Saturday, March 14, 2009

Email from a distressed catholic schoolboy

About three weeks ago, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I'm an openly gay teen in the states; first and foremost, I want to give you props for having such an interesting, provocative yet classy blog. I think if more heterosexuals read blogs such as this one, maybe the gay community wouldn't have such a negative reputation (maybe) =T


I'm 18, in my fourth year attending an all male catholic high school, and honestly cannot complain: those who do know of my orientation are extremely supportive, even my parents have come to accept it in as little as a year. I've had many successful relationships, along with a few unsuccessful ones (a closeted 30-something year old that turned out to have a wife and two children ... I promise I was not aware). Throughout the good and the bad, my best friend has been there for me. In our second year of high school (during a sauced up night) I came out to him, knowing he was gay -- he stabbed me in the back and outed me to my circle of friends. After a few months of loathing each other and setting each other up for humiliation, we came to the conclusion that things would be much easier if we combined forces ... so we've been best friends for the past two years.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING has ever happened between us. There is entirely too much ego built up between the two of us, added to the fact that I get a sense we're both too afraid to do anything about it. What I'm getting at is, I've developed a classic crush on my best friend! We joke about what would happen if we actually had sex, etc. yet recently he's been making up any excuse to talk about our non-existent relationship -- including a few provocative text messages.

What do I do? How do I handle this?! Help! loll
-distressed catholic schoolboy

This is quite an unusual situation for many reasons, but one thing in particular stands out to me. When a young gay guy gets a crush on one of his male friends, the friend is usually straight. So any gay student who gets a crush on a gay friend is very lucky, because in that situation there's a chance that the feelings might be reciprocated. Even so, there's still a big concern that the other guy will reject an attempt to change the friendship into a boyfriend-ship, especially in the situation described by the reader where the friend betrayed trust on a previous occasion.

However, I still think the mature thing to do in this kind of situation is to find a way to discuss one's feelings with the other guy. I reckon there are three situations to think about. The easy one is the happy ending where the feelings are reciprocated to some extent, so that the two guys do manage to become boyfriends :-). Indeed, it's possible that the other guy is also keen on that idea, and that his recent behaviour is just a clumsy attempt to move things in that direction.

The second possibility is that the other guy doesn't want to become the boyfriend of the guy with the crush, but none the less, when told about the guy's love for him handles the situation in a sensitive way. This outcome wouldn't be too bad. The provocative txt msgs and talk about the non-existent relationship would stop, because the guy would realise that this behaviour was hurtful. The revelation might temporarily limit their friendship, but mature guys should be able to deal with these situations, and eventually I'm sure that their friendship could resume in some form.

The last possibility is that the other guy doesn't want to become the boyfriend of the guy with the crush, but doesn't handle the situation in a sensitive way :-(. However some good things would also come out of this scenario. Such behaviour should be a quick cure for the attraction, because it would be unnecessarily spiteful, but the good thing is that the reader would be able to move on. Beyond that, although the friendship might be ruined, it's really not worth having the friendship of a guy that behaves insensitively in that situation. Furthermore, if the guy were to try and ridicule the guy who loved him to their wider of circle of friends, that would reflect very badly on the guy himself. The guy whose affections were spurned would very much appear as the victim of a genuinely nasty person!

So overall, I reckon that the reader somehow needs to find a way to talk to his friend about the way he feels. The alternative, where he just lets his feelings fester, is likely to prove quite unhealthy in the long run.

By chance, the day after I received this email I was meeting fellow bloggers LWW and HBH. Over dinner, I discussed this reader's situation with them, and they both volunteered to write responses. LWW's reply was as follows:

Hmmm. I'm not sure I buy the distressed 18 year old Catholic schoolboy with a crush angle. Given the widely publicised problem of sexual conduct of priests with children, I would guess that the reader's openness would be a significant problem for the school. The thirty-something affair also lends an air of a gay Mills and Boon story.

Whatever the reader's true situation, this much may be helpful to any young person. Your actions have consequences. Most romantic trysts when we are young do not last. They can be enormous fun and a vital part of your voyage of discovery but be prepared that your infatuation may not be returned in full measure. If you decide to pursue your friend if may be wonderful or it may be a disappointment. If you decide not to pursue him you'll always wonder how it might have been. Each decision path will contain some element of suffering or loss and some might just contain love or even ecstasy.

I hope you don't take this as a very pessimistic message for it is the times of love and passion that make life sweet and worthwhile. We all have our have ups and downs so don't let the good times pass you by. Be prepared for the passing of the good times and show your past lovers the respect and care you would wish for even when they appear heartless. Enjoy the journey and have confidence that you'll make the right decision and be brave enough to learn from each encounter, no matter how it turns out.

Good luck! LWW

HBH's reply was as follows:

Dear distressed Catholic schoolboy,

I find it interesting that at 18 you have already gone through 'many successful' and a 'few unsuccessful' relationships. Eighteen is not an enormously long time to have lived so I suspect maybe what you describe as relationship could possibly be encounters?

Anyway, from what you describe about your present crisis you definitely need to present a situation where it is easiest for you both to talk about your feelings for each other.

My suggestion is to invite him out for a drink one evening (I hope good Catholic boys do indulge sometimes). You must ensure you are sobered up enough to be in control of what you ask him and where the evening could lead. Hopefully a little Dutch courage will get it out and you can have the answers you seek about his feelings.

