Keep smilin’, keep shinin’
Knowing you can always count on me for sure
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for.
These lyrics are from a song originally recorded by Rod Stewart called “That’s What Friends Are For.” The better-known 1985 cover version featured Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder—all colleagues and friends.
My podcast episode “Post-Divorce Safe D” addressed the value of having friends of the opposite sex. My friend Cynthia was moved to share the story of her special friendship with a male friend. I’m sharing her story because it illustrates just how much our male-female platonic friendships enrich our lives.
Justin was a neighbor in my building. I thought he was rather an odd duck; a diminutive man who was well-spoken, opinionated, and extremely smart. Not the normal kind of smart, but genius-smart. I felt like "Pinky" to his "Brain." He was a composer and owned around 5,000 books...his loft was home to approximately 12 bookshelves that went from floor to ceiling...and those ceilings were 12 feet high!
At one point, he asked me out on a date and I politely declined. Just no romantic spark there for me. But over time, we got to know each other because we both served on a board for our building's Cooperative (an Artists' Co-op in Lowertown, St. Paul Minnesota.) He invited me to a few social gatherings at his place. We'd talk in the hallways and laughed a lot. He would loan me movies (he had a vast collection of films, also) or books. Turns out, he didn't care that I wasn't as intellectual as him...he just liked me for me; he would praise my creativity, and commend my ability to see a project through to completion, and we shared a similar sense of humor. We eventually became really good friends. He supported my filmmaking, I supported his writing and music. We spent hours talking over wine and cheese...sharing stories about our students (he was a teacher also.) He took care of my cats when I was traveling. I helped him shop for groceries since he didn't own a car. I was beyond happy that he found a lovely, worthy partner...and thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with them.
Then, he received a cancer diagnosis. Myeloma. He lost his brief battle and passed away a year ago. The absence of his friendship is profound. We talked about everything under the sun. I am incredibly grateful for that friendship. He helped me to feel valued as a person; sadly, something that few of my "romantic" partners ever made me feel.
I miss him terribly.
A lot of people think that their spouse will be the closest, and most important individual in their life… that women and men should primarily develop same-sex friendships; and that being friends with someone of the opposite sex is inappropriate. That’s just not true.
I’m incredibly grateful for my platonic friendships with my male friends; they are supportive, funny, and offer new insights into how men think. Especially post-divorce, these “no strings attached” relationships have enriched my life and helped me to see myself with fresh eyes...
...and I like who I see.
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