He stood tall and lean. Bone structure to die for, with a smile that I was sure made many a girl swoon. He was seriously pretty; Orlando Bloom, with his Pirates of the Caribbean good looks, had nothing on him. Why this guy was shilling coffee, albeit ridiculously good coffee at a famous indie shop at Parliament and Winchester streets, was beyond me.
“You’re beautiful,” he said, smiling down at me. I had given up on dating and resigned myself to a life with my vintage handbags and shoes; it’s a lot less disappointing.
In my gayness, I had forgotten all about men. I had forgotten that I was pretty and could therefore still be attractive to men. I was stunned speechless; for at least a full five seconds, neither one of us said a word. He stood behind the counter, all six-feet-and-a-good-two-inches of him simply smiling and apparently waiting for me to say something. I blushed, stammered a bit, and then finally blurted out that I didn’t know what to say. “That’s okay,” he said. “It’s cute that you don’t know what to say.”
Men. I like them. There are some really good guys out there, and cute ones too. Men who ask questions and then actually wait for the answer, who are thoughtful and funny and do not have misogynist views on women. Men who in their interactions with women treat us with respect and honesty. It’s really quite heartwarming to know.
If I were a straight woman I’d be very much relieved. But what’s a single gay girl to do? Aside from feeling surprised and flattered? Well, I’ve started collecting men as friends. I grab a coffee or drink with them. We go for brunch. We watch movies where things get blown up. Here is another thing we do: we talk.
Men can talk for hours. Who knew?
We talk about sex, relationships and pretty girls and feelings. Real feelings. I have always been a girl’s girl; I’ve never had friendships with men. And I find it refreshing and slightly shocking getting to know them. The propaganda that we’ve all been told and have believed — or at least I certainly did — is that not only are men and women barely able to understand and communicate with each other, we hardly even like each other.
What I am discovering is that, once again, we’ve all been duped.
The war between the sexes, it turns out, may have been somewhat exaggerated. Don’t get me wrong: men and women are different in some very clear ways, especially in how we navigate in the world. The costs of privilege assumed by men, most especially straight white men, are astronomical. The whole bloody world is their oyster. Even after what was supposed to be the sexual revolution, men still get away with blatant sexism. Men have won a sexual freedom that women have yet to attain. Men are born with entitlement that women are still just learning; they are well aware of this and will even admit it.
But all obvious differences aside, the gaps between the sexes are smaller than we think. We are all vulnerable; we all want to be liked and loved for exactly who we are. Men want relationships that last, too; they want stable and nurturing relationships. Some of them want to wake up day after day with the same girl.
And they worry. They fear locker rooms just as much as women do. They watch their weight. They hope that the girl they really like is going to call. Underneath the blustering machismo, they are tender and emotional.
That is what breaks through race, religion, sexual orientation, age and class — the fact that we are just people. It’s as simple as that. The gaps separate us; the wars we are “supposed” to be waging take so much effort — and what a waste. We are all guilty, but let’s not point fingers.
Let’s instead unlearn the bullshit and start having open, honest dialogues. Let’s self-educate and be critical and self-aware and each take ownership of our prejudices and privileges.
Because the miraculous outcome of building and coming together rather than continuing to live in segregation is that we are better together than we are apart.