My friend claims the men I like are all gay

So they like aromatherapy and antique lead crystal -- that doesn't mean they're homosexual!

Published February 15, 2007 12:21PM (EST)

Dear Cary:

I am a single woman in my 30s and have become very close with a female friend during the last several years. She is good person, a wonderful pal intellectually and just generally a lot of fun.

The problem, however, is that every time I meet or date a new guy, my friend insists he is gay -- even when she hasn't met the guy. It's true that I like fastidious men -- the types of guys who use moisturizer and take care of their bodies. And OK, some of them have even been a bit fey with hobbies like "aromatherapy" and "shopping for antique lead crystal," but I don't think any of that necessarily means they are gay. (And for the record, not one has ever claimed bisexuality or even a bit of dabbling.)

I've examined my own feelings for preferring these types of men (I never felt compelled to before she made such a weird issue out of it), and what I tend to feel is that they tend to appreciate the same things I do. If I happen to be wearing a 1940s Schiaparelli negligée or if I follow a home-cooked meal with a rare dessert wine and figs, they seem to enjoy it as much as I do. It's truly rewarding and fun to have someone appreciate the nuances and the things I like.

This isn't to say that a more standard-issue, "straightforwardly straight" in appearance and demeanor heterosexual male wouldn't also enjoy those things -- I just don't find myself attracted to those types as often. (For anyone who is wondering, I am an almost stereotypically feminine female -- considered very attractive by many types of men.)

But when I tell my friend that the man I am seeing is not gay, she will chide that "the lady doth protest too much" and that the guy is probably cheating on me with another man ("hanging out with his drag-queen boyfriend").

A few years ago, I had to drop a different female friend because she constantly berated all my boyfriends (who she did not think were gay but stupid) and persisted in calling them idiots, morons and "mental retards."

What is up with these friendships? I would never name-call any of their lovers, no matter how bad they were. If they mistreat my friends, I will express concern -- but I never attack my pals for their choices, especially if they are enjoying themselves.

If my friend were concerned about a man's sexual history and an unsafe-sex issue or something like that, I might at least be able to justify her comments. For now, they just seem unfunny, hurtful and upsetting.

Any insights, Cary?

The Only Queen in This Bedroom

Dear Queen,

I don't have an insight so much as I have a suggestion.

Why don't you make some time to have a good long conversation with your friend. Tell her that you value her friendship immensely and do not want to lose her as a friend. Tell her that you need to sit with her for a while and be heard. It would be best if you could be alone with her for this conversation, and preferably not out at a bar or restaurant that is full of distractions but at home, where it is quiet and you can concentrate on what you are talking about. Just tell her that you've been hurt by her remarks and you need to be able to tell her that. Make it very simple and unadorned like that. Do not be clever or defensive. Just tell her the unadorned truth.

And then ask her if, out of friendship for you, she could refrain from making such remarks, and give her an opportunity, if she wants, to explain.

Now she may simply agree to stop making the remarks. Or she may want to take some time to explain. You may end up having a good conversation in which you learn some things that surprise you about how you are perceived. You may find that she cares about your welfare more than you had imagined. There's no telling what you will learn if you give her the opportunity to speak at length.

Or it may not turn out that well. She may protest in some way, or react with anger or defensiveness.

No matter what she says, hear her out fully and patiently. Ask her questions so you can be sure you understand what she is saying. Whatever she says, accept it without argument.

That's what I suggest you do about this.

As is so often the case, there is much more that could be said about the situation. Luckily, there is no shortage of people fully capable of saying everything that could possibly be said, and likely they will say that and more.

I, for once, am trying to keep it simple.

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