Monday, November 17, 2008

on love and friendship

...and where and when the two intersect.

I should give some background here. I have a (by some standards terrible) habit of dating, fucking, and/or falling in love with my friends. Not all of them, mind you, but friends who I haven't at least kissed are absolutely in the minority. Everyone I've seriously dated or really fallen for has been a friend first. Well, I guess Ex is sort of the exception, as he and I met when we were first starting high school. It did take us almost a semester of pretending we liked each other just as friends, though, before we started dating. P is without question one of my best friends, and I've never been able to separate how much of that is fueled or complicated by the fact that we're in love with each other. Friend is someone I've known for more than half my life, as is Essin' Em, and both M and nonboyfriend I've known for many years just as friends before anything physical ever happened. The women I've slept with (Essin' Em being the exception), I generally haven't known as long, but I'll go ahead and chalk that up to not embracing my queerness anywhere near as early as I embraced the part of me attracted to men.

There is undoubtedly something subconscious about this habit, I think. I'm sure it has something to do with how comfortable I am with my friends, and the fact that when I become friends with someone, I tend to remain so indefinitely... I would usually include the caveat "barring any major transgressions," but more than one of these friends/FwBs and I have had serious falling-outs and continue to speak and, in some cases, have sex. (Obviously, we've worked through our issues, for better or worse.) Not everyone I've had sex with has been an old friend, but almost all of those I've had sex with more than once or twice have been. It's easier to date/fuck friends. You don't have to worry about the awkward getting-to-know-you stage, because it's already out of the way. I'm generally very open about sexuality with my friends (I'm sure you're shocked), so it isn't taboo to essentially take it to the next level.

There are, of course, some downfalls to this tendency. Most people would say that sleeping with your friends has the potential to ruin the friendship, and theorhetically I agree. But by and large I haven't experienced that. That's not to say that I'm somehow superior to these people who "can't manage" that kind of relationship, but maybe it does say something about the nature of my friendships. Maybe I only establish significant friendships with people I could have feelings for. I don't know. Maybe I confuse the more platonic, friend-based love, for romantic, sexual or physical love. That's a very real possibility. And one I've been starting to question. I can't decide if it's a problem or not. My insticts tell me that if I haven't had a moral problem with it thus far (and neither have the friends involved... this isn't a one-sided equation), then I shouldn't start now. But then I wonder if I'm somehow limiting myself, or protecting myself, by only being with these people I know so well and who know me.

Certainly, I'm less likely to get hurt this way. If we already have some substantial trust established, then it's that much easier to be vulnerable with said partner. But is that really what relationships are about? And what's more, are these even truly romantic relationships? Or have these all simply been friends with benefits situations? And is there anything wrong with that?

This is all sparked by a turn of events over the past few weeks. About two weeks ago, I went to northern Spain on a class field trip to ride horses and hike. It was a great time, especially since I so love riding. As I mentioned in my HNT post from that week, I was going without Crush or anyone else to snuggle up with and keep me warm. I was, however, going with Crush's roommate, who we'll from here on out refer to as The Texan. The Texan and I have a few classes together, and have been bonding as of late. We hang out a lot, and (again, as a consequence of my super-openness about sexuality), he recently came out to me as bisexual. I was excited to have a fellow in the program (which might sound weird, but it's nice to know you're not the only one) and then kind of flabergasted when he told me that he's not out to ANYONE ELSE. On a side-note, he's by no means the first person who's come out to me before anyone else... I'd love to say it's because I'm so open or accepting or something, but I don't know. I do take it pretty seriously, though, and when I'm asked to keep the information quiet, I do so. (Again, the advantages of blogging anonymously. Yay!) Anyway... he and I have been spending quite a bit of time together since he came out to me, and he's been a really amazing friend. We've become ridiculously close in a short amount of time.

So the second night of this class trip in northern Spain, the Texan and I went out to a bar together. He poured out his heart to me about his (non-exclusive) boyfriend back home, we talked about it, he started asking me about my love life. So I talked to him about Crush. (Who is, again, The Texan's roommate here in Spain.) Basically, The Texan let me down easy. Telling me Crush does really like hanging out with me, so on and so forth, but that he doesn't think it goes any farther. And I was surprisingly OK with that. I pushed the issue a little farther, though, and asked about if I just wanted to make out with Crush - pointing out that I wasn't looking for a relationship or anything serious. "Oh, well, yeah, that you could totally do!" The Texan responded emphatically. I thought it was relatively funny at the time, and we went on drinking.

Upon further examination, I decided something, though. (And this was, actually, largely facilitated by The Texan.) I don't want to be someone's backup. I don't want to be just good enough. I want to be worth having. I AM worth having. And I'm tired of settling for people who are settling for me. I don't have to.

So that has kind of changed my perception on Crush. He actually hasn't done anything wrong, and I'm not in the least angry with him. I intend to keep hanging out with him and enjoying his company. I just don't expect anything more. And I think that's a good thing.

Then last week, the night before I left for Denmark, The Texan texted me and asked if I'd come out with him for a few drinks. We always have a blast together, and tend to be similarly lush when it comes to consumption of alcohol, so of course I accepted. Granted, it was a Wednesday night, so the bars were less than hopping. But it was actually a fantastic opportunity to really talk. We went bar-hopping, and spent most of the time talking about our various pasts (the advantage of making new friends is that there's never a shortage of stories to tell), and talking a lot about sexuality. I asked him if it was hard being closeted, he answered with suprising honesty. There was more bar hopping.

