Looking back I’d have to say that women have always been my strongest supporters.
When I was little, I played with my cousin and her dolls. We’d watch Mary Kate and Ashley movies and she’d ask which one I wanted to be (Mary Kate), and it wasn’t weird. And when my dad slapped me and then the doll out of my hand in order to grab me by the collar and snarl into my ears that there were “no faggots allowed” under his roof, it was to my mother that I ran to be consoled (She had seen this before, no doubt: my uncle—her brother—is gay).
At school I hovered around the perimeter of all-girl circles with a very few male friends that accepted me for whatever unknown reasons. In middle school, when girls became concerned with boys and boys with girls, I felt totally alone in my same sex attraction, and realized that boys who despised me were the same ones my schoolgirl friends were crushing on.
After a while this loneliness compelled me to silence, and in that interim my voice deepened, the hazing subsided, I more or less became a man man, or, how I was expected to be. By high school it all seemed distant, and by some miracle, I actually look back on those four years with extreme fondness.
But even before high school, in seventh grade, I met Emily. She was quiet, like myself. Sweet, unassuming, elegant, from a cosmopolitan family. We hit it off. When we reached high school, we became even closer. She was always much smarter. In math and science I was hopeless and my parents weren’t pushers as they maybe should have been. Her parents were kind, but strict, and both of them engineers. Only in humanities could I compete with her. We’d talk about all sorts of things, gossip, exchange private remarks in French while in public, and talk about all the things we planned to do when we graduated and went college. In our senior year, she was the first person I came out to.
Another thing: we were always able to bond over our loneliness. Unable to find a tribe of my own after going to Manhattan for college (in New York what you want most is a family), I could anchor myself to the earth through our telephone or skype calls. She went to Michigan (to become an engineer), and every so often—because her parents have moved to New Jersey after we graduated high school—she would end up in the city and we’d meet for ramen on St. Marks street, or dim sum in Chinatown, or ice cream in the West Village. We have never, to this day, had “a fight.”
Recently though, we haven’t talked very much.
“Oh, straight women always leave you when they get a boyfriend.” This statement—courtesy of a fling I had over the summer— turned into a fear as I began to hear from Emily less.
See ,she had gotten a boyfriend. Immediately after college she took a job as a civil engineer at a firm just outside NYC and been miserable for a year before meeting him, or rather, realizing what was in front of her. He is a coworker of hers. The only other person in her office who isn’t completely out of her age range, and so with a little nudging they hit it off and became a perfectly happy — and terribly insular— couple.
Of course we send each other little snapchat message to keep our streak going, forward memes we find funny through Instagram. But Emily has, for the first time, a serious boyfriend. A clandestine relationship, at least within her firm. She adores him, really she’s in love. When we do talk, she’s ecstatic about him, and asks me for advice. As I’ve never met him, I take her word for it that he’s a jewel.
But it has made me think about the divergent paths our lives might eventually take. What will happen when they marry? When she has children? Is he one of those low-key homophobic men who will insist I not be openly gay around their children if they do ever go that far? Men like this are everywhere, and unfortunately, I find that their wives more often go mute on the subject than resist. My father was the same way about my mother’s brother, my gay uncle, when I was younger. He’s still that way.
Do straight women abandon their gay best friends for their boyfriends and husbands? I suspect it happens, but in this case I doubt it.
In two weeks, for the first time in months Emily is making her way down to Boston for a visit. I expect things will be pretty much the same. We’ll nestle into a cafe, we’ll eat in Chinatown, stroll down Commonwealth Avenue, gossip about old friends, and hopefully get a bit drunk. And hopefully it will always be that easy.