I’ve dated a lot of women and I identify as bisexual (I’ve never even had a boyfriend — Gay Jesus, pls help) but I’m very gay socialized. I have more gay friends than straight ones, I go to gay clubs, my two best friends are a straight girl and a gay guy, and if I’m in a room with straight men, it’s very easy to tell something is a little sweet about me. Therefore, if I meet someone out and about, their assumption is that I’m gay and that’s how the interaction plays out, so I don’t know what it’s like to try making new friends as a straight man.
How do y’all do it? That’s a real question. I’m genuinely curious because I’ve read some tweets here and there from straight men joking that they made all of their friends during childhood or in college or at work and that’s about it. As they get older, they have fewer and fewer friends because those relationships change or people move away and there’s no way for them to make new friends. I feel like even if the jokes are in jest, there’s some truth in that.
My sister was in college before I was in school, so I essentially grew up as an only child. I didn’t have any siblings to play with and I didn’t get along with many kids my age, so I went everywhere with my parents. As such, I grew up around all of their friends. All of my dad’s best friends were from work. He didn’t live near where he grew up so he didn’t have childhood friends hanging around, but all of his friends were guys from work he met in his early to mid 20s. His friend group never changed. There were no new additions to the club. A couple of them died, a couple of them moved, and the group got smaller because there were no new recruits. There were other guys he knew — he was in three different bowling leagues three nights a week — but I can’t remember him ever having a guy over to the house that he hadn’t already been friends with for decades.
My mom’s best friend when I was little was a woman she’d grown up with and her best friend by the time I went to boarding school was a woman she met at work a couple of years earlier. There was a lady who used to come over all the time that we met at a little farm nearby when we went to pick strawberries. Another lady we met when my mom went to a cosmetology training and hit it off with another attendee near us. When my mom went back to college she met a younger woman in one of her classes and she started hanging out at the house too. If she talked to someone and they laughed and had good conversation it was like, “Hey you wanna go to Chilli’s?” and she made a new friend.
Do straight men have an equivalent to “hey you wanna go to Chilli’s?” and if not, is that because asking another man to go somewhere with you sounds gay?
As a man who sleeps with men and meets a lot of gay men, I can see why. When I meet a gay man that I want to be friends with, it feels like there’s this unspoken quick calculation going on where we’re thinking “are we going to be friends or are we going to hook up or are we going to be friends who hook up or are we wanting to hook up but also date?” That calculation is why meeting gay men in big social settings is a minefield of standoffishness and a race to reject before you can be rejected. A couple of summers ago I saw a guy’s shoes at a rooftop party and said, “oh hey, I like your shoes, where’d you get them?” He looked me up and down, said “No,” and walked away. He did a quick calculation and concluded: “This guy is only pretending to be interested in my shoes because he wants to have sex with me and I’m offended that he even thought I would be attracted to him.” When the potential of sex is built in to every interaction, you end up with a lot of assumptions and rude reactions.
So where do gay men make friends? A lot of times, it is through sex, even if indirectly. Of my four closest gay friends, sexual attraction was involved indirectly for three of them. One I met through work, so toss that one. One I met on OK Cupid because I thought he was cute, and then we went on a date and it didn’t work out. One I met at a birthday party — I had a crush on the birthday boy and the birthday boy had invited this guy he had a crush on, introduced us to each other, and we’ve been friends ever since. The other I met through my friend — they were dating, introduced us, and we’ve been tight since, even though the relationship ended.
Straight women don’t have sex as a hurdle. If a straight woman asks another straight woman where her shoes are from, they have an exchange. That exchange could turn into a conversation which could turn into a friendship. They can make new friends anywhere because it’s fine for two women who don’t know each other to strike up a conversation and immediately make plans to see each other again.
In theory, straight men should be able to make friends the way straight women do — strike up a conversation about anything and make plans to see each other again. But! Living in a hypermasculine patriarchal society means you have to toe this line of “I’m interested in talking to you…but not in that way.” Straight men can’t seem too eager to hang out with another man because that other man may think some fruitiness is afoot, and that just won’t do. And straight men aren’t socialized to actually talk about things and build deep connections with people anyway. Straight men don’t cry, they don’t have feelings, and they don’t need emotional support.
There’s an old episode of Girlfriends where William is trying to coach Toni to be a better partner for Todd because she’s a terrible listener and doesn’t engage when Todd is telling her about his day. William says something like, “Women talk to each other about their feelings but men don’t. They talk about basketball. When a man is feeling something, he talks to his wife.” I’m paraphrasing, but there has to be a lot of truth to that sentiment given the number of straight women on social media who talk about how much emotional labor they have to do for men, how they have to be everything to these men who give nothing back in return.
So straight men are raised to suppress their feelings and emotions, while feelings and emotions are how you build deep connections with people. Straight men are raised with an undercurrent of constant homophobia being thrown at them, so they avoid anything “gay” which would include being interested in a spending time with a new man. And straight men are expected to socialize in settings that aren’t conducive to talking — watching and playing sports, gaming, drinking, etc. Two women having dinner together is friendly. Two men having dinner together is suspect.
So I’m just curious about how y’all make friends in adulthood.
My computer has been on the fritz, and after approximately 37 hours on the phone with tech support over the past week or so, Dell sent a guy out to replace a part in my computer because I didn’t want to do it myself and potentially mess something up. A Black man about my age came to the door (wearing a mask) and I brought him back to my room where I had unhooked the tower so he could do his work. While he was sitting at my sewing table taking it apart, he asked me about the music that was playing.
“Is this a Spotify playlist?”
Yeah, it felt a little quiet in here while you were working.
“I like it. Did you make it or is it automatic?”
I made it.
“I’ve been trying to explore past R&B and hip-hop. I like this alot.”
Yeah I grew up on gospel/R&B but my sister was a lot older than me and she brought back White People Music from college, and then I went to school for music too, so it’s gotten pretty eclectic over the years.
“Can you send that to me?”
He asked me where I was from and we traded a little Getting To Know You History while he worked. Even though he works all over Manhattan, he actually lives a block away from me. I knew this man was straight as soon as he walked into my apartment, but the more we talked, the more I realized that if he was a girl or a gay man, I would’ve already asked him for his socials or his number, but I didn’t, because he’s straight, and I didn’t want him to think I was coming on to him. When he finished with my computer, he put his coat on and he was dawdling around. He was making awkward small talk and I felt like maybe he was doing the same kind of calculation: I want to hang out with this guy, but he’s gay, and I don’t want him to think I am too. I told him my name was my handle all over social media and we should hang out since we live so close because you can never have too many friends in your area. I tried to say it as Heterosexually as possible, and he lit right up. I made a new friend today!
But is that the norm? Straight guys: where did y’all meet your friends?
So far, I’m getting a lot of excellent Dad Answers — making friends with guys who have kids the same age as you do.
First of all, I’m totally jealous! That sounds like so much fun and I can’t wait to have kids (yes I can, I’m going to wait another 10 or 15 years tbh).
Also: That makes sense. You’re thrown together over and over the same way you would be at work or in class. Sounds like gay men are the weird ones because we can build a friendship based on absolutely nothing but who you sleep with.
Keep em coming. I feel like an anthropologist doing online research.
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