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Friendship means more to most gay men than it does to many straights, and gays learn how to value and cultivate it. Both straight and gay teenagers know the intimacy and ardor of friendship, but all too many straights "grow out of" those fierce involvements and pour all their emotional energies into their husbands or wives, and children. Parents of gays often puzzle over how their children can endure the loneliness of single life. Since the parents are usually very rooted in their marriages and often receive little real sustenance from friends, they would naturally have difficulty understanding a life-style in which friendship is central. Typically, a gay man will have two or three close friends, male and female, with whom he cares his hopes and doubts about his job, his health, his emotional and spiritual growth, and his personal goals.

Exceptions abound, naturally; there are married straights who maintain intense, one-to-one friendships, and conversely, gay couples who socialize only with other couples. Nevertheless, experience seems to suggest that gays, especially those without lovers or between affairs, enjoy friendships that are active, supportive, candid, and nurturing.

Friendship is not a substitute for love; it is its own province, one that some philosophers have considered a higher affection than love higher because, at its best, friendship is free from the need to dominate, to possess, or to use. Because friendship s so crucial to the happiness of most hays, they should take pains to make it thrive. Nothing is more irritating (and self-defeating) than the gay man who drops his friends and goes into hibernation the moments he finds a new lover.

Compared to the glamour of a new passion, friendship may seem a mild pleasure, but it's a pleasure that endures and ripens. Friends should not be taken for granted. They should be selected with care, and their feelings regarded with sensitivity.....

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