There was this guy I was best friends with all throughout college. We would hang out for eight-hour stretches, and lazily let the day pass by. People who just met us would ask how long we’d been dating, and we’d both look at each other and laugh.
“Oh no, we’re just friends,” we replied. And we were.
There had been those questionable, vague moments of sexual tension, but I think that’s simply a part of existing—a strange symptom of an energy exchange between two people. Our friendship was pure; a true platonic relationship. No weird feelings hanging in the air between us.
The two of us were a sampling from a larger friend group, the core of which was a slew of guys and me. I felt at home with men, not in that annoying “women just don’t like me” way, but because I grew up the middle child of two brothers. For me, playing video games and talking shit to each other was a way of life. Relentless teasing and mocking were my love languages.
I had my female friends, too, of course. But, it was always different with women—not bad different, just…different. I revealed the vulnerable parts of myself with girlfriend; I let my heart speak. There was no armor with women. My emotions became declarative statements, a strong thesis on what it meant to be human.
With my group of guy friends, there was never any deep conversation. I was never going to break down an emotional issue with them. It was always about mocking, about who can be the funniest person in the room. Sometimes I was the funniest; most times, I wasn’t. Almost every extended hangout session consisted of me being roasted or teased. I was in on the joke, but never the butt of the joke. I was one of the guys, but also a girl, an easy flirtation. The dynamics were strange, but we all understood them.
I never dated any of them; never even had one of those one-off hook-ups that resulted in the downfall of harmonious group dynamics. Maybe they weren’t interested. Maybe they thought I wasn’t interested. Yet they were relentlessly charmed by my relationship antics. I’d go to my girlfriends to analyze the heart of a confusing dating situation, but I’d go to these guys for comic relief, to laugh at my pain, to give our group enough comedic material on my failing love life for a whole night’s worth of ribbing.
Perhaps the latent flirtations that punctuated these friendships became significantly less fun when neither person was available, when the option of taking it to the next level—however remote—was removed.
After college, the group mostly spread out across California. For several years, we kept up our antics on Facebook, creating overblown comment sections on posts just to keep the joke alive.
But one day, my best friend in the group—the man all my girlfriends assumed would fall in love with me—started dating someone else, and our friendship fizzled out almost instantly. I was surprised to find that as the guys in the group developed serious relationships, I was the one being left out of conversations, the one nobody kept in touch with. One of them got married, and as I clicked through a photo album on Facebook, I noticed an entire table designated for our group—but an invitation was never extended to me.
When I eventually entered into a relationship of my own and got married, contact with this group and any other man I had been friends with all but disappeared. No likes on Facebook posts anymore. No Twitter faves. No “Hey, long time no talk” messages. All these friendships I thought were real and important faded. I sustained friendships with my girlfriends, but not with my guy friends. Not one.
That old best friend is getting married next month, but I only know because of Facebook. There was no invitation, even though I invited him to my wedding (which he did not attend or even RSVP to). Perhaps I’m at fault here, too. Perhaps I’ve let these friendships slide—even in a digital age when losing touch is nearly impossible to do. Perhaps the latent flirtations that punctuated these friendships became significantly less fun when neither person was available, when the option of taking it to the next level—however remote—was removed. I didn’t know at the time that an undercurrent of sexual tension was propelling the friendship forward. I thought the flirting was fun, but that there was more to it. I thought there was a care, a tenderness, an interest beyond fleeting tensions.
It’s weird to find that your version of the past must be rewritten because of events of the present. Whenever I revisit my memories of this group and the many friendships I had with men, I must add an asterisk—a little footnote that tells me these weren’t truly built on anything real. Friendships are simply a means of passing the time before the big love comes along, apparently.
In a few weeks, I’ll scroll through my old best friend’s wedding photos, and feel a pang of emotion. I’ll remember passing hours by with him, happily turning my love life into kindling for us to roast. I’ll remember a friendship that used to be, a group that was once important and all-encompassing. I’ll try not to add that asterisk. I’ll try to remember that friendships fade naturally and people drift. I’ll try not to let myself believe that my friendship with him only existed because I was available, that the crucial component between us was that we were both single. I’ll try not to rework that information into my memories.
Maybe we drifted. Maybe we all just drifted...