Building lasting friendships with fellow queers has never been my forte.
There is a ‘panic room’ at my office where I call my best friends number 1 to 9. If the walls could talk, they’d tell you that my speed dial is short on gay friends. The calls normally turn into soul-baring sessions that unleash the therapist in me. It’s the kind of conversation that requires years of friendship, cooked slowly to achieve an al dente perfection.
My lack of gay friends has left me with no gay entourage. Now that I’m approaching my late thirties, weekly gathering with best friends is starting to look like Martha Stewart convention. I cherish the friendship dearly, but I look across the other tables when my radar beeps to alert the presence of gay guys.
Examining my situation closer, best friend number 3 told me that I was like a “lone cat against a pack of retrievers". (Note to Miss 3: the list is in chronological order, so don’t even try to give me a guilt trip). She might be implying that I lack sexual juices to be in the ‘it’ pack. Whatever the interpretation may be, clearly I have failed to fit in.
How did I end up with no circle of gay friends? Some might accuse me of being homophobic, but I assure you that I have no prejudice against my comrades. Unlike the in-the-closet paranoid types, I have no qualms about being seen in public with a group of openly gay guys of any sort.
Maybe I’m not the type with a golden pass to the ‘it’ pack, or any gay packs for that matter. Also, I never befriended a pack leader.
There was this middle-aged dude whom I’d known for 15 years and he really fit the bill. Smart and quiet with his own legion of (suspected) gay runners, I really thought he could be my ticket to the pack. I used to invite him to my annual Lebaran open house, but he never reciprocated my social invitations.
The unrequited friendship turned even sourer, when I saw him with his pack several years ago. That was my lottery moment to join his groupies, I thought. But, nope, he merely nodded to me from a distant. The fault wasn’t squarely on him though. In hindsight, I only saw him as a vehicle to accomplished my gay social ambition, so he must’ve sniffed insincerity in the air. I see him these days on Facebook, posing with his posse doing sports of the month. His filtered moment is a life I secretly hope.
There’s also this guy whom I consider my closest gay friend, but not close enough to receive a panic room call. I had held hopes of being invited to his entourage, but every living strands of longing were butchered to death, when I discovered that his pack is made up of:
1. A necrophiliac sailor!! (Google it and you’ll pardon my double exclamation marks)
2. A plastic-surgery addict who treated people like crap (at his funeral, his ex-friend screamed “You can’t hurt me anymore!”)
3. A rent-boy who squeezes fortunes out of rich white men only.
Their morally questionable personalities are like characters from the American Horror Story who didn’t make the cut for decency. My friend is a good-hearted guy with a bit of a dark side – like you and me – and my theory about him hanging out with the circus of immoral is so that he can feel morally superior.
The deceiving factors
I spent my 20s working hard like a mad dog and my early 30s hunting guys and working harder like a madder dog. Perhaps it was my sexual flings that got me sidetracked in nurturing meaningful friendships with other gays. I have hardly stayed friends with my exes either. Exes and friends don’t rhyme well in my world – or anyone’s for that matter.
Some adults find it hard to make friends because we have developed less tolerance to accept other people’s flaws. It’s harder for gay adults, because we are replete with insecurity or are simply too self-conscious. Hence, we misread friendly gesture with sexual proposition.
A gay former colleague once complained that I was coming on to him, because I grew “too touchy” on him. While on the road, he refused to share a twin-bedded room and I got an extra bed to crash in a separate room – with two female colleagues. You know those pre-loved leopard prints jackets found in reject shops? Those jackets would tap my shoulders and said ‘Welcome to the club’.
Adding another layer of complexity, an imaginary cookie cutter cuts and divides our community into pre-molded shapes. Chubby chasers and the chubs are not friends, they are strictly sex mates; the muscled-fit hang out with their own league, because they breathe oxygen through their mirror image. The pseudo-intellectuals and the social media rats impose a minimum number of Twitter followers (3,000) to be in their horde.
Is it all that superficial? Of course not, but with my semi-closeted life, I’m not political enough to fit into the deep-thinking activists’ group.
It’s not that I never tried. Finding people with common interest is always a good start. In the Heyday of Yahoo Groups, I searched other gays in Jakarta who share the same interest with me. I tried “Gay collector of inflight magazines”, “Gay Top 40 chart lovers”, “Food-hoarding Gays”. Strangely, I found none.
I did find “in-the-closet and married” group. One of my exes, now married with a toddler, is in a club reserved for married gays with offspring – the club’s name starts with “Papa”. They have monthly karaoke sessions where they bring boyfriends. It’s a secret society where marriage certificate is your golden pass.
I will end my rant to where it starts. My office’s panic room is a pantry reserved for the pensioners’ club. The senior citizens come to our office twice a week for lunches, celebrating their bond of lifetime friendships. This is the part where I share endearing anecdotes of my own friendship that has stood the test of time, right?
Nope, I still want my gay entourage.
*Read here about why every momma should love her gay son.
Named after a classic hit by Petula Clark, Downtown Boy a.k.a. DB is a twenty something hipster trapped in a thirty something gay man's body. He's a regular office worker in Jakarta and his hobbies include listening to oldies and doing physically challenging sports. He used to do martial arts but was forced to stop after he hurt his lower back. All of his friends suspect the injury was triggered by something fishy.