And then, I couldn't tell you how, we were kissing. Really kissing. His hands on my chin, pulling me to him, my arms around his shoulders. It was the frenzied (admittedly drunken) passionate kind of kiss that I haven't experienced in quite some time. And, to quote Jay Brannan "his kiss matched mine so perfectly..." After leading my by hand to what was our fourth bar of the night, we took a cab home - which he insisted on taking with me to my place even though it would make it twice as expensive for him. I tried to convince him otherwise, and he looked at me like I was crazy for thinking he'd leave without knowing I was home safely. It was unnecessary, but a nice gesture nonetheless. There was a kiss goodbye in the cab, and then we each went our separate ways.

So here's the catch. I felt incredibly guilty the next morning. The details of the end of the evening are a little fuzzy (hence why they weren't more detailed in my recounting) but the things I remember are quite clear. I don't think the kissing arose from anything particularly romantic, and have a sneaking suspicion it was one of those "let's be those obnoxious people in the bar who seem really happy making out with each other." To the best of my recollection, it was a simple friendly makeout session. I've had countless. So I can't quite figure out why this time is making me feel so guilty.

Well, that's not entirely true. I think I feel like I took advantage of him. And while I don't know whose idea it was to start making out, and I know he was obviously not complaining too much, as he was kissing back, I feel like I have all this information about him, and he's trusted me with it, and what do I do? I jump him. (Well, not exactly. But you all know what I mean.)

I need your help here. I've talked to him about the night and we're both avoiding it and I don't want to make it awkward for either of us. (Our conversation wasn't in the least uncomfortable, though.) So, provided that talking to him about it isn't an option... what do I do about this guilt? Is it warranted in the first place?



Amalthea said...

I thought I'd check in on the blogosphere's sexiest denizen tonight before I passed out after a long day... and wow. It's been a while since I completely felt like I wrote an entire portion of your blog since I'm not in Europe... um, but here we go again.

This is how I am, how my life has been up until the last year. My current BFF is entirely straight, so she's the one friend nothing has ever really happened with - if she wasn't though it would have. My other current friends are more acquaintances, and I've only met them post relationship with SP starting - so they're also 'safe' relationships. But even not that close friends often have sexual moments with me. Boob groping, ass smacking, conversations that make my boyfriend uncomfortable because I'm talking about these things with someone else, kissing, whathaveyou.

I think there are several reasons. One: I love my friends. I find them attractive mentally and if I like someone mentally I'll find them even more physically attractive. They also like me. I trust them - the number one reason this happens on my end, I have major trust issues. They trust me.

With other people - those that choose to confide in me, I make it clear I accept them. I make it clear I consider what they said important. You did both of these things. That creates trust and a bond, even if you're not close friends you shared something they haven't with someone else. That's powerful stuff.

And then the final major component:
The openness and comfort with sexuality and sexual topics - that often seems to seal it with other people. I bet it's the same with you. People sense that they can trust you to talk about these things, and they therefore feel very close to you, and are possibly more sexually aware of themselves and your sexuality when you're around. Hence the sometimes spontaneous combustion?

I don't think you need to feel guilty. You weren't using him for anything it sounds like - therefore, you're in the clear. You both provided one another with fun, friendship, someone to share your situation with, and a little yummy saliva. I would say all's well. ;) Especially if it's not awkward to talk to him now. If it is, then you should just talk it out and flat apologize like you would with a close friend.

Let me change tactics on you here too... if you told someone something like that, and they then went out and proceeded to have a fantastic time with you, made out with you at a bar, and continued to non-awkwardly be friends with you after... how would you feel? I'd feel pretty, sexy, more confident in my sexuality, and comforted. Seriously. So, I bet he's doing ok.

Ps - I'm from Texas! Yay Texas! :D
I'm also glad you came to some happy conclusions about Crush that work for you and it helped you process through to what you really want. You deserve everything you want, and it's nice to hear you know that! I adore you, goodnight my sweet.

Confusedus said...

I was going to add something here but the comment above this has it all covered & I couldn't improve on it :)

Merlin said...

Feeling guilty for a consensual makeout session with a friend? Of course you shouldn't.

Let me make the most obvious observation: if the Texan didn't want to do it, he could have told you to stop. He didn't.

You owe no one any obligation of sexual fealty unless you agree to it. Based on what I've read here and in your cast of characters, you've made no such vows. You should be free to kiss, touch and fuck anyone with whom you want to do it, and who will do it with you.

Having said that, certainly it's much more meaningful to make love to people you already have feelings for . . . i.e., your friends. And why should there be a wall between sex and other activities you enjoy with your friends, provided you're taking precautions against pregnancy and the spread of disease? You've observed it doesn't tend to ruin your relationships.

As for the future, there are many new friends for all of us to make. A year ago I wasn't with Nimue; now look at us. A year from now you may be saying the same about one or more of your new friends and lovers.

Roland Hulme said...

Brilliant post!

I don't think it's a 'terrible' habit at all, to fall for/fool about with your friends. The vast majority of my friends are women, since I'm not exactly a 'lad' and have really got the whole soccer, male-bonding, thing. I get on better with girls and of the female friends I have, I think I'd have to say I'd find all of them, attractive.

I mean, I think the reason one finds somebody attractive as a friend is partly the same as why you'd find them attractive as a partner (at least in sane, rational people.) I've never understood my friends who date utter losers or total opposites or people they just plain don't seem to LIKE.

Like doesn't always become love. But love should always have a bit of like in there.

Nope, I think this just illustrates that you're a smart person - and you CLEARLY have lucky friends.

Roland Hulme said...

Something for amalthea - the original Felix Leiter, in the James Bond books, was a straw-haired Texan, inspiring James Bond to say: "On the whole, Americans were good people - and the best of them came from Texas."

Whenever I meet a Texan, I tell 'em that.

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