My Biggest Mistake

Morning afterIn the four years I’ve been in NYC, I’ve been through about three cycles of friends.  Not because I’m some drama queen who’s always cutting fools outta my life, but simply because in this town people come and go as they pursue their dreams and aspirations.  This transient nature of the city means you’re often back to the exhausting square one of making new friends.  And right now as I’m in the midst of sorting things out and seeking to build brotherhood, I realize I may have been approaching the process the wrong way.

My epiphany: the biggest mistake I’ve made as a gay man is trying to make physical attraction a basis for my friendships.

This sounds like an obvious mistake, but in a community that celebrates sex and makes flirting a standard form of interaction it can be easy to get caught up in all the handsomeness of your peers and let the question, “do I want to have sex with this man?” become the main driver for friendship.  We like to feel hot and be surrounded by other hot men–especially with Facebook available to brag about all the hotness.  Plus in a city bursting with homos, you never have to settle (or settle down) for anyone and the cycle of meeting, crushing, and lusting keeps going.

But then one day after you’ve been pursuing some guy for weeks and finally realize you have NOTHING in common other than beards and 82 mutual friends on FB, you see that the motivator all along wasn’t “to hang out and get to know you better as a friend”, but really “to hang out and get inside your mouth”.

The journey to this understanding is paved with good intentions, but in the end you feel frustrated, unfulfilled, and confused as to why you aren’t happy.  I’ve seen the same emotions in the eyes of men around me and I realize that here in the city we’re all starving for community, but regrettably illiterate as to how to actually create it.  We know we want men to love and have them care for us in return, but actually achieving this result takes more than woofs and casual groping at the bar.

Meeting fun, interesting people is super easy in NYC.  But integrating these people into your life can be a Herculean task.  Everyone is so busy making their mark on the world that it’s hard to get them to stop and invest in you–and not just invest in your brand or your social capital, but really in YOU.  That kind of effort requires patience, sacrifice, and real empathy.  If you want authenticity with your friends, you have to open up and reveal all your dark inner workings.  And when you finally see the flawed human side of someone they usually become significantly less hot…but also infinitely more attractive at the same time.  Sharing in that vulnerability strips away all the bullshit we deal with everyday in glamorous NYC and you can finally just be yourself and realize that’s more than enough for anyone.

I’m happy I’ve met so many great guys in the city, but I’m so hungry for more significant connections with them.  I understand that being gay grants us a blurry line between “friend” and “hookup”, but right now I’d celebrate being in the friendzone if it meant having someone who would genuinely be an ally in this big frightening world.

My quest is for brotherhood, though my path is not certain.  More updates on this to come.

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18 Responses to My Biggest Mistake

  1. ivansblogworld says:

    What a great blog entry. I can relate to this, what I can also add is that when I met William I did not actually like him. And he did not like me, thought I was arrogant and full of myself. So we become friends after meeting and as they say the rest is history, he is now by best friend and my partner. But we would never had been friends as we both were so opposite., but after all this time we still like each other, can tolerate each other and love each other in a deep way.

  2. Ricardo Chicago says:

    Beautifully said. I am lucky in that I have a great group of about 10 friends who I know I can rely on for anything. They are all different ages and some are hot and some are not. It doesn’t matter as long as they are beautiful on the inside and invest in me!

  3. Jon says:

    This was eloquent and you nailed it – friends of mine and I share a common theme – we were all married (to women) – the absence of a socially acceptable means in the early years for gays to grow, mold and gravitate to one another as their hetero counterparts do, as an article from Ireland put it, leaves the gay population to learn about relationships often from porn magazines and anonymous hook ups. So as my experience shows, that puts those who didn’t have the opportunity to experience their formation of relationships as the hetero world largely models, creating the vaccum from having to leap frog in development, bypassing some amazingly important steps in the formation of relationships.

    I am not so snobbish that I won’t admit to having done the casual hook up but my previous experience gave me a basi for dating, investing and creating a long lasting relationship with the gent I will be with five years come next Monday.

    It’s a gift you recognize this – many don’t evolve as you are and can give the gay community a bad name.

  4. Victor says:

    Hi Justin,

    A friend on FB shared this today and it’s the first time I’ve seen your blog, but needless to say will continue to follow. There’s other guys out there who are doing this! I appreciate your introspection and feel that your work parallels some of the writing I do; though I’m representing the other corner of the US (Pacific Northwest). Either way, I think the scuffy perspective needs more writers who are as poignant, concise and thoughtful as you. Keep up the great work and don’t dumb it down for more internet traffic or whatnot… this may all be a book someday 🙂

    Feel free to check out my page as well should the writing resonate with you:


  5. Eric in Chicago says:

    You decide who is going to be your friend by how attractive they are and how much you want to sleep with them??? No wonder I have had the same gay friends for over 20 years and you go through them like kleenex. That’s gross.

