1976 – When I first moved to NYC in 1976, as far as the world knew, I was a 24-year-old straight guy, former college jock, and up-and-coming banker. All my friends were straight, at least during my first few years there, and served as my New York “family.” They knew I was gay, but it didn’t matter. We regularly hung out at “Eddie Condon’s,” my dad’s world-famous jazz night club on 54th Street; we shared picnic baskets at summer evening concerts in Central Park; and we threw surprise birthday parties for each other.
As time passed, those straight friends started to couple, marry, have kids, and, eventually, move to the suburbs in search of more affordable housing and better quality public schools for their children.
As hard as I tried to remain close to them, there wasn’t a lot of room for me in their lives, which revolved around nursery school, playtime for their kids with the children of other friends, and suburban activities. Gradually, we grew less close. While I wanted them to be happy with their new lives, it felt like I had been abandoned. I never shared my feelings with them, and, almost subconsciously, I made a decision when making new friends not to put myself in that vulnerable position again. The best way to avoid it was to meet and socialize almost exclusively with other gay men. After all, we gay men didn’t get married; we certainly didn’t have children; and the idea of moving to the suburbs seemed almost comical to us.
For almost thirty years, I’ve had a set of close gay friends with whom I’ve hung out. We’ve shared dinners in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, attended movies together, gone dancing at the Roxy on Saturday evenings, had brunch at Food Bar and Elmo’s on Sundays, and cruised the men at the Eagle beer blast on Sunday afternoons. It’s only been recently that I’ve noticed a change: more and more, my gay friends have become less available. They’ve been busy getting married, adopting children, and, yes… moving to the suburbs.
One couple, Michael and Jonathan (their names have been changed…), had been my partners in crime for much of that time. I entered their lives only a year after they met each other. I was the first visitor in their new Manhattan mega-coop and their Fire Island beach home, helping christen both residences and spending so much time in both locations; we traveled to Israel together on their tenth anniversary, and I brought them to Cyprus where I had secured an invitation for all of us to stay in the Presidential Palace (details for another time).
In the early 2000s, already in their mid-40’s, they finally agreed they wanted children and, after some effort, became the parents of two young kids via surrogacy. Once the children reached eight or so, they decided the environment in Fire Island Pines was less than ideal for raising youngsters and put their beach home up for sale. Completing the process, they purchased a luxurious estate in Connecticut, where they spend weekends and all their summers. I would have welcomed spending ample time with the kids and becoming part of their extended family, but that opportunity was never offered to me. My friends had distanced themselves. I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but, while the hurt was quiet, it was also deep.
In 2010, Michael and Jonathan got married, with their parents, families, and friends surrounding them. It was the first time I had been invited to their country home. At the reception after the ceremony, a handful of close friends were asked to share memories of their time spent with the newlyweds. Relatives, co-workers, and other couples related their fondest memories of the happy couple. I was not invited to share mine.