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I have a lot of friends. We've met in sports leagues, at bars and on dating apps. Of course, when I say "sports leagues," I mean gay dodgeball and gay bowling. And when I say "bars," I'm referring to Scarlet and Sidetrack. "Dating apps"? Grindr and Scruff. I am a gay man, all my friends are gay and...I'm over it.
I want straight friends--straight guy friends--but I don't know how to do it.
Because gay men share many of the same experiences, they tend to compare those experiences and everything in between. Clothes. Salaries. Hook-ups. Friendship turns into a game of survival of the fittest, where we're competing to be the alpha male, who is literally the fittest.
Straight men are more low-key. I had a lot of straight guy friends in college -- even my best friend was straight -- and we'd discuss sex without ranking lovers' attractiveness or endowment, soberly gorge on McDonald's without mourning our abs and have sleepovers without the awkward subtext. The whole setup was uninhibited by politics, and it was refreshing.
That is, until my straight BFF came out. And then -- well, you know the story. We hooked up, things got weird, he fell in love with someone who wasn't me. Nowadays we barely talk.
I quit straight guys after that. The whole scenario left me slightly paranoid where my default question became, "Is he or isn't he?" Every dude I met seemed to be throwing mixed signals, and soon thereafter, I began assuming the only reason any guy talked to me was because he, too, was into men.
Chalk it up to PTSD or (more likely) immaturity. Either way, I want to try again. But randomly giving a straight dude my number and asking him to "hang out" sounds like the opening scene of a really bad gay-for-pay porn.
Making new buds is essentially dating without sex. You have to flirt platonically and nix mixed signals. With gay guys, it's convincing a straight dude you aren't into him like that without blatantly calling him ugly. It's all super awkward. I mean, is there a non-creepy way to say, "I like you. I want to do shots with you. I want to wear sweats and eat pizza with you"?
I was nose-deep in a whiskey-ginger, goading my friend for advice, when he pointed out the obvious: "Well...you're not going to meet any straight guys, here." We were at a gay bar -- his point being, I wasn't even trying.
So concerned about getting essentially catfished again, I had effectively shut out all straight men. I needed to let my guard down and give a dude a chance. I'm still not sure on how to do it--simply walking into a Lincoln Park dive probably isn't the answer--but taking "gay" out of the equation might be a start. You know, to stop thinking about who's gay and who's straight.
That's the goal this summer. Hopefully it works. If it doesn't, maybe I'll create an app for it. Until then, if any straight dudes are interested, hit me up.
Shane Michael Singh is a RedEye special contributor. He fact-checks Playboy magazine for a living. Yes, he recognizes the irony.
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