A friend later described me as "a COA parent" and that threw me a bit.
To Andrew, I am one of his "old" friends, which means that I am a friend of his who is old, not that we've known and liked each other a long time.
Certainly, I am old enough to be Andrew's mother, at least chronologically. He is 22. I am 44. Yes, I could have been his parent. Only our friendship does not feel like that kind of parent-offspring relationship, at least not any that I have seen or experienced. I don't think I fit in the "favorite auntie" kind of category, either. Andrew is cool. We hang out. I don't ask anything of him beyond that he eat now and then when I make food, and that he not trash my place and not clean it up. I tell stories about the dark ages (1980s and 90s) of lgbt politics and he looks at me like I am a museum exhibit, and then tells me of queer youth street theater troupes in Boston and Los Angeles. We have very different lives.
He works with autistic children and I build stuff. I think we both look at each other's work and marvel, but we don't get too freaked out about it. He can do stuff I can't. I can do stuff he can't. That's fair.
I guess I play some sort of mentor role, but that seems odd, too. I don't think he really needs a mentor, so I try not to bury him with advice and direction. I offer what I think and know that he can (and will) take it or leave it as he sees fit. I don't get too terribly bent when he ignores my wisdom. Sometimes it's wisdom, after all, and sometimes it's not. And he's a way better judge of that then I tend to be.
So how is it that I felt a kind of parental pride when I heard his name announced and saw him walk across the stage to get his degree? I don't know. Honestly, I have only known Andrew for less than a year. We both worked on the No On 1 campaign, but barely saw each other then. We joined the church together in January. I guess that's when our independent friendship began. I think that was it. I was the 12-step person who wasn't a jerk to him. And the gray-haired person who didn't try to run his world.
True, I watch in exasperation some days as he spins with the drama and angst that I had at that age, but I don't take it personally. I know that it's part of his process and that he'll get through it. He complied, analyzed and presented a crapton of data for his final project. He can do the big things. And he can help an autistic child use the bathroom without getting skeeved out about it. That's pretty amazing.
So where am I in all this? I have no idea. I guess part of my brain wants to put me in a box, to define who and what I am, and to define this friendship in terms that others will be able to recognize. I think part of me is just still amazed that I know how to have friends. I didn't, for a long time. I did not have the social skills to know how to give and take, to not bully, to not manipulate, to not be passive-aggressive, to allow others the flexibility that I desired. I take up a lot of space in a room. I know that. I am a powerhouse of energy and noise and opinion and sarcasm, and not everyone can handle that or enjoy it. Some of it is the leftover stuff from when I was raised by wolves, but some of it, I must say, is me and probably here to stay, at least to some degree. I know that not everybody will like me, not everybody will be able to handle my energy level, and not everybody gets my sarcasm. I will hurt and insult people unintentionally, and they will leave. I know this and try to temper my words, but sometimes I miss. So, I am pleased when someone either sees past that stuff or else decides it's something they can work with to be my friend.
There was a time break here and I entirely lost my train of thought, so I am going to post this as is and try to be intelligent again tomorrow.