“Gay people aren’t attracted to feminine guys. They want someone more masculine.” George says, twirling his straw around his Dr. Pepper.
“What do you know? Aren’t you straight?” Charlie asks. He snarls then wraps his arm around her.
“I’m just saying,” he says, “If I was gay, I would like more masculine guys than drag queens.”
George isn’t known for his subtleness. Even though I’ve known him for eight years and he’s known that I’m gay for four, he still manages to lose his filter around me. He isn’t homophobic; he just doesn’t when to stop.
“There’s a term they use for guys like that,” I say, “we call it Masc4Masc.”
George and Charlie explode in laughter.
“What?” I ask.
“Nothing,” Charlie says, choking on George’s soda, “That’s just funny.”
I stare at them blankly, as if what they said was offensive.
“Oh?” she says, giving me a puzzled face, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
I loosen my face then laugh. “How were you rude?”
“Well, it’s your culture, or whatever.” George answers.
“I guess. But it doesn’t work like that. Gay guys come in different sizes. Drag queens can be masculine.”
George looks at me in disbelief. His face clearly wanted to challenge my statement, and I can see in his eyes that he wants me to show him some evidence.
“Well, drag queens don’t have to be feminine when they’re not in drag.”
“But don’t they just wear make up every day?” Charlie asks.
I’m not at all surprised about the lack of gay knowledge they have. Charlie was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. Even though she is a self-proclaimed “registered Democrat”, once in a while, her roots catch up to her. One day, she yelled at the lady on the phone as we ordered food because neither of them understood what the other said. She ranted about how every immigrant who comes to America should automatically speak English. I tried to reason with her that people who come from third world countries don’t have the luxury to learn different languages in school like us because of poverty and poor education systems, but her lust for Honey Walnut Prawns clouded her judgement. I tried to call the restaurant to apologize for Charlie, but they blocked my number. Her boyfriend, George, grew up in Orinda, California. Although he tends to be more liberal, his family are conservatives. He can’t stop himself from calling people he doesn’t like “faggots” or forgetting to sensor the n word when he listens to Kendrick Lamar, but according to Facebook, he supports Bernie Sanders.
I somehow manage to get along with both of them.
“Tell me,” I ask Charlie, who is busy kissing George, “do you wear make up every day?”
“Not really,” she pulls away, “I try to at least put eyeliner on or foundation, but I’m in college and I’m lazy.” She responds with a giggle.
“Well if you don’t, what makes you think guys who do drag want to do that every day?”
Both of them look perplexed. They look at each other, catching cues for what to say next.
“Well,” George answers hesitantly as the de facto loser from the stare down, “don’t drag queens want to be known as like women or something? Like Caitlyn Jenner?”
The sound of George’s voice makes me sigh.
“No, she’s transgender. Not all drag queens identify as female. Most do it for fun.”
“Why?” Charlie asks, baffled and amazed. I am amazed that they have never had this talk with anyone, considering they both live in San Francisco.
“Because not every drag queen wants to be called ‘she’ when he’s not in drag? I mean, some probably do, but usually drag queens wear exaggerated make up for show, not for identity. That’s why they have drag queen names.”
“Oh! Like on Ru Paul!” Charlie answers instinctively, as if this was an ‘a-hah’ teacher-student moment for her.
“Sure? Anyway, the point is, not all drag queens are transgender, not all gay people are feminine, and not all gay people want masculine guys.”
The two nod. They seem to understand what I said, but who knows if this will stick.
An arm squeezes my shoulder from behind. I immediately recognize the grip as Rick’s, and I get up to give him a hug before introducing him to my friends.
“Hey guys, this is Rick, my…” I trail off, not knowing what to say. I glance at Rick, avoiding the awkwardness, hoping he knows the term to use best. Curiously, he is intently starting down George, who returns the favor. I am too distracted to know what’s going on because I almost referred to him as my ‘boyfriend’ when I had known him for less than a month.
Charlie recognizes the awkwardness and shakes Rick’s hand.
“Hey Rick, I’m Charlie, so nice to meet you!”
George snaps out and mutters his name under his breath to introduce himself. Charlie slaps his arm in annoyance. As semi-conservative these two are, they are also two of my best friends. In high school, George got suspended for protecting me against this guy who called me a faggot at lunch. The experience made me miserable and miss school for an entire week. Charlie came over every night and brought me movies and junk food to cheer me up. It wasn’t until George came over, bruised eye and all, when I started feeling better. Neither of them knew about each other until they met at my place that night, and two weeks later, they began dating.
I love them both.
“So, Rick, tell us about yourself.” Charlie says.
“Well, I grew up in Chicago and moved to California as a kid. I go to Berkeley majoring in Biology.”
“Biology? Oh my god, me too!” Charlie exclaims. The two begin to talk about theories they learned in class. Charlie was always the smart one in my friend group. For a few years, she wore thick-framed glasses and had braces on her teeth. When she began dating George, she went through a mid-life crisis, and had a major wardrobe evaluation. She now has over 40 thousand followers on Instagram.
George is trying to stare at the beauty that is his girlfriend, but something about Rick is making him uncomfortable.
Minutes go pass. George remains awkwardly quiet, eating his meal as Charlie and Rick discuss what they learned from their Intro to Zoology class. Charlie brushes her hand through his sandy-colored hair. Once in a while, Rick will flash a glance at George, who returns the favor.
“Excuse me” George says, getting up to go to the bathroom. Charlie flashes me a look of apology.
“So, Rick, where were we? You were talking about a class trip to the Sahara?”
“Hold on, one sec” Rick says, checking his phone, “I have to call my mom back, I think it’s important. Is that okay?” he asks me. I nod.