I think the biggest challenge for you is to work up the courage to ask the question during drinks. After a few drinks you both should be at ease. Being prepared to accept that the situation can go either way is the best way to approach this. From my experience of having a crush on a boy I used to live with, I regret not having the courage to ask the question. A few situations presented themselves and I seriously lacked the courage.

Finally, I must say, if I were a film producer I’d consider this scenario having all the trappings for a good gay Catholic film.

Good luck! HBH

Do any other readers have any further thoughts about this sort of situation?


Anonymous said...

There is no universal solution to the usual 'crush' on your best friend situation, regardless of the professed sexual compatibility or incompatibility of the two men involved.

Most people tend to believe that it is good to keep the love & sex out of the friendship. A minority would hold the view that 'in love and war...' more or less, everything is allowed.

IMHO,each case should be judged on its own merits. The two issues here seem to be crucial.

First, you have to use all your knowledge and gut feeling and perceive, if the guy IS really interested in getting the friendship exchanged for the love relationship. It takes quite some experience though, to see through the actions, statements and general behavior of the other party and make a proper judgement.

Second, you have to KNOW your friend. You ought to know, if he is generally speaking a positive person, when it comes to sex. There are men who do not necessarily attach the greatest weight to having sex with someone. They take it as something that is just natural and human and does not involve any world-shattering changes. Even once the sex part is over, you still stay friends and no one feels awkward about it.

And there are other men who seem to attach great significance to sex and once that bit is over, everything else is over, too. Such people tend to see themselves as essentially irresistible lovers and cannot quite imagine that anyone should ever stop the sexual bit with them. If your friend belongs to this group, and you want his friendship, it may be better to look for someone else.

Last but not least; it always takes two to tango. If your friend is not picking any of your vibes and/or is playing difficult to get, the chances are that you are in for a major disappointment. It is always good to draw a certain line in your efforts to get it going with someone. You do your reasonable part and stop it there. If it works out, great. If it does not, you go to the plan 'B' and look for your bit of fun somewhere else.


Hedgie said...

Totally agree with Silverrcloud's last paragraph especially.

It is important to not let this ambiguity go on too long, and to be strong enough to move on oneself if the situation demands it.

However, be aware an open and honest discussion needs two people to engage equally. That the crush has betrayed confidences before, and is being provocative/distant now, does not fill me with optimism.

I was involved in a similar situation at around this age myself (although I was far less experienced and open than this Catholic schoolboy). My crush was flattered by my attention, and it clearly amused him to keep me hanging on, but he had no intention of letting the relationship develop into anything significant - although he never let me know that.

I was in therapy at the time. When I told my therapist about my situation, he immediately told me to drop my crush. At the time, I ascribed his reaction to (a) "I'm not explaining this properly" and (b) my therapist's possible homophobia - but events proved he was entirely right.

I feel Catholic schoolboy is confused enough about this situation to seek advice. His crush has behaved badly before and is sending out mixed signals now. My advice is to try to seek clarity and move forward. If he meets with any resistance or avoidance/distraction tactics, he should drop this guy and move on as quickly as possible.

Anonymous said...

i thinof it is just a case of a common school boy crush... being that it is set in a catholic school, plays it out much more emotive than it really is...and maybe his feelings are heightend as the other party is the only one available!!!!!!... watch the film 'another country' starring 'rupert everette' it deals with homosexuality in private is based on a true story..more i shan't divulge...
the guy is young and there will be many more 'crushes' and partners before the 'one' comes along.... my advise is to chill out and not read too much into things and just go with the flow of life....
wwhaterver he chooses i wish him best wishes as going through young teenage yearnings is not a good time for most

take care all


Ken Skinner said...

Eighteen. The only 'successful' relationship I'd had at that age was with my right hand!

Oh dear...



Ach, shag the guy senseless. Why not, eh? That's my deep advice for the day. It'll probably go horribly wrong, everyone will hate everyone else, but really, it's all part of the learning process.

"I've never regretted the things I've done, only the things I never did". Not my 'wisdom'... can't remember whose, though... I think it's appropriate, though.

Eighteen. Wow. You are going to make soooo many huge mistakes along the way, but at least you can have a good time!

(This from a 39 year old who's still making huge mistakes and not regretting any of them!)

Anonymous said...

LOL. "interesting, provocative yet classy blog"???? You are so in love with yourself. Though, I must say you do create interesting hypothetical "fans" who need advice.

GB said...

I recently received an update from the reader who sent me this email, see below. GB xxx

Last weekend I confronted best friend. I drove back to his house in the middle of the night, after having just left, and told him to meet me outside. I told him, "I know it's not 2 in the morning, and we're not completely smashed in your room, but here it goes: you're my best friend, and over the last few months we've become close. I like what we have, and I like hanging out with you--but I do like you." He responded by telling me that he feels "like we've liked each other for a long time, we just never do anything about it."

After avoiding each other for almost a week, we've decided to leave it be; if anything should happen, so be it. But he does not want to destroy the friendship that we've formed. So, we're back to square one, which is fine.

I discussed the issue with a friend, who assumed that I was completely crushed -- WRONG. I'm perfectly alright with the way things turned out, and have come to realize that the only thing that was eating away at me was hiding truth. While nothing came out of it, I'm happy because at least I know that I tried :T

And to the 'anonymous' reader that believes I'm simply a 'made up fan,' I have one response: teenage bullshit like this cannot be simply made up.

still reading!
-content catholic schoolboy