Ever watch kids with their friends? I mean really little kids, like maybe first or second grade. At that age, having a friend means having someone who is around the same height as you, and doesn’t try to take your food. Or anyway doesn’t hit you when he takes it. Or anyway not too often.
We grow up and things are different. Better, mostly, because there’s nothing like making contact with someone who sees the world as you do, hears the same music at the same time. Someone who’s flawed in some of the same ways you are flawed, which means you can laugh about it together instead of agonizing over it alone.
First graders don’t have that kind of friendship; they can’t, because they don’t know what flaws are and their ears aren’t developed enough to hear the music, much less share it. But they also don’t put up the same walls we do. By adolescence, our heads are already filled with stories about everyone we see, even if we’ve just met them. I can’t be friends with him, because he’s different; or he won’t like me; or we’ll have nothing in common. Look at the clothes he wears! I can tell already, we’ll never be friends.
My default stance with men my age is one of deference. Put me one on one with a man my age and I’ll feel six or ten or twenty years younger than I am: he’s a man of almost thirty, but I’m a boy, and a shy one at that. But for just a moment today, joking around with a coworker my age before a meeting, the walls came down and I smelled the green grass on the other side.
I remembered what it was like, just being with someone without a thought in my head. I saw the two of us from the outside: same height, same build (matter of fact, he’s skinnier). Who would guess one of us wasn’t a man — or felt like he wasn’t? I saw myself the way you see yourself in a triple mirror: just some guy. The sort of guy I might be scared of, or might want to be.
Well. It was just a moment, but it affected the rest of my day. Is it possible to see myself that way all the time? I think so. Maybe not for a while yet. But it’s good to remember what I’m moving towards.