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Celebrating The Other Man In My Life: My Gay Best Friend
Gay Men And The Women Who Love Them
In the '90s, the idea of women having the perfect Gay Best Friend (or GBF as urban hipsters would call them) became quite trendy, thanks to shows like Sex And the City and Will And Grace, as well as movies like The Object Of My Affection.
Said gay pal was always witty, wise, never without a smart remark, and never afraid to say how he really felt. He was the perfect "girlfriend" -- a slightly hairier sister who could give you a guy's point of view, but wasn't afraid to tell you if your dress made you look fat.
Somewhere in all of this, though, the GBF became something of a stereotype -- a bitchy, shallow fashionista who served as little more an accessory for the fabulous lady who shopped.
I'm fortunate in that I really do have a gay best friend. And yes, he does like Broadway musicals and he often nags me about getting new shoes when my sneakers get holes in them. However, Scott is hardly a stereotype. He's a really decent, albeit flawed man, who sometimes drives me up a wall. Most of the time, he's a really great friend who's made my life better.
Gay Best Friend: Carrie And Stanford Sex And The City
When Mary Met Sally
When Scott and I first met in 1989, neither of us knew yet that he's gay. I was a sophomore in high school at the time and wanted to play flute in jazz band. Unfortunately, my rather dense conductor told me that flutes don't belong in the jazz band (which is total b.s., but that's another story), so I learned tenor sax. When I was finally allowed to join the jazz band, I was placed next to the tenor sax section leader ... Scott.
For the first few weeks, I ignored him. For one thing, he was only a freshman so I didn't know him from any other classes. He always seemed to be surrounded by a group of adoring girls. And while he was rather loud and outgoing, I was pretty shy. That said, I didn't have much interest in him, other than the fact that we had to share a stand twice a week.
Finally, Scott turned to me one afternoon and asked, "Why are you always so quiet?" I didn't know how to answer this; I mean, did I even know? I did get teased a lot and staying quiet was an effective way of staying below the radar. Needless to say, I ignored his stupid remark and went about my business. I didn't need some dumb freshman harassing me!
Over the next few rehearsals, though, Scott wouldn't let up. "You're always so quiet," he teased. "Stop being so quiet. Say something!" By now, I wanted to punt this CHILD across the room, but I kept my cool and concentrated on playing.
But things changed when we had our first performance that year. Usually we played at the school, but our conductor had us playing a gig for a business dinner at a nearby hotel. This was a big deal; we were real entertainment!
Once we reached the hotel that evening, I grabbed my homework and found a quiet corner. By now, I was used to being invisible at concerts and other school events. It gave me time to do my homework and I didn't have to struggle to fit in with any group. As I was working, Scott came over and took a seat next to me. "What are you working on?" he asked. I answered him and before I knew it, we were having a REAL conversation, not one where he was kidding around with me. Scott actually seemed to be, well, nice. I began to accept that perhaps he was sincere in wanting to be my friend.
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Let's Duet Together
The next year, Scott and I didn't see each other much. In our school, freshman and sophomores were in a different school from the juniors and seniors, so we weren't in the same jazz band. We met up once again, though, at the annual statewide music competition. I'd competed for several years on the flute, but that year, I was also competing for the first time on tenor sax. Who should happen to be there at my call time -- Scott! As it turns out, we were playing the same piece, so we rehearsed it together as we waited to be called in for our respective auditions. We were both awarded As on our performances.
During my senior year (and his junior), we were in wind ensemble and jazz band together, so we got to see each other daily. Though we weren't particularly close, I considered him to be a friend and he seemed to enjoy my company, as well. I even asked him to my prom, but he (very kindly) turned me down. I ended up going with a Star Trek obsessed wannabe poet (again, that's for a whole other hub), but Scott ended up having an even bigger influence on my life than just being a prom date.
Though I'd been playing sax in jazz band for three years, I wanted my final concert to be memorable. Therefore, I asked the conductor if I could do an improvised jazz flute solo to Brubeck's Take Five, which was one of the pieces we were playing. Unlike that other teacher I had, he readily agreed.
I was nervous as hell during that rehearsal, but managed to make it through a decent sounding solo. I was relieved. Scott was astounded. "Oh my God!" he cried. "I can't believe you did that!" For the next few weeks leading up to the concert, Scott went around telling everyone -- and I mean everyone -- about my upcoming solo. I didn't know whether to hug him or kill him.
Finally, the night of the concert arrived ... and I was falling apart. I didn't think I could do this solo. Hell, I wasn't even sure if I remembered how to play the flute at this point! But Scott was not going to let me skip out on it. Right before we went on stage, he turned to me in the wings and reminded me how great he thought I sounded. He then promised, "You're going to smoke up this joint." With him cheering me on, I made it through the solo and received much praise. I ended up gaining the confidence to become a jazz flute player in college, and in fact, still am one today. I can't give Scott all of the credit, but he definitely gave me the kick in the pants that I so needed back then to follow a dream.
