It’s a conundrum as old as gayness itself.
Being attracted to friends of a different orientation is a kind of torture few straight people can understand. The numbers alone are depressing. As the vast majority of the world is straight (allegedly) there’s a very good chance that if you’re gay, you’ve probably ended up being attracted to someone of the same sex who doesn’t share your inclination.
Most of the time, this isn’t a problem. I don’t get eaten up inside about the fact that the ripped dude at the gym isn’t looking my way or the cute guy on the train won’t ask me for my number.
But friends are more complicated.
Going off of anecdotes and every cheesy Rom-Com I’ve ever seen, most straight relationships start out as friendships, or at the very least a warm acquaintance. With gay relationships, it’s a lot trickier, at least in my experience.
I’ve never really been the stereotypical “gay best friend” as seen in so many films and shows, and I don’t think I would be that much good at it. I know nothing about fashion, I don’t listen to Madonna, I don’t watch RuPaul, and I can’t do interior decorating to save my life. I also don’t have a ton of female friends, depriving me of that stereotypical resource.
In most ways, I’m a guys’ guy. I played football from pee-wee to varsity, I drink beer, I play video games, I watch action movies. Like most normal people, I made friends with people of similar interests. For the most part, they’re typical guys like me who are interested in the same guy-stuff I am.
We connect, we have fun, we build a rapport. Chemistry, if you will.
If this was a male/female relationship, this would be the part of the Jennifer Aniston movie where some comedy of errors would push the leading couple into a steamy encounter that would trigger some kind of Friends-style, cat and mouse chase. Movies aside, there would at least be questions about a straight man and straight woman’s platonic friendship if the two were spending a suspicious amount of time together. The same can’t be said when two men or two women spend a lot of time together.
This type of situation has plagued me a couple times in my life, though I’ve never tried any sort of physical advance. Coming onto somebody who’s not interested is selfish and destructive. I’ve seen it destroy lifelong friendships and I would never want to be responsible for something like that.
All the same though, the desire is there.
Case in point, an old college friend of mine. Let’s call him Nick. Nick’s a really funny, cute guy who I used to room with during school. We would hang out together, get drunk and go to parties. Other times we would just talk. Casual, playful banter that bordered on flirtation, though many times we would have serious heart-to-hearts.
One night when he was drunk, Nick tried to kiss a mutual, straight guy friend of ours. At first, I shrugged it off as a fluke. A one-time, alcohol-fueled joke that didn’t mean anything.
But then he did it again.
I tried talking with him about it, and tried to get him to “fess up” (looking back, it was pretty hypocritical of me as I hadn’t told him about my own orientation).
It ended up starting a big fight, and Nick refused to speak to me for weeks. I tried several times to apologize, but Nick wouldn’t hear of it. I know that I wanted Nick to tell me he was gay for mostly selfish reasons. I was attracted to him emotionally and physically, and I wanted that gay Rom-Com turn so badly I’d put our friendship in jeopardy.
But this was no cutesy, romantic comedy. This was a common chapter out of the life of many gay people: unrequited love for a straight friend. And like everybody else in the gay community, it would be something I’d have to get over.
We eventually buried the hatchet, but I think he was still hurt by it.
Yet our friendship has endured. Next weekend, I’m going out of town to meet up with Nick and a few other college pals. It’s the first time I’ve seen him in over a year. We still text each other from time to time, though I know nothing will compare to seeing him in person.
And although I’m still attracted to him, and part of me wants to have the Jennifer Aniston ending before the credits roll, I know it’s simply not in the cards.
And that’s just fine.