Today, I hosted a birthday party for my sister and a co-worker of mine. There were to be friends and associates from work, the co-worker’s friends, and some of my and my sister’s friends. The backgrounds here were varied and diverse, so I started to wonder exactly how this get-together was going to go. My sister was turning 32, and the co-worker, Dan, was turning 43. So, there would be a slight age gap. Not much of one, but I knew there would be a slight factor in that. A second factor is that my co-worker is gay, as are almost all of his invited friends. This was – not in itself – an unusual thing. In fact, younger generations are much more accepting and tolerant of alternative lifestyles, and most of us mingle with persons of all lifestyles. In my own background, I have always kept an open mind, as have most of my friends and, respectively, my sister’s as well. I was actually more concerned with how his friends would take, accept, and get along with us. The reality is that, with general cultures and lifestyles, there is a guarded separation. People naturally tend to flock to other like-minded people when confined to a group. On a singular, or one-on-one basis, however, this doesn’t seem to happen quite so much. Neither does it tend to exist among old friends. With this particular party, however, there were three aspects that could potentially work against us: the age gap, different lifestyles, and lack of basic familiarity. I chose a neutral environment for us; an outdoor bar, known for its diverse clientele, in Montrose, a part of town also known for its diverse and also gay community. I met up with Dan and his partner and, one-by-one, everyone else started to arrive. Just as I suspected, the first of the three main aspects started to kick in. The first arrivals at the party, around 3 o’clock, were all of his friends, who were a few years older and a little more used to the day life, as opposed to the night life. My sister and most of our friends, however, were thinking about arriving around 4 or 5, which was a little more appropriate for the start of a celebratory afternoon, at least for our age group. This didn’t bother me so much, and it all seemed to work out for the best, as it gave Dan’s friends and associates a little time to catch up with each other. Another latent effect of growing up and growing old is that you grow into your own life a little more, and tend to neglect some of your outside influences – at least more so than you would at an age 10 years prior. Plainly speaking, this was the first time that most had seen each other in months. On the other hand, most of my and my sister’s friends had literally seen each other the night before, so we didn’t have a lot of personal catching up to do. So really, the difference in arrival time really seemed to work out for the best. Once they started to arrive, there started out to be a subtle boundary – naturally. In all actuality, there could not have been a bigger separation in culture. One was conservative, almost to a fault. He had worked in the oil industry, engineering, voted strictly Republican every chance he got, and was probably the most “far right” person of the group. The most “far left,” politically and lifestyle-speaking, was a gay drag queen; a friend of Dan’s. He was a local celebrity among the gay and liberal community, and had lent a lot of his time to very liberal organizations and causes. There were then mixes of social and political background in between. The backgrounds ranged from rich to poor, with moderate-middle class being well-represented. It really had the makings of an incredible social experiment in human behavior. So, always the observer, I just took a seat to watch it all unfold. What happened after this collision? Well, considering there was no clear majority in any way (social class, political ideology, lifestyle), there was no strong desire to lean one way or another. There was no reigning “rule” to speak of, so everyone ended up mingling and getting along. Those that had different lifestyles found they had similar backgrounds, or other links. Others, already familiar with each other, chose to seek out new acquaintances, and expand their social network. Not one single element dominated the group, so everyone was able to interact with their own way of life left intact. Maybe there could have been a quiet, silent minority among the group, who just decided to move along with everyone else. How do you ever know about the silent minority, though, if they never speak up?
November 11, 2007