Diva (UK) - - Welcome | Contents - FRIEND­SHIP MAT­TERS, SAYS JANE HILL @Jane­hill­news

A birth­day party re­minds Jane why friends mat­ter

My wife Sara and I re­cently joined a group of peo­ple to cel­e­brate the 50th birth­day of a friend of mine. (Lordy, doesn’t time pass quickly – surely it was only a cou­ple of years ago that we were go­ing to par­ties to mark friends’ 40ths.) A dozen of us gath­ered for a lovely long din­ner, an evening of con­ver­sa­tion, mem­o­ries, much laugh­ter and too much wine. It was a real treat, qual­ity time spent with peo­ple you like and care about.

Over the course of the evening, we each took our turn to say a few words about the woman whose birth­day it was – and I said that one of the many things I liked about her was what a loyal friend she’d been over many years. What I didn’t tell the group, was that think­ing about how my friend and I met had made me re­flect not only on the pas­sage of time, but on the phases of life we go through as gay or bi women.

My friend and I met on­line about 15 years ago (we think – nei­ther of us can be cer­tain!); noth­ing out of the or­di­nary to­day, but my mem­ory tells me that was quite unusual in those days, cer­tainly for women. We ar­ranged to meet at a pub one sum­mer week­end, and from that day I had a strong sense that we were go­ing to re­main friends. We chat­ted for hours and hours over lunch and stayed for a good few glasses of wine af­ter that, un­til the sun dis­ap­peared from the pub gar­den.

My new friend had been out since her late teens, in con­trast to me, and I loved her sto­ries of les­bian life – they may not all have been pos­i­tive for her, but they were like a big wel­com­ing hug for me. I still felt so new in this world that ev­ery anec­dote, ev­ery piece of ad­vice or gos­sip, made me feel that I was start­ing to find my way, and that – fi­nally – I did be­long, some­where.

Like I said, time flies. We were both sin­gle then, now each of us is in a longterm re­la­tion­ship. The birth­day din­ner was at­tended by as many het­ero­sex­ual guests as gay or bi, a re­flec­tion of as­sim­i­la­tion and im­proved equal­ity over the years; and also by more cou­ples than sin­gle peo­ple, an­other re­minder of our ad­vanc­ing years.

Sadly my friend and I no longer live in the same area, so we don’t see each other as of­ten as we did in our 30s. But it’s a friend­ship I’m so proud of, be­cause it re­minds me that I once had courage, al­beit fairly late in life; that my brav­ery in get­ting out to meet peo­ple like me, to sim­ply be my­self, paid huge div­i­dends. I’m gen­er­ally pretty hard on my­self, far more likely to fo­cus on things I’ve done badly than any­thing I’ve done well; but when­ever I see my friend I’m re­minded that I’ve come a long way, helped hugely by her, and oth­ers.

It’s some­thing worth re­mem­ber­ing, as many of us join to­gether this month to mark Pride. Now, I just have a cou­ple of years to plan my own 50th cel­e­bra­tion, and make it one to match hers.

Ah, how much am I en­joy­ing the new se­ries of Grace And Frankie? I’ve writ­ten about the Net­flix se­ries be­fore, and now into its third se­ries, it is still a de­light. So funny and heart­felt about the chal­lenges of age­ing, and touch­ing about com­ing out very late in life. I loved the episode where Martin Sheen’s char­ac­ter de­cided he sim­ply had to tell his mother, who’s in her 90s, (though looks 20 years younger of course – this is Hol­ly­wood) that he’d mar­ried a man. Even at the age of 70, the se­ries tells us, you still have a need to be open with your fam­ily, and re­ceive their bless­ing. They may not give it, but a weight is lifted be­cause you’ve been hon­est.

When­ever I see my friend I’m re­minded how far I’ve come

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