WE SHOULD NOT BE FRIENDS
The Story of a Friendship
By: Will Schwalbe
Published: February 21, 2023
WE SHOULD NOT BE FRIENDS is a deeply honest portrayal of a lifelong friendship between a former Navy SEAL and a gay writer. If this sounds like an unlikely friendship, then you are correct. In most situations, these two people would have likely never crossed paths or formed a friendship to rival all friendships. But, when a secret Yale society throws them together in college, Chris Maxey and Will Schwalbe start to realize that their differences may just be what makes them better people.
It was so much easier to be around other gay people and theater people and people just like me whom I never needed to touch.Will Schwalbe, WE SHOULD NOT BE FRIENDS
Will Schwalbe could be found reading a book in a quiet corner. Chris Maxey was frequently the loudest person in the room and was often found to be doing some sort of exercise activity. Schwalbe didn’t like to be hugged. Maxey gave everyone the biggest of bear hugs. Schwalbe was a gay man in the 1980s. Maxey was a typical jock planning to become a Navy SEAL. As you can see, they had nothing in common, or did they?
Schwalbe was doing just fine in the friend category at Yale until at one point he was approached to attend a secret meeting and join a group of different fellow Yale students in a secret society. This society opened up Schwalbe’s circle and introduced him to Chris Maxey, “Maxey” as he would be called by everyone who knew and loved him, and his life was never the same again. In fact, this whole society of Yale classmates has been part of his life since graduation. During college, Schwalbe was immensely concerned about his “gayness” being a factor in whether people liked him, were okay sharing a house with him, or even touching him. This was in the 80s during the AIDS crisis when little was known about gay men except for the connection to AIDS.
But, once they shared their “audit” with the society (their personal story), Schwalbe relaxed a bit and allowed his fellow members to seep into his life, for the better. Even though I was not too interested in his stories of exploring his sexuality, I understand that is part of his story. I was deeply moved by the friendship that bloomed on the page between Maxey and Schwalbe even if they went months or years without talking, it seemed they picked right back up. Were there conflicts or hurt feelings over the years? Of course, but they handled them with honesty and compassion towards each other which frankly only made their friendship more realistic to me.
What I appreciated most about this story was that Schwalbe wasn’t afraid to share his mistakes, his own prejudice, his disbelief at why someone like Maxey would like someone like him as a friend, and his complete trust in his friend’s guidance. I was deeply moved by Maxey and his wife’s dedication to their Island School in the Bahamas and his absolute devotion to his friendships. As someone who met her best friend in college and not someone I would naturally have picked for a best friend, I could relate to the feelings of inadequacy or disbelief that this person would want to be my friend. I have come to appreciate Schwalbe’s writing as I deeply enjoyed his book, THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB, and found the parts of this story built around when he was caring for his mom very insightful.
If you have an unlikely friendship or want to be nudged to step out and meet people who might be different from you, I encourage you to read this. It might be fun to even read this with a friend as it may just open up conversations you have been avoiding or feel more courageous to discuss.
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