Our family is lucky to have an Uncle Andy. We met decades ago and he became a lifelong friend to me and my family. Like a modern-day fairytale, it all started with our parents many moons ago…
Once upon a time, when I was 15 and Andy was 18, we met in Venice on a water taxi. Both of us were vacationing with our families. We probably wouldn’t have spoken if our fathers weren’t wearing identical tan, pink and purple printed slacks purchased on sale at Saks that summer. But these slacks, well, they were anything but ordinary. Loud is the way even polite people would describe them.
After laughing about their shared taste for ridiculous-but-possibly-stylish slacks, our parents introduced us. I was a freshman in high school and Andy had graduated from Horace Mann and was going to Vassar in the fall. He had dated one or two older girls at my high school, and we knew of each other through the NYC school grapevine.
Three years went by before I saw Andy again. As fate would have it, I ended up at Vassar College too. Andy, a senior by then, was waiting for me when I arrived on campus. He had discovered my picture in the “See Here” booklet which showed pictures of all the incoming freshman. He had circled my picture in red.
Shortly after we met, he began introducing me to all of his friends. Right before I met them—or right after—Andy usually reported whatever was most outrageous and personal about each one.“Meet one of my closest friends, Lizzy Mason. She’s a lot of fun. I think you’ll really like her.” Later he added: “She’s not super bright, you know, the kind who doesn’t learn from her mistakes.”I was horrified. If Lizzy was one of Andy’s closest friends, did I really want to be included in that group? If he could insult one of his “best” friends, what would he say about me behind my back? I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out. But Andy drew me into his inner circle with his outrageous and sometimes self-deprecating humor. He was always poking fun at everyone—friend or foe. I would later learn that the worst thing Andy ever said about me (to my knowledge!) was that he thought he could sleep with me in the first two weeks of school. In case you’re wondering, that never happened.
Instead we became friends and saw each other on many weekends even after he graduated from college. At my graduation, Andy asked my parents if they would be willing to take home all my stuff so he could take me home in his sports car. Surprised but laughing they agreed.
Fast forward to–last summer Andy and I celebrated 50 years of friendship—almost a lifetime. When I think about the decades we shared, there were so many restaurants and clubs—often several in one night—that I couldn’t begin to remember them all. Many of these clubs are long gone (like The Hippopotamus, Regine’s, Le Cocu and Studio 54). Andy also shared his passion for Japanese food with me, introducing me to a variety of downtown restaurants. I wasn’t always enthusiastic about every food he insisted that I try—especially fish heads, which are considered a delicacy. But spending an evening with Andy was almost always an adventure.
In our twenties, we spent time in the Hamptons too. Whether it was a shared group house in West Hampton or his parents’ spectacular home called “Xanadune” on the beach in South Hampton, we laughed our way through many summer weekends even though neither one of us could find our special man.
Over the decades, Andy and I shared our woes about our respective boyfriends and the occasional women he dated. When I was 29, I despaired that I’d never find the right man to marry. Most of the men I met at the time were allergic to commitment.
“Don’t worry.” Andy gave me a big hug. “You and I can get married someday if neither of us finds anyone.” An oddly comforting AND humorous suggestion since Andy is gay. This was long before Will and Grace hit TV.
Ever since Vassar, Andy and I have been there for each other. My kids adopted him and have been calling him Uncle Andy all their lives. Uncle Andy has joined our Thanksgiving dinner and attended many of Samantha’s performances. He took Matt shopping for his first tuxedo. Andy has been an uncle to my twins since their birth. In addition, he attended both of their graduations and insisted on giving them generous gifts.
Now when he visits Los Angeles, Uncle Andy invites my adult son Matt and his girlfriend out for a fancy dinner. When Uncle Andy comes to New York, he always sees Samantha’s shows and supports her theater group. Uncle Andy sat in the front at my daughter’s one-woman show, and it meant the world to her.
Andy and I used to meet more often before he moved to Palm Beach. We still enjoy a quick lunch in New York whenever he’s here to see his doctors. Time, distance and political differences have never separated us. These days, I think of Andy as the brother I never had, and he introduces me to new people as his “almost forever friend.”
I’ll always be grateful for the coincidence of our fathers buying the identical crazy slacks and wearing them on the same night in Venice. Who would guess that a family vacation would lead to a multi-generational friendship and an unexpected uncle?
Ever since college, Andy has enjoyed my writing, especially when he has occasionally appeared in my work. He often asks when he will have another “cameo appearance.”
On the occasion of his milestone birthday, I thought I would make him the star.