Liking boys who like boys

Today’s post is by M., whose Mr. Right always seems to be looking for Mr. Right, too.  And yes, she’s as hilarious in person as she is in writing.

***

It’s not that I don’t have any luck with boys.

Really, it’s not that at all. Sure, maybe when I was in middle school, boys were like, A Foreign Species (growing up in a house that is almost entirely women will do that to a girl). But I grew out of that in high school, really, I did. Talking to boys doesn’t scare me anymore. In a lot of ways, I prefer it now. And actually, more of my friends than not are guys now, which is something my middle-school brain would not have been able to comprehend.

So, no, my problem is not that I don’t have any luck talking to, getting noticed by, or forming relationships with guys.

My problem is that I happen to be a girl who likes boys…who like boys.

Colloquially known as a queer dear, a fruit fly, or a homo honey.

Or, somewhat less flatteringly, a fag hag.

This all started innocently enough. It was the summer before my senior year of high school, I had just turned 17, and I was having my first real experience living away from home (summer camp so does not count). I was in Iowa City for the summer for a two-week writing program (incidentally, where I met the writer of this blog! When it snows…). I had recently broken up with My First Boyfriend due to a mutual lack of attraction (and honestly, it counted as a relationship about as much as summer camp counts as independent living. My parents weren’t around for most of it, and that is about where the real-life similarities end).

Anyway, my first evening at this program, I sat down to dinner to do that awkward, overly-cheerful interaction with people you have just met and know absolutely nothing about. During this dinner, I managed to strike up a conversation with the boy across the table from me. He was cute, I’d noticed, and was…actually talking to me? My inexperienced brain promptly translated casual conversation to OMGFLIRTING and, well, it was all downhill from there.

Over the two-week period—and for about three months afterwards—I ran the gambit of high school angst, from misinterpreting every single possible signal to pining. Sick of this as they undoubtedly were, my friends gritted their teeth and told me repeatedly to just ask him out already. And I think I surprised everyone—myself included—when I actually did.

Or, I guess, it wasn’t so much as an invitation to a date as it was a wince-worthy true confession (I did, thankfully, edit down the original two-page love letter to a semi-casual “hey-I’m-kinda-into-you” spiel). The response, to the mortification of us both, I’m sure, was more or less, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I’m gay! I thought you knew!” (My gaydar is terrible). I had not seen that coming. But, as far as rejections go, it was pretty painless. And for a first attempt at, you know, Making a Move, I wasn’t burned too badly—it wasn’t me that was the problem! It was just my lack of proper anatomy! Can’t argue with that. And we’re even still friends, so more or less a happy ending.

At the end of high school, a guy I had crushed on freshman year came out. Since that had just been a minor—and passing—crush, this wasn’t a particularly devastating realization, but it was a little funny. And then college started, and it happened again.

And again.

And again.

My lab TA, a guy in my Spanish class, a guy I’d made jokes with in the hall. Gay, gay, gay. Although my gaydar itself didn’t really work for me, it did start working for other people—I had one (gay, of course) friend who would routinely send me to talk to someone at a party. When I’d come back, he’d just say, “And?” And the rule of thumb was, if I was attracted to him…he was probably gay (Which, can I just say, was really not a fun way to divvy up the male population of a party: if I was attracted to him, my gay friend got him. If I wasn’t, he was all mine. Wait…huh?).

About halfway through my freshman year, though, I snagged a gay best friend. This sounds like the perfect situation, right? A guy you can be friends with and hang out with constantly and talk to about everything—and you don’t have to worry about all that romantic or sexual stuff getting in the way because, hey, he doesn’t like girls!

And then this was how I found out the hard way that liking a boy is liking a boy, and even in a friendship that isn’t heteronormative, all that confusing When-Harry-Met-Sally stuff can still pop up. This friend of mine was, more or less, an under-the-radar gay boy—he liked men, but the average person wouldn’t necessarily pick up on that just by looking at him. And we were together all the time. He met my family. He paid for my movie tickets when I forgot my wallet. I slept in his room when my roommate was being weird. We stayed up all night talking on the floor of the laundry room. In short, he did a lot of the things that a boyfriend would do—except, you know, the physical stuff. But of course I got confused. I wasn’t particularly interested in other guys, because even though we weren’t dating, and even though I knew full well that he liked, well, men, I still felt taken in a way. There was an emotional investment there. I was attached. And it wasn’t ever going to go anywhere.

That friendship didn’t make it. It lasted a while, but in the end, it wasn’t going to go where I needed it to go, and ultimately I was better off without it. And now—well, I just graduated college. My ratio of straight boy:gay boy friends has evened out over the years, but I’m still more likely to be attracted to the gay ones. C’est la vie, I guess.

There is a boy now—he’s actually sitting next to me as I write this—who I’ve known for about a year. It’s a weird friendship—we don’t really make sense on paper, but it works—and we got very close very fast. And, as is somewhat inevitable in such cases, I started to wonder: are we just friends, or is something else going on? And then, of course, the panic set in: I’m attracted to him. He must be gay.

Cue: confusion repeat. I actually jumped the gun this time and flat-out asked him if he was gay. Surprisingly, he sighed, said, “I get that all the time. But no” and has since made a point of referring to himself as “A straight male.” But suddenly, a twist: my network of gay boys tells me he is lying. “He’s totally gay,” they tell me. “He’s the most closeted person out there, but he’s gay.” “Bi, maybe, but he definitely likes men.” “In fact, I think I heard about someone he hooked up with…” etc. So, who do you believe? Gossipy group of acquaintances all telling you the same thing, or your good friend who is pretty solidly sticking to his guns?

As far as the friendship goes, I decided it didn’t matter. He’s my friend and I will choose to believe what he tells me—but at the same time, I think it’s safe to assume that nothing romantic will happen between us. On the other hand though, it got me wondering. I mean, of course my possibility-for-the-year would turn out to be, at the very least, sexually confused. So what is it? This has happened too many times to be pure coincidence—is my gaydar actually finely tuned, and I am subconsciously only attracted to men I know are gay because it’s a safe choice? Because when they reject me, it’s not about me, which means I never really get my heart broken? Or, similarly, it means I never have to get fully invested. I don’t have to fall in love, and I don’t have to go through all those terrifying steps that come with trying new things, physically and emotionally.

But still, as much as a defense mechanism it might be, I can’t help but be slightly exasperated by the whole affair. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for gay rights. I think it is ridiculous it is taking this long to pass a marriage bill, and I believe everyone should be allowed to love whoever they love—it’s basic. But at the same time, I need a time-out from gay men. Because isn’t the dating world hard enough? When you think about it, how impossible does it seem, to find a guy (or a girl) you like who likes you, who makes you laugh, who is similar enough to you that you have common ground but different enough that you don’t get bored, that the things you want line up—of all the people in the world, how impossible is that? Not only do you have to find someone who matches up, you have to find someone who also happens to like whatever gender you are. For everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation happens to be, this has gotta be something of a roadblock.

And just for the record, I have a new rule of thumb when it comes to guys: until proven otherwise, assume he likes men.

We’ll see how that works out.

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