Gerard Grigsby, PhD, LCPC, LPC
It's Giving Confusion: Lessons From My Younger Years
Our night of debauchery was finally coming to an end as my friend and I settled into his car. He'd been drinking most of the night, and was in no condition to drive, so I was responsible for getting us home.
After only a few driving lessons with him, I didn't feel entirely confident behind the wheel, but I trusted myself to get us home without too many bumps or bruises. I had just finished fastening my seatbelt and adjusting my rearview mirrors when my friend looked over, ran his fingers through his hair, and said,
“When are we gonna get our ‘gay’ on?”
I pretended not to hear him, but my body responded too quickly for me to ignore the words that had escaped his mouth. My heart skipped a beat as images of locked lips and groping hands flashed through my mind, and I struggled to keep my composure as I started the ignition.
If I had been as intoxicated as he was, I probably would have laughed at his drunken suggestion and offered a witty quip to keep him in check. But as the designated driver, I was completely sober and fully aware of my eagerness to accept his invitation.
I had envisioned this moment countless times before with picture-perfect clarity. As we sat there, inches from one another, I imagined how he might react if I rested my hand on his thigh and leaned in for the kiss I desperately hoped he wanted from me.
But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make the first move.
There I was, sitting next to the man I had been pining after for months, and I couldn't bring myself to seize the opportunity. But not because I didn’t want to - I was practically desperate by that point. I let that moment pass because I’ve never been very good at deceiving myself…
You see, my friend isn’t gay, or at least he doesn’t see himself that way. Like many guys I know, he identifies as heterosexual and enjoys dating and being intimate with women. So whenever he jams my gaydar with his mixed signals and ambiguous teasing, I have to remind myself that his seemingly flirtatious behavior is actually meaningless flirtatious behavior.
Although I’m sure he has his reasons for playfully suggesting certain things (and I certainly have my speculations), I doubt he’ll ever be as anxious as I am to follow through and seal the deal. Thankfully, I’ve had a lot of practice dodging similar requests from guys like him, and I’ve learned to recognize and avoid the type of straight men who get off on misleading guys like me.
If you aren’t gay, you can only imagine the level of frustration I experience when I’m out at a bar and some attractive man spots me on the dance floor, waves me over, offers to buy me a drink, compliments my good looks, starts caressing my bald head…and then informs me of his 3 year marriage to his wife or his commitment to “the most amazing girl in the world.”
It’s enough to drive me insane! And believe me, I'm a pretty hard nut to crack.
Now, some of you might be thinking: “Gerard, you’re misinterpreting things. Some straight guys are really comfortable with the gays and just like being friendly." This might be true for some, but I can’t help but side-eye when straight men ask me pointed questions about my sexual preferences and offer to go home with me at the end of the night.
Sir, it’s none of your business whether I’m a top or a bottom. Don’t you have a wife to go home to!?
I’ll admit these situations wouldn’t be so frustrating if they were isolated incidents that I could simply leave behind at the bars. But some of my most mind-boggling encounters have been with straight colleagues, classmates, and acquaintances who seem intent on straddling the fence with me, despite my requests for them to tone it down and be more mindful of my vulnerability in our relationship.
I’m sorry, but as a gay man, I tend to get confused when guys regularly invite me over for dinner and a movie, or offer to pay for my meals and drinks whenever we go out. I also have to scratch my head when they drunkenly hug and kiss me, or “jokingly” drape their arms around my waste when we’re walking down the street.
Now, I recognize that I might be misreading these gestures due to some wishful thinking on my part, but I also know I’m not the only one who has experienced stuff like this. Some of my gay friends have described similarly confusing situations with straight men who just can’t seem to avoid sending mixed signals.
For example, my good friend’s former roommate used to be more than a little flirtatious when they lived together, but of course, he identified as straight and insisted that he wasn’t romantically interested in men.
I don’t know about you, but if scheduling play dates, cuddling on the couch, and saying, “I love you,” isn’t romantic, I don’t know what is. And no shade, but, “Bro, can you lotion my back for me?” sounds more like an invitation to get something started than an innocent request for some moisturizer, especially when my friend and his roommate have discussed the implications of similar requests in the past.
Thankfully, all of my former roommates except one have been gay, so I’ve never had to decipher any cryptic messages to figure out if we were interested in the same thing. If I hadn’t lucked out, God only knows how screwy I’d be after years of second-guessing myself and trying to make sense of the crafty little games that some straight guys play.
Although I’ve certainly been tempted to play along and put my theories about these so-called straight men to the test, I’ve never been intrigued (or bold) enough to respond to their advances, mainly because I don’t want to get blamed for something I didn’t actually initiate. At the end of the day, I’d rather just let these scenarios unfold in my head than take the bait and regret being used by Mr. Unattainable.
Even if I had the guts to follow through with some of these guys, I’d likely have nothing to show for it but a broken heart, some unanswered questions, and plenty of awkward, uncomfortable encounters afterward. Of course, I’ve heard rare stories of straight guys falling for gay men, but I’m fairly certain they’re the exception to the rule.
So, the next time I receive an invitation to “get my ‘gay’ on” with one of my straight friends, I’m gonna save myself the trouble and press pause before the fantasy reel in my head even starts playing.
Why is that? Because unattainable straight guys aren’t worth the chase! No matter how much they flirt, and no matter how far they push the envelope, they’ll never want the intimacy and commitment that I do. Bottom line.
Instead of wasting my time entertaining straight guys, I could be dating and cultivating relationships with single, available gay men who want what I want. Men who like men. Men who want to settle down with men. Men who won’t regret and deny their sexual experiences with men.
So from here on out, I’m not saving any more room for straight guys!
I’m releasing them from my life and opening my heart to the possibility of love and companionship with someone who isn’t just curious, but absolutely sure about what he wants from me.