There is nothing intrinsic to my speaking French that excludes women.

There is something significant to the pattern of my friendships, which were primarily with males until I was well into my adult and professional life.

I had one close girlfriend as a small child – Sara Harwood – whose family moved away from Washington DC when I was about nine. I ran away ten blocks to her house after one particularly horrible encounter with my mother. Her mother sat me down with milk and cookies, listened to me, then called my home to say I was invited to spend the night with my playmate. The next day Sara’s mother drove me home. I have no idea what she said to my mother – but nothing changed in how I was treated.

I also played with a neighbor – Keith Fleming – until my family moved away from Washington DC when I was twelve. Keith had a wonderful playhouse her father had built in their back yard. We were both only children; neither of our families was comfortable with the other, limiting our interaction to the hours we spent building fantasy lives in the playhouse.

From the time we moved to Vietnam, as I turned thirteen, I was a loner – or had friends who were boys and, as I grew older, a sequence of boyfriends. I missed out on slumber parties. Not allowed to attend, and my mother steadfastly refused to take on responsibility for anyone else’s children so I never had friends over to visit in my home. Without the opportunity to reciprocate, I became uncomfortable spending time in other homes, reinforcing my loner path through my teens.

In the arms of the Leper King - Angkhor Wat

In the arms of the Leper King – Angkhor Wat

Undoubtedly the difficulties of life with my severely emotionally disturbed mother produced subtle bias against forming relationships with women. By contrast, I received affection from the one grandparent in my life – my Grampa – and at least intermittently from my father. Not surprising, therefore, that I was more comfortable with boys than with girls – and consequently not surprising that my memories from my French-speaking life are of interactions with males.

Overlooking Athens

Overlooking Athens

Not surprising either – perhaps – that for much of my early career I worked in male-dominated areas, encountering relatively few women from amongst whom to find friends. Clinical research in Boston, employment testing and then wildlife management planning in Santa Fe, then teaching in the New Mexico penitentiary… surrounded by men, in some cases the only female professional in the group. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-thirties that I developed close friendships with several women. Interestingly, they remain my friends today – thirty some years later. So once the barrier came down, friendships with both sexes became my norm.

Sivan at Mesa Verde

Sivan at Mesa Verde

Come to think of it, those first friendships with women had a common thread – all of us had had difficult relationships with our mothers. We were mature enough to not feel the need to vie, as teens so often do, for “who had it worst” (or best, or easiest). Absent that competitive tone, we could learn from each other and bond over our shared solutions to the psychological slings and arrows we had endured. Just a week ago, one of those friends commented to me that she’s always thought of me as sexy although she’d never mentioned the trait to me. I am surprised – it’s not at all how I think of myself, although I do enjoy and embrace that aspect of life. Reflecting on her remark, I realize that there is still a corner of my psyche that accepts my mother’s strictures against behaving improperly – i.e. in a sexual manner. And believe me, she saw sexual innuendo everywhere!

A meal with Leon at San Felipe

A meal with Leon at San Felipe

I don’t. And where I do see it, I am not offended nor embarrassed, nor do I think of myself as improper because I enjoy all aspects of my being. My female friends, I suspect, do the same, though that is not a subject we’ve found it necessary to discuss. Instead we talk about our careers, balancing personal with professional life. We share excitement over new endeavors, and commiseration over frustrated aspirations. And, with those who are, like me, followers of MasterPath, we share the outward manifestation of our inner spiritual discoveries.

It no longer seems to matter to me if a friend is male or female – the nature of the bonding remains the same. Shared values, interest in new aspects of life, finding ways to be useful and to be appreciated, these are my building blocks for any constructive relationship. I’m pleased to know that my early misdirection away from females has been overcome; now I just need to encounter some French-speaking women to bring full balance to my language-dictated relationships.

A happy Khin

A happy Khin

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3 Responses to “Friends”

  1. Diana Presser Says:

    I never realized (or knew) what a fascinating career path you’ve had! I get so many e-mails, and involved in the anti-fracking work at hand in San Miguel County, that I “save” your stories for when I have time — often that day does not come, but before I delete a story, I begin to read it and before you know it — I’m drawn in.

    You are a great writer! Thanks for sharing. Also, I have been told I should write a book, so maybe you are also an inspiration?!

    • chelawriter Says:

      Thanks for your kind words, I’m glad you find pleasure in my writing – and I’m flattered to be thought an inspiration by someone as dedicated and hard-working-for-our -common- good as you are!

  2. Cheryl @ Artzzle Says:

    I’ve always had trust issues, from childhood on. The gender didn’t seem to matter. My mom was wonderful … my dad, not so much. Forming friendships to me has always been generic as well, and age has never been a factor in a relationship. While young, I had senior friends, and now my circles include all ages.

    My friendships begin with humor and/or common traits or talents, That’s not to say we’re all alike, far from it! (That would be so BORING.) My beliefs have changed drastically as I’ve aged and although I’m relatively comfortable with them today, some of my “relatives” are not. But my “Friends” are fine with me, and my spouse is too. So it’s good.

    You always stir up the brain cells. Keep doing what you’re doing!

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