As a gay man, I find myself constantly surrounded by women. I could say that I grew up with a very loving mother who became my best friend, but that seems the easy way out in assessing not only my relationship with women, but the relationships of many of my male friends and their women.
Growing up on the fluffy side of life, I found that girls my age were interested in many of the same things that I was, whether it was the latest pop craze or dreaming of dressing in head to toe Versace.
Dealing with my own sexuality at my own pace also meant a somewhat strained relationship with most of the boys of my age bracket. Girls and women weren’t threatening. I wasn’t afraid to talk to them, tell them my secrets and they felt much the same with me.
When you’re a teenager, you desperately want someone to confide in and to connect with on a human level, and whether you’re gay or straight, it is easy to be attracted to a confidant of the opposite sex.
I grew up in the warm bosom of a loving mother, endearing coaches and teachers and a gaggle of girlfriends who knew the real Johnny. Through all of that, I learned some things about how women want to be treated, and what they want out of life, which is rarely just to find a rich husband and make babies.
There is so much to be said of the straight girl/gay guy relationship and it gets a lot of airtime these days. It seems every woman I meet has a gay best friend or assures me that every girl needs one. Are gays the newest must-have? Are we the new Ugg boot?
I am personally disgusted by the term “fag-hag,” and I don’t think treating people as disposable is healthy. I treat the women closest to me as though we are in a relationship, minus the sex. Every one of my girlfriends has a place in my heart and has time in my life.
Many of the relationships I see are so full of games and one-upmanship and sex and prerequisites that it’s hard to determine what the relationship would be without it all. You can’t order people you love out of a catalogue. I say a healthy dose of simplicity is in order.
I’m not about to try to write an advice column for men but there are paramount things that I’ve learned in dealing with these women we love so much. When my girlfriends are bragging to strangers about me, the first thing they ever really mention is not my wit or charm, or my looks, it’s that I hold their hands to cross streets and I let them in and out of the elevator first. The women in my life talk about me not like a token gay friend, but someone they love and someone who will protect them.
Complimenting a woman on a new lipstick or a new pair of stilettos isn’t really that gay; women want to be appreciated right down to their gel manicured paws. My best friend in the whole world who I would have married had my husband not come along is a woman and has a special gesture for when she needs to be heard.
Hand raised, finger pointed to Jesus, and a firm “Can I talk?” While it is an aggressive New York lady moment, women want to be heard and their contribution to a loud dinner party understood and mulled over.
My straight dude friends (the ones I don’t totally freak out) aren’t always lucky with women. They will get some good tail, or fall head over heels in love and then blow it all on something stupid like not remembering a special day or not listening when she’s talking. With modern technology, how hard is it to program a note into your iPhone calendar or to tell Siri to remind you that you have to pick up fresh flowers?
I do have a point. Whether you’re gay, straight, mulatto, Fijian, single breasted, arachniphobic or prone to having one glass too many, when you’re looking for someone to love, you have to believe in the things you’ve learned from your life to be a good better half. I don’t have a bunch of girlfriends because I’m gay, I have them because I love and appreciate them and use the tools my mama gave me to enrich their lives, so they can enrich mine.
The man and woman play for understanding will continue for centuries and my little thought bubble won’t change it, but I hope I have added a valuable voice. Listen to people, learn from the ones you surround yourself with, and don’t be hung up on the little stuff. I urge everyone to jump wildly into the relationship pool and look for simplicity.
Be a best friend, a confidant, a lover and a protector even if this seems like just a passing acquaintance and not a walk down the aisle. You’ll open yourself up to a whole slew of special friendships and love affairs that will enrich your life forever.
Johnny Weir is a three-time U.S. figure skating national champion and two-time Olympic competitor.