Dealbreaker: He Has a "Girlfriend"
I met him at a Halloween party about three weeks after I moved to Washington, D.C. I was a Corporate Whore. He was a Bath House. I was smitten. After only a little small talk, he said, “I’m about to leave with this boy I like. Next time can you talk to me earlier?”
We ran into each other several more times before I managed to get him to show any real interest in me. Then, I happened to see his best female friend on the street a couple days before Christmas, and she made sure I took his number. I texted him on December 30th. My heart jumped into my urethra when he called me back that afternoon with an invitation to a champagne pregame. I snuck out of my own New Year’s Eve party, stopped by his, then returned to the festivities at my place.
Miraculously, he followed a few hours later, showing up just in time for a midnight kiss, New Year's sex, and hangover-curing New Year's Day sex. Afterward, he was smart enough to correct my pronunciation of “Nabokov.” We spent much of our pillow talk cataloging the exotic animals he had consumed while traveling. And I really liked his friends, especially the straight girl who facilitated our tryst—kind enough to link us up, but not so attached that she wanted to wake up between the two of us the next morning. This guy helped me start 2007 with a bang. I hoped to keep up the momentum.
I waited the standard two days to call him back. When he picked up, I explained that his idea for our follow-up meeting—“coming over to his place for leftover champagne”—would make me feel cheap. Despite his being broke from the party, he kindly acquiesced to meeting me in public. I wasn’t sure what we were doing—date, postcoital catchup, or scouting a friendship. But I really didn’t think it would involve his fag hag.
Before I go further, I should clarify what I mean by “ fag hag.” A fag hag is not just a straight female friend. In a friendship, your bond isn’t based on the novelty of your gender or sexuality.
A fag hag is not your friend. She's an insult. Contrary to popular belief, a fag hag is not necessarily fat, lonely, undateable or so socially damaged that she couldn’t possibly have her own love life. Nor does she necessarily own cats. Any woman I’ve met who has tried to become my hag (whether or not they employed the term) believes that a gay man can give her something a straight man cannot—platonic friendship, an outlet for hetero-verboten sex talk, someone to check out boys with, and often, an outlet for her annoying commentary about gay men.
Every gay man knows a girl like this. She is the girl who you used to see movies with in college, the one who you thought viewed you as a person until she screamed “Ooh, I just saw you check out that guy’s legs!” as if you had subtly invented cold fusion in the cafeteria. Soon, it turns out she “loves having gay friends.” She is the girl who plans bachelorette trips to gay bars the way some people take their kids to the zoo. She is the girl who screams “You’re going to Town? You’re so CRAZY!” at you on the street when she ascertains that you are headed to a popular gay bar. She is the girl at the party who needs to tell you all about gay men.
What does the fag get in return? A constant companion at bars so he never has to drink alone, yes. A den mother to cook him dinner and coo over his problems, sure. But there is an even more sinister use for this special “friend.” On nights when he doesn’t want to get laid, a gay man can head to her house for movies and ice cream. On nights he does, he just deploys the girl to introduce herself to a guy he likes. When he’s done with him, he can use her to deflect additional advances. She is his pimp and his Dear John letter all in one. She’ll facilitate date after date until she realizes that at the end of the night, she won’t be the one with the boy in her bed.
David Leavitt’s fiction has attempted to tease out the fag hag trajectory. In his stories, the relationship can go one or two ways: The man either shapes up and treats the girl like an equal, or the girl begins to resent her accessory status. When that happens, she either abandons the relationship, or worse, attempts to insert herself even more firmly into her fag’s dating life to the detriment of all involved. Option one isn't really an option.
When I showed up at the bar to meet my New Year's kiss, he had brought his hag along with him. She sat between us. And for 60 minutes, they conversed as if I wasn’t there. I listened as they retraced all the major events of an art opening they had attended. A mutual friend of theirs came in, and they didn’t introduce me. I was able to edge in some questions—mostly “what?” “who?” and “where was this?”—but the bar’s wallpaper was more central to their inane coffee klatch than I was.
At my ripe old age of 28, I would never let this continue. But five years ago, I had the backbone of a sea cucumber and the libido of a methed-up billy goat. I sat there and took it. There at the bar, I couldn’t even get a certified fag hag interested in what I had to say. The only time she chose to speak to me all night was to remark that she found her laugh “ugly” and didn’t express it in front of others, a trait I still find tantamount to killing animals in terms of gauging someone’s personality.
I’ve seen this guy a couple times since. It was nice. She wasn’t with him. That was even nicer. I even found the strength to hit on him after what went down (he had grown out his stubble, so I can't be held responsible). But I know that he's more at fault here than his little friend. Before the dust had even settled on our condom wrappers, my New Year's hookup had exiled me deep into the friend zone in the most public way possible. I still wonder what kind of sinister mastermind is so incapable of just telling a guy that he’s not interested. For him, conspiring with a third party to bed me and cast me out was easier.
When our “date” was over, the two of them gave me a ride home. I think they conceded me shotgun out of pity. I returned to my apartment, smoked a joint, and listened to Belle and Sebastian’s “If You’re Feeling Sinister” twice through without ever leaving my couch. I’m sure they went out and did something more fun. Perhaps they recounted it in great detail over the head of the next guy who got caught between them.