    • ScruffandtheCity says:

      Whoa save the judgement for the sinners, Eric in Chicago. I should clarify that my current status of lacking dear friends int he city is because people have moved away to pursue other adventures–but these people are still my dear friends. Perhaps a second reading of the piece will reveal my true intentions and point.

  6. Love this post, and love you more than when I met you, um, 12 years ago?! Your pursuit of truth, self-awarness, and compassion for others continues to be your best feature. Thanks for such an honest piece.

    • ScruffandtheCity says:

      I can’t believe it’s really been 12 years! Thank you so much for your kind words. I recently reflected on the fact that I’m at my best when I’m being honest and caring (as opposed to glamorous, witty, or whatever other quality seems to make one popular). Love you, D.

  7. Jaxinnyc says:

    Great article.
    I deal with this daily. Super frustrating and sad.
    Moving to nyc was hard enough then add this element on and what’s frustrating more is that I don’t pile friends by their muscle and attractiveness group; but most do and sometimes that means I am left out or not in the cool crowd. Nyc gay life is stupidly like high school.

  8. TooBoot says:

    I have to agree with Eric in Chicago. Your blog entry makes it sound like Your Biggest Mistake was sexualizing guys you wanted to by your friends. I don’t have sex with my friends, it’s called maintaining healthy boundaries and before you tell me to read it again, I did, and it still came off the same way. I think its great that you realize this. Maybe now you will pursue your friends for intimacy of a different kind.

  9. Marco says:

    Awesome blog. Was just forwarded to me on FB.
    I returned to NYC two years ago from New England and it has been tough to create new genuine friendships. I am blessed to have the same friends since I was 25, and we all share the same ideals and morals in how to nurture our long lasting friendships; love, support & brotherhood. I do encounter many circles of younger men who have all sexually interacted with one another in order to create a connection. I will never understand it, but I guess it’s the new way for friendships to flourish. Thanks for this blog, nice to read there are more than a few of us who feel this way in this city.

  10. Very well said! And it’s not just in New York where this happens. It seems to be the same in most big cities I’m afraid. Here in Seattle I see it all the time. The hot guys travel in packs. Go to their exclusive parties where no one else is invited. Bar hop together, ignoring the majority of the clientele, unless of course they happen to meet their potential Hot Friend standards. Sleeping with each other, then casting each other aside like an empty glass. I get occasional glances into the lifestyle when one of them lets his guard down long enough to get to know me. And I hear the same complaints. They are horrible to each other, steeling each other’s boyfriends, competing with each other for attention, talking about each other behind their backs, and ultimately unhappy… but with the biggest smiling faces while out in public with their packs. As if to say how great it is to be one of them, and too bad the rest of you don’t measure up. Well I’ll take my group of real and genuine friends over these lonely A-Listers any day.

    • Marco says:

      Those A-Listers I place under Ass Holes….best definition I can give them. We can’t consider them an elite crowd, it’s exactly the worship they seek.
      I like your posting David, so true this is relevant in all big cities.

  11. Carlo says:

    I was very fortunate to have a group of very close friends, that were like brothers. We were 12 fantastic guys who spend time together every week and truly loved each other even thought we were not sexually intimate. In 1990 I came down with full blown AIDS, and everyone rallied around me with love and compassion. I was the catalyst around everyone became involved in the fight against this epidemic by joining ACTUP and other volunteer organizations that provided services and assistance to sick individuals. Even though I was ill those were the happiest days of my life. I was loved. By march 1995 I had buried every single one and I found myself the last man standing. I haven’t been able to form long lasting friendships since even though I have a lot to offer. Kindness, compassion, love of life, a sense of adventure, much more. All people see is an old ugly man. The people that do want to interact with me they just want to used me for money or sex, but really don’t want to know the person. So today I live alone with my two adorable and loving dogs who enrich my life in ways that humans can’t. I am learning to be happy this way, although it would be nice to have one or two close friends to share my life with.

    • Justin Shaddix says:

      Thanks for this powerful share, Carlo. I can only imagine the loss you’ve suffered and I know quality friendships are hard to come by. Sending you a big hug.

      • Carlos Bernal says:

        Thanks Justin. I’m currently living in west Texas but planning to move to Austin or Dallas where I can meet new friends. I’m a student of the CIM and should be able to make new like minded friends. Hugs, Carlo

      • Justin Shaddix says:

        Good luck to you, Carlo!

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