The Gay Best Friend In Movies: Julia Roberts And Rupert Everett In My Best Friend's Wedding
The Missing Years
Our paths crossed once again when we ended up attending the same college. Scott had changed a lot, though. He'd quit band and was now an athlete. He had tons of friends. He loved to party. He was definitely not the geeky kid I knew from high school.
We tried to stay in touch, but truthfully, I wasn't sure where I fit in in his life. Moreover, I didn't have much to say to him during the few times we did meet. I mean, we had completely different friends and different priorities. I wasn't anxious to force something that wasn't there.
That said, we sometimes ran into each other on the way to class and always said hello. But when we told the other, "I'll call you," we knew that we were just saying the words.
Reunited ... And It Feels So Gay
For about 10 years, I didn't really think about Scott. A few years ago, however, I began writing a novel centered around a high school band. As I created all of these musical characters, it made me reminisce about my own high school band experiences.
Then in 2005, a former high school friend contacted me out of the blue. We began chatting about our teenage days, and people I hadn't thought of for years. I found myself wondering what had become of the boy who'd encouraged me so much back in jazz band?
That fall, I Googled Scott's name and found him online. Taking a deep breath, I shot him an e-mail ... and he wrote back, obviously happy to hear from me. For whatever reason, though, chatting via e-mail just didn't seem to be enough. I wanted to talk to him, to tell him how much he'd influenced my life. And I really don't know why, but for some reason, I just KNEW that if we met up, that this time things would be different. This time we'd finally become good friends.
It's funny because in talking to my other friend, I recalled a conversation I'd once had back when I'd planned to ask Scott to the prom. I asked one of his many gal pals what kind of girls he liked. She responded, "You know, it's weird. He's really shy around girls, for some reason, when it comes to dating them." Thinking back, I wondered, "Is he gay?" What I didn't fully understand in high school suddenly made more sense.
A few weeks later, I bit the bullet and called him out of the blue. Happily, he was thrilled to hear from me and we ended up chatting for an hour. I could tell that my instincts were right on; we'd both changed enough so that we now had all sorts of things in common. I suggested we meet for coffee. He suggested that we meet for dinner so we could have a lengthier reunion.
My husband and I finally met up with him at a Ruby Tuesday's the day after Thanksgiving ... and the reunion couldn't have gone better. We talked and talked for three hours and probably could've gone on for longer, but we both had places to be. Though it was only our first meeting after so much time, I already considered Scott to be a close friend. And though he hadn't yet said so, I knew that my other hunch was correct, and he was gay. My husband confirmed this: we just didn't know too many straight men who loved Broadway shows, The Golden Girls and liked to party on Fire Island in New York (an area with a large gay community).
Scott eventually outed himself to me the next month while we were at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. We were waiting to get into the planetarium show about Mars ... and he suddenly turned to me and said, "You know I'm gay, don't you?" "Yeah," I replied. We spent the rest of our museum visit discussing politics, religion, drug laws and abortion ... in other words, we could talk openly about absolutely anything, even back then.
A Beautiful Friendship
Four years later, our friendship is still going strong and getting stronger. I never went looking for a gay best friend -- it just sort of happened, in my case -- but there's not denying that Scott's sexual orientation does make things easier. There's a certain comfort in knowing that we have two huge barriers in our relationship -- me being married and him being gay -- and that we'll never cross an inappropriate line. That said, I think that it's because we have those very barriers that our friendship is so deep. We can be open in our affection toward one another without worrying about it being anything it's not; there's definitely a freedom in being able to say what you feel without there being any misunderstandings (with the exception of my 93-year-old grandmother, who thinks we're having an affair!).
Scott and I have much in common, including a love for travel and have already been on two vacations together (and have a third coming up this February). Moreover, he has a wicked sense of humor and is always up for a good time. But what makes him such a great friend isn't just that he's fun to hang out with. He's a great friend, period, and one of my role models. He's the guy who's gone out of his way to befriend my husband, was willing to cancel a vacation for me when my dad had a heart attack last year ... and who got up at 4 a.m. in the morning to help me with my luggage when my plane arrived very late during one of our vacations. He's extremely involved in charity and has shown me the importance of truly helping others, and has encouraged me to be less of a cynic and look for the good in people. Most importantly, he's worked overtime in helping me find the good in myself. I tend to be my own worst critic, but with Scott and my husband cheering me on -- in stereo, no less! -- I'm slowly learning to let things go.
Do we ever go shopping? You bet! Plus, we gab about guys and do all that other fun stuff that Will and Grace or Carrie and Stanford liked to do. But when it comes to Scott and me, there's more to us than a fabulous New York woman and her GBF. We get each other. We're family. And our friendship exceeds any of those that made the idea of the Gay Best Friend so trendy in the first place.