Sunday, January 23, 2005

It's Raining Men

For almost ten years I worked with nearly 100 women and about 17 guys. Breaks, lunches and sometimes even vacations were spent with women. I was married to a quiet man so even at home, conversations were usually on the phone with women.

Today I realized that my life has taken a 180 degree turn. It's raining men.

Oh, I have girlfriends and we get together when we can. But they often have families and/or other commitments that consume a great deal of their time and prevent them from the kind of spontaniety I've come to enjoy. The men in my life are far less constrained (and yes, I could go into a whole philosophical rant at this point about male/female roles in family life but that's not what this post is about and most of my friends are doing a fine job of figuring that out for themselves).

So I spend a great deal of time with men . . . a great deal of time. I have male friends at work who I can count on for stretching my mind about the issues we face in ministry. They are married . . . happily. They are also the kinds of friends I can trust and so I share an openness with them that is built over time and is quite pleasant. We challenge the whole "When Harry Met Sally" line of thought regarding the inability of men and women to have friendships.

I have gay friends who compliment my clothes when they're working for me and stay sympathetically silent when my clothes are wearing me and I really should have spent more time in front of the mirror. These friends can be counted on to hear my secrets . . . and my secret thoughts . . . hear me without judgment and love me unconditionally. They think deep thoughts and we actually TALK about issues, but they also can pick up and go at the mere mention of a possible adventure.

This weekend the male factor was at the highest it's been in a while (unless you count the shower I took yesterday morning with two women but that's yet another post). The cause of the increased testerone was due in part to the emergence of a couple of other categories of men in my life that I haven't engaged with in a while. On Thursday I went to dinner with an acquaintance of some years back. Again, he's married and happy but we never had the kind of intimate conversations that I have with such folks today. Still when he suggested we hook up while he was in town for business, I said yes.

We had a nice dinner. We caught up on the status of those with whom I used to have contact regularly and now have to take time to conjure up a face to go with a name. He told me about his impending grandfather status and his recent weight loss and the fun he and his wife were having hiking. We laughed. And at least four times during the evening he told me I was beautiful.

At no point did that feel improper. At no point did I feel uncomfortable. But I did find myself smiling alot. Because he seemed to think I was going to be offended or that I somehow needed to hear it (because, after all, I'm divorced and another divorced woman he knows had gone into a depression about feeling unloved and unlovely, so therefore, I MUST be going through something similar) or he seemed so genuinely compelled to tell me. One friend I told about it thought he was making a pass, but I was there and I can honestly say that wasn't what was going on. Maybe it was the time that had passed between us and he hadn't seen me since I'd lost so much weight. Maybe it was because he felt slightly uncomfortable and repeating himself took up conversational space. Maybe he's just a nice man and knows what compliments can usually do for a woman's ego. Or maybe . . . just maybe he sees the peace in me and perceives that as beautiful.

Friday night I went dancing. The male/female ratio wasn't even so we tended to just all get on the dance floor at one time. I wasn't the object of anyone's attention. But on occasion, one male friend and I had a "moment" in the same space. He's a guy with whom I've had a rocky ride but as I told one buddy, "He may be an SOB, but he's my SOB, and I'll always keep him in my life." On this night, I realized that I wasn't the prettiest woman in the room, nor the sexiest, but I had very little of the gnawing anxiety that once accompanied me whenever I found myself in mixed company.

Saturday two guys and I walked the park. We were all looking at the same scenery so we would go silent when certain runners made their way past us but the conversations in between those art appreciation breaks turned to inner peace and happiness. Again, I was told that what was going on inside me showed.

And today, I had a date. We met for brunch. We laughed. We chatted. And we parted with a kiss on the cheek. Sparks aren't flying. I'm not sure if anything is even warming up at this point, but enough is happening that we've agreed to meet again. When debriefing the experience with my friend-who-is-like-a-brother, I had to confess that it's absolutely unfamiliar ground for me to not have total transparency. I've come to rely on it. I've come to expect it from my male relationships. And while I know it's premature to think that's possible at this point, I want it, because never again do I want to live the daily lie.

All this said . . . I feel blessed. Friends, brothers, pastors, confidantes, laughing links, lovers(?), fans, challenges . . . it's raining men and I love the flood.

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