the perfect little dysfunctional family for years. But things just went awry. His inconsistencies began to border on the humorlessly juvenile and then he (legally!) changed his name from Michael to Paige because he thought Michael was too... feminine. All of which of I treated with the utmost ambivalence until one glorious day he sent me an email declaring that he, and I quote, “is not benefiting from our relationship. And I know you will take this letter, as you have our entire friendship, as one big joke. But ask yourself, what did we really have in common anyway?” Then I find myself sitting across from my newest bestest of best friends, clinging on to my baked ziti, with that same question blowing so hard in my face I can feel my cornrows unraveling.
For years now, I have subconsciously been throwing this big pity party about me not having many friends. Well shit, none at all locally. I know no one at ALL I can call up and see if they want to catch a movie or get a cup of coffee. And I sort of hated myself because of that, because I don’t play everybody’s reindeer games, and maybe I should. But while anchoring myself with my baked ziti, I started to realize that, there’s been an effort here. It’s not random that I don’t have any L.A. friends and it has nothing to do with my appearance or my music choices or my hair. I think I’ve been avoiding finding new people to enter into my world because I’m so weary of having yet another bestest of best friend use me as a measuring tool or talk about my porn to my boss or go psycho on me and change his name to Charlotte because Butch is too feminine or tell me at the Food Court of the Beverly Center that he is a closeted bisexual preacher republican who disses MeShell NdegeOcello and thinks all women who get pregnant should have to give birth no matter what. Ever since that email I’ve been flying solo with my thoughts and my emotions and my feelings. I haven’t had a crew in years. I still don’t know how healthy that is, but I do know, I don’t fear being alone, and that has to count for something.
I love my current bestest best friend. I think only time can tell if the common ground we have of respect and gossip and boys and a mutual America’s Next Top Model obsession and Ikea will weather the storm of he being righteous Republican evangelist and me being bleeding heart Liberal rebel. I for one am optimistic. It’s probably me being the over dramatic artist but, I feel, our brouhaha is so much more symbolic to the greater world at large. If we, clearly on opposite sides of the religious, political and social divide, can still live up to our respective ideals and still respect, love and feel comfortable enough with one another to watch a drag show, then maybe, just maybe, there’s hope yet for the world.