Once Rick is out of clear sight, Charlie rubs her hands on her forehead.
“I am so sorry; I don’t know what’s going on.”
I smile in reassurance. “George is just overprotective. He might just be uneasy you’re getting along with another dude.”
“What do you mean? Rick is gay, isn’t he?” she asks before realizing, “Oh wait, is he bi?”
“No,” I laugh. “He’s totally gay. 100%”
“Well fuck, I would have never known. He doesn’t act like it, does he?”she says, confused and laughing at the same time
“I honestly didn’t even know. It took me a few visits to Starbucks and a few stares before he finally put his number on my receipt. I thought he was straight, and I honestly thought he mugged me because I was being creepy. Turns out he was just starting back.”
Charlie laughs. “Well, I’m really sorry my boyfriend is being an asshole” she says, holding my hand in apology.
“Nah, don’t worry about it. I’m just glad you and Rick are getting along. I really like him.”
“You do?” she asks with excitement, “oh my god, can he please come to our get-togethers more often? I love him too. He’s adorable. And I can tell he makes you happy!”
I blush. “Honey, you need to back the fuck up, you have a man and this one is claimed.”
We explode in laughter. Charlie holds my hand tighter, and flashes me a new look.
“I really missed you. I can’t go by four months without seeing you again.” She says with remorse.
“I know. It’s stupid, you live in San Francisco and I live in San Jose. We’re literally not that far.”
For a few moments, we just look at each other in silence, acknowledging each other’s presence. Two long lost friends, finally reunited in an awkward homo-hetero double date. Before we can finish our conversation, Charlie and I are both taken by surprise upon seeing the two walk towards the booth.
Are they… laughing?
She flashes me a look as she scoots over to let him sit.
“What’s funny?” I ask.
“I just asked Rick if he’s Masc4Masc.” George says, still laughing.
“Fuck you” Rick answers, unable to hold his hysteria. The two continue to poke jokes at each other over dinner.
Charlie and I look at each other in confusion.
The rest of the double date goes smoothly. Rick and Charlie finally let George in the conversation, changing the topic from biology to beards. Charlie makes fun of Rick’s beard, saying he reminds her of Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead. Rick and George exchange tips for beard grooming. George makes fun of Rick for being ‘too masculine for a gay guy’. The three exchanged numbers and social media accounts, and we made plans to meet up again at my apartment after finals.
Outside the restaurant, I hug Charlie goodbye, then try to give George a back pat. Instead, he wraps his arm around me, picks me up, and spins me in the air. I squirm away from the lock of his gym rat biceps.
“Don’t forget about me, babe, I love you.” He says, planting a kiss on my cheek. Charlie is laughing behind him. Rick looks confused but amazed.
“And you, lover boy,” George says to Rick, who’s eyes widen from the ‘L’ word, “take care of my best friend. Or I’m kicking your ass.”
“I’ll try!” Rick replies.
“I love you too” I say to George, laughing. Charlie hugs Rick before passing him over to George, who gives him a friendly hug that awkwardly lasts longer than it should. George and Charlie get in their Uber, and just like that, they’re gone.
Part of me wished this night wouldn’t end. College has made me realize how much I rely on my friends for emotional support. I hate how I don’t see those two for months, considering they live 40 minutes away. I stare at the street until the car is nowhere in sight.
“Something on your mind?” Rick asks as we walk home.
“Nothing,” I reply, trying to keep my emotions in a subtle level. “I just miss them. I love those two. They’re like family. I hate how I never see them.”
“I feel it,” he says, wrapping his arm around me, “I miss everyone in Chicago too. I haven’t seen them for years.”
Halfway through the walk, Rick holds my hand. He had never done this before. The sick feeling I had from saying goodbye to Charlie and George leaves my body. I suddenly feel woozy. Am I blushing?
“What’s this for?” I ask.
“It’s me telling you that I really like your friends,” he says, pausing from the walk and yanking me back by the hand, “and I also really like you.”
I giggle. “Cheesy ass.”
Rick plants a kiss on me in the middle of the cross-walk. A car honks from behind us, and we run to the other side of the street, laughing, still holding hands.
“So what was that about with George?” I ask.
“What do you mean?”
“It seemed like you didn’t get along with him, but then you came back and were best friends for the rest of the night. Did you bump into him from the bathroom?”
“Yeah” he answers.
“Did he like, tell you embarrassing stories about me or something?”
“Yup, like that time you shaved down there and had a mini-break out thinking it was herpes.”
I punch him on the arm playfully. He bursts in laughter.
“I thought it was serious! That’s not funny!”
“I know,” he responds, still laughing, “you called him at three in the morning asking him to take you to the ER.”
“We were in high school!” his hysteria was contagious. I suddenly felt unable to resist bursting into laughter. “But seriously, what was it?”
“Do you really want to know?” he asks.
“Yes! I do! I really do! It was weird. Charlie and I were confused.”
“Okay, but you can’t tell. Promise?” he asks, holding out his pinky finger. I wrap mine around his in agreement.
“Have I ever told you where I moved from Chicago?”
“Yeah,” I respond, “somewhere in California. Where was it, Mendocino County?”
“Orinda” he corrects me. It suddenly made sense.
“Oh? So you knew him?”
“Did you have some kind of falling out? Is that why he was pissed? Did you guys resolve it while you were away from the booth?” I realize I am shooting him with questions. I bite my lip in control.
He smiles. “We did. It’s been years since I last saw him.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” For some reason, something falls in my stomach. I felt weird.
“But the weird thing is,” Rick adds, looking at me with an expression I could not describe, “George wasn’t just a friend.”
“What do you mean?”
“He was my first boyfriend.”