Trusted But Not Nice – A Woman and her Gay Man Friend
In the last year, I had to restructure my life a whole bunch. I had not one but two emotional breakdowns and I didn’t want to end up jobless and homeless and friendless, so I started making big changes. And while I’m grateful for the experience, I think what I’m most grateful for was having a few amazing gay man friends to help me through it all.
Gay man friends are different than other friends, especially when it comes to coping. That’s because when you confide in them with your problems, they’ll either a) smack you in the face until you learn from your mistakes or b) laugh in your face until you realize how ridiculous you are. There is no coddling.
One of my best gay man friends also happens to be a television design star. (Imagine that.) His name is Matthew Finlason. You might know him from the hit HGTV show, The Stagers, which was produced by Vancouver-based Paperny Films. Last year, in the middle of my breakdowns, Matthew decided it would be perfect to use me as the girl who needed to be made over for a reality TV series demo he was producing. The premise was that your environment and style reflect how you feel about yourself. The whole thing was intense and overwhelming. I would never have voluntarily taken part in reality TV but I was doing it as a favour for a dear friend. I came away from the experience with the following knowlege:
1) I wear a lot of black and grey, which apparently means I’m depressed.
2) I shouldn’t combine my office and bedroom because of something Matthew calls “techno-stress” (a word he made up.) Apparently techno-stress creates sleeping disorders and emotional disturbances. (The Canadian Press style guide doesn’t have “techno-stress” so I’m just going to guess it has a hyphen.)
3) I need to throw out my relatively filthy 10-year-old toaster oven, or else no one will want to marry me.
If Matthew weren’t my gay man friend, I’d never know any of this.
I called him in LA to talk about why gay man friends are different than other friends.
Me: Why are you so mean to me when my life is fucked up?
Matthew Finlason: Do you want me to tell you what you want to hear? Because you’re not going to get that from me. Our girlfriends are like newborn babies crawling in the middle of the streets. And we rush into traffic to say “Get the fuck up bitch. You’re about to be hit”
Me: You wouldn’t talk to a newborn baby that way. Why can’t you be nicer?
MF: Gay men tend to be very impatient with something we expect people to get. Especially from our girlfriends.
Me: So why do gay men get it and we don’t?
MF: I don’t get why you don’t get it when you have it so good. You surround yourself with exceptional people. You’d be exceptional if you’d just clean your fridge, not chew with your mouth open, and sleep with clean, crisp white sheets. Men would call you back if they woke up in a bed of virginal purity rather than your version of sneaker chic.
Me: Please elaborate.
MF: It’s one thing to hear the advice. It’s another to put it into practice - which you never seem to do.
Me: I still don’t understand why gay men have to be mean and honest and not just nice and honest.
MF: Because gay men are ostracized their whole life. We develop a thick skin. We learn ways to love ourselves for all the right reasons. You should too. It’s like discovering this secret to the universe and then looking to the left of us, and there’s always this fabulous female and we don’t understand why you don’t know this secret to the universe too. And then we realize, oh right, you weren’t beaten up because you were pretty.
Me: I was bullied so I can understand. Have you ever lost a friend because you were too mean? Sorry, because you were too honest?
MF: Oh my gosh yeah. People love me and hate me. But Elianna, you keep calling me for advice because I believe it’s better to be trusted than to be liked. So you know I’m not feeding air up your ass. Because there’s a lot of other pretty women who are waiting in line for this truth and my friendship.
Me: I’m more grateful than you’ll ever know.