In 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.