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It's Harder Than Ever To Make New Guy Friends

When was the last time you put a guy’s number in your phone? Not a guy you work with, or a guy on your men’s league basketball team, or a guy who owns a truck that might be useful to you in the future. I’m talking about a guy you met at a wedding or out in public, who led with a smile and reminded you of a younger version of yourself. Not a guy who wanted to connect over coffee because he needs investors for his new dating app; a guy who wanted to discover you, to hear you and see you. Can you remember the last time that happened?

At 29, it’s been ages for me. College, probably. I haven’t made a new guy friend in a decade. I wouldn’t know how to handle it if I did. The mindset towards gay people has progressed so much over the last ten years, but you know what hasn’t changed at all? A straight man’s reticence to admit he loves another man. While the gays hung their flags proudly from the rafters, we straights remained in a confusing, repressed zone of homophobia. Not towards gay people, but towards ourselves.

Picture this: you’re on a flight home from a great weekend in Vegas. You’re hungover, hurting, and hoping to fall asleep but the turbulence keeps knocking your head off the window. Next to you, a guy your age. He’s also hurting, wearing sunglasses and a hat pulled low over his eyes as if to keep the world at bay. You’ve both committed horrifying, hysterical deeds over the last 48 hours. You start with the basics: “I’m never going back,” you both lament.  The spark is there, forged from your shared depravity and gambling losses. Soon, you’re digging deeper, talking about your fathers’ jobs and your love of the sea. He’s a good listener (you’re a good storyteller). He pulls out his new weed pen. You bend forward in the brace position and swaddle your head in your sweatshirt, trying to ghost the hit so the FAA doesn’t ban you for life. You hand the sweatshirt to him and, next thing you know, you’re giggling like children as your hangovers fade into the clouds below. Then you pull out a headphone splitter that you bought during your last relationship and suggest a movie. He says there’s no need for the splitter; we can just start the movie at the same time on our respective screens. You nod, slightly disappointed. You both agree on Incredibles 2 because you’re high. Then, a countdown: 3… 2… 1… START! You’re so excited that you push play a half-second before he does. For the next two hours, your movie plays out a frame ahead of his, but it’s fine. The film is risible and you laugh when he laughs, synchronizing your shoulder shakes. Well done, Pixar.

Down through the clouds now, the rumble of the landing gear jolts you from your reverie. Panic seeps in. You want more of this. Does that make me gay? It doesn’t matter; what matters is whether he thinks you’re gay. And he will. Because he’s the man: he smokes weed on flights. You try to think of some clever way to exchange contact information. Once upon a time, all straight men carried business cards. Handing him a business card would have done the trick: it’s professional, connective without seeming overeager.

But you don’t have a business card because your job is a fucking joke. Your plane lands, you shake hands, shoulder your bags, and split ways in the terminal—a soaring friendship grounded by the winds of insecurity.

I see rappers say “I’d take a bullet for my homies” or some similar sentiment invoking the n-word in an endearing manner. That’s an exceptionally generous promise. You would sustain a bullet wound for a friend? Like a secret service agent? I don’t think a single one of my friends would do that for me. They would fall on a grenade for me, but a metaphorical grenade—a terribly ugly woman tugging on the arm of her hot friend, with whom I hope to slumber, at the bar. Fortunately, my friends and I don’t tend to hang out around guns. We stick to well-lit neighborhoods in ski towns perched far above sea level. Still, maybe taking a bullet for the homies is an acceptable way of saying I love my men friends? The hip hop community does a marvelous job of presenting their love in a heartfelt, non-gay way. Big Cat, if you’re reading this (lol), please ask Meek Mill next time you’re sitting with him at a Sixers game.

These days, my friends are getting married, retiring to their relationships and cutting the cords that once kept us in step. Now, more than ever, I long for male friendship. But where to find it? How to know it’s real? I’m sick of prefacing sentiment with “no homo.” Let me have it. Give me the friendship, boys. I’ll take it and send it right back with gusto. Let’s turn no homo into no fomo.*

*FOMO= Friendship Of Men is Okay.