Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Our Ladies

I had my dear friend Claudia with me for most of the last week. She is my oldest friend; we met in high school back in the middle ages. When I left Los Angeles to attend grad school, she flew out to visit me several times, and has continued that routine since I landed in DC. Usually, she can hook it into a business trip (she works in the health insurance industry, but we don't spread that around, as we don't want her attacked on the street).

We always have a terrific time together, and this week was no exception. She had to work during the day, but we had plenty of private time in which to catch up. We sat front row center at Dirty Blonde one night (I wrote about that show here), and we caught a Saturday matinee of A Piece of My Heart at American Century Theatre. We were quite caught up in that story of the women who served in the Vietnamese War. We also had time for a movie (Julie and Julia, which we loved. I enjoyed pointing out DC's own Helen Carey in one of the supporting roles) and we indulged in our favorite pastime, eating, with several meals out, several meals in, and much grazing in between.

Claudia and I have always had an easy relationship, dating back to our first meeting in our high school drama class. She was a topnotch stage clown back then, but ultimately gave up acting to, you know, have a life. I doubt she regrets that decision, but I may have detected a little bit of wistfulness, a little bit of wondering "what if...?" while we watched an old video of one of her stage successes.

Claudia's visit started me thinking about how lucky I have been with the ladies in my life. With rare exception, the best friends I have had over the years have been women, and always straight women at that. This is not an unusual occurrence with men in my tribe. I imagine if you asked any gay man, of almost any age, to list ten life-long friends, the majority would be straight women. I've been so lucky to have my ladies in my life; a few, like Claudia and Judy (I wrote more about our history here) have remained constant influences, while others may have drifted away over the years. But I am thankful to them all: to Janie, who helped me through the first years of college, to Mindi, who helped me through the first years of grad school, to Jenny, who shared my post-collegiate years, to Bobbi, who awakened my artistic life, and to Barbara and Deborah, who remain with me today.

I'm not the first one to notice the phenomenon of the gay man's close friendship with the straight woman. Whole books have been written about it. I bet Michelangelo and Da Vinci had their gal pals, and any thought of Noel Coward will soon be followed by a thought of Gertrude Lawrence. These are intensely important relationships to the gay man, which makes it doubly grotesque that a nasty nickname was given to our ladies back in the 70s. I have never used the epithet, and won't repeat it here (it rhymes with Flag Tag), and I find it astonishing that the very men who depend so much on their straight female friends would demean them with this ugly label.

Thankfully, you don't hear the term much these days. But the tradition of the gay male-straight female friendship remains in full force. The younger gents in my tribe continue to enjoy such relationships. I wish I knew how to upload and share a video of my Claud, perhaps the song with which she stole the video we watched last week. But I don't. I have, though, run across a very sweet little video posted by one of the young actors with whom I worked this summer. Dave is working at Wayside Theatre this season, and on one of his days off, he reunited with one of his great friends. On a lark, they made this stop-action video together; it perfectly sums up the way I feel about my ladies. I have a hunch we all feel the same.

Where would we be without them?