In 1989 Harry (Billy Crystal) told Sally (Meg Ryan), "Men and women can never be friends. Sex always gets in the way." Harry was, of course, talking about straight men and women, not those relationships between women and gay men that became a prominent part of pop culture in the '90s via shows like Will & Grace and Sex and the City. ***image1***
In the new collection of essays, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys: True Tales of Love, Lust, and Friendship Between Straight Women and Gay Men, Melissa de la Cruz and Tom Dolby gather up fag-hags, good girls and gay boys to illuminate the special kinship of straight girl/gay guy friendships. Some of the essays, like Simon Doonan's "Fag Hags: The Laughter, The Tears, The Marabou," are humorous accounts without an overabundance of emotional connection. The light tone of these essays makes the words flash by and leaves readers excited about the next tale. Others, like Cindy Chupack's "Get This" describe the torment of women who fall in love and try to make relationships work with gay men. The tears of these failed relationships drip from the pages.
Throughout Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, a common theme emerges. The friendship that women and gay men have is different from those of women with other women or women and straight men. Karen Robinovitz describes the competition between herself and other female fashionistas as vicious, while "The gays have no ulterior motives. They don't want to fuck me. They don't want to be me. All they want is for me to look good."
For Michael Musto, the girls accept him as one of their own, "I feel safer with them, freed from the male constraints of bluster and machismo-especially in the gay world. I belong with the lipstick-for-lunch bunch, and miraculously, I've been able to stretch our platonic little gender-blending mix-'em-ups into a lifetime of nonthreatening fun and games."
Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys isn't all fun, games and fashion. Several of the male contributors are forced to become comfortable with their sexuality through botched attempts at heterosexual romance, often inflicted by loving family members. In most cases friendships are destroyed by good intentions and boys who are so unsure of themselves they aren't ready to be honest. Many of the women find themselves crushed when their beloved best friends, with whom they fanaticized sharing perfect lives, turn out to be so perfect because sexual tension isn't an issue. Or, like Anna David in "Love in Other Lifetimes," find mutual attraction with a gay man who isn't willing to give up his life for an attempt at heterosexuality.
The essays of Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys cover a wide range of relationships but, unfortunately, not geography. A few mention Midwestern or Southern upbringings, but nearly all take place or end up in Los Angeles (or very occasionally San Francisco) and New York, leaving the impression that homosexuals have deserted the rest of the country for the gay-friendly cultures of the coasts. The lack of a change in setting makes Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys naive and it is only through excellent writing that the contributors redeem the whole.
The innocence of Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys is refreshing. It's not political (though some of the proceeds benefit the Trevor Project, a 24-hour crisis and suicide prevention helpline for GLBT youth) and isn't meant to change the world's perception of homosexuality. It's a collection of in-jokes for every gay guy and straight girl who is nostalgic for their own special friendship, where the world is blocked out and the battle of the sexes drops away.