I went to a friend's baby shower last weekend where I got to meet a number of her friends from college. They were terrific people, and it made me miss my own college friends.
I had two really good friends I have lost contact with ever since my civil same-sex marriage article caused controversy in my old denomination, the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). I remember the first day the controversy broke out the morning of February 25, 2002. Five Reformed discussion lists were overheating with rage. Some people were calling me names while others were debating how to formulate judicial charges against me. Hate mail was pouring into my and my husband's email inboxes. The phone started ringing, not from friends but total strangers.
Then a different email showed up in my box. It was from my old college roommie who had been a bridesmaid in my wedding, whom I had lost contact with. It said something like: "Hi Misty! Guess what? I'm a part of such-and-such church in Northern CA, and I just found out we are in the same denomination. God has reconnected us through the OPC! I'm so excited! I'm doing this and that now. Write me back, etc." So I wrote back, pretending like nothing was going on: "Hi So-and-So, I'm so glad to hear from you! That's great you joined the OPC, too! We should definitely get together soon, blah blah. Can't wait to reconnect. Let me know when, etc."
After that: Cricket. I never heard back from her. I wrote once more just to inquire if she got my email and reiterate my excitement about our reunion plans--but nothing. She'd only joined the OPC recently. I'd known her for years. We'd been through some major things together. I figured she'd know better than believe any of the stuff people were saying about me in her new denomination. But the bottom line is, she didn't write back.
I had been doing a better job of keeping in touch with my other college friend, who lived only half an hour away. Even when we were overwhelmed with our growing families, we'd still get together once or twice a year and exchanged Christmas cards. Then the controversy broke out and I sent out the annual Christmas card and didn't hear back from her. I played it cool, waited until the following Christmas and sent her another card. Still nothing. My controversy was all over the Internet and she was aware of my website, so I wondered if that had anything to do with her silence. Maybe I shouldn't have interpreted two years of missed Christmas cards as a rejection, but it was hard not to when pretty much everyone else who I thought had been my friends in the OPC were treating me the same way. At the time it was all related in my mind. I still wonder if I gave up on her too soon.
I know what I've experienced is similar to what happens to people who come out of the closet. There are good things about having the guts to say, this is who I am. Or, in my case, this is wrong and here's why I think so. You do move on, and you do make new friends with people who can appreciate you for what you're all about. For that reason, your new friendships can take on a value that in many ways surpasses the old ones. But there's also something that radically changes about your life when you lose the people who connect you with your past, a good past that was worth hanging on to. Friends that I make as an adult can't entirely replace them.
I read much of my experience into gay people I know who have had it rough coming out. We encourage each other and can emphasize the good things. But some of this other stuff . . . I don't know if it is worth talking about except to know in my heart that it exists.