“Can you come with me to the doctor?” The text was from Jacqueline, my pal and confidante since 1852 (approximately) and the only girl I ever kissed. Don’t get the wrong idea: We were in Westside Story together when we were 10.
If Jacs and I needed each other, “yes” was implied. “Are you sick?” I asked.
“It’s the kind of appointment where only my GBF will do.”
Nothing more had to be said.
In San Francisco there are two kinds of male/female pairings. One is the heterosexual coupling. The second is the GBF/straight girl duo. GBF: Gay Best Friend. That’s my world: one of friendships that have lasted longer than romantic entanglements, hours conspiring in our secret language, and on a couple of occasions, trying to figure out which one of us the ambiguous hot guy was hitting on.
Like a Tibetan lama, GBFs are born, not made. I’ve developed a few theories about the root of these special relationships.
1. Biology: Around puberty same sex inclined boys usually become alienated from male peers at roughly the same moment girls are conditioned to view female peers as competition. Thus, an alliance is born.
2. Socio-politically: Historically, women and gay men have been second-class citizens in a world ruled by heterosexual men and are natural co-combatants as they fight the injustice of sexism.
3. Psychologically: One of the side effects of difficult childhoods is that some gays develop a tremendous capacity for empathy and are better friends because of it.
4. The survival of civilization: Gay men require female friends because the only reason any man of any persuasion ever behaves properly is fear of disappointing the ladies in our lives. On that same note, straight women need a man capable to give them honest answers about how they look in their clothes. I’ve spent easily half my life undressing Jacs with my eyes, and then redressing her in something different.
It’s evolutionary; if Darwin had come to San Francisco instead of the Galápagos he would have reached the same conclusion. I’m not sure San Francisco can claim credit for inventing the GBF (research indicates Elizabeth Taylor possibly discovered us sometime in the 1950s), but we’ve perfected and exported it to the rest of humanity. Before there was Will & Grace or Michelle and Marcus Bachmann (allegedly) there was Mary Ann and Michael in Tales of the City pioneering the way.
Like Jacs said, there are some moments when only a GBF will do.
In high school, it was picking the prom dress. I love spring when all the junior GBF couples take over Union Square on the hunt for that perfect, memory-worthy gown. In college, it was the ongoing crisis of young love, a crisis shared and survived together. In adulthood it’s hundreds of small questions: Where do I seat my fiancé’s embarrassing fraternity brothers at the wedding? (Away from the bar.) How do I dress appropriately for board meetings without looking like Margaret Thatcher? (Miu Miu.) What’s the best way to tell my mother to stop asking when I’m going to get pregnant? (I’ll call her and say she’s too young to be called granny.)
And then there are the occasional mysterious texts.
I arrived at the doctor’s the same time as Jacs and was immediately ushered into the examination room.
“Are you going to tell me what this is all about?” I asked.
Casing the room I didn’t see any of the usual doctor accoutrement. This was like a department store dressing room: a three-way mirror stood against one wall with an exam chair facing it. Jacs pulled a magazine page from her purse and handed it to me. It was a picture of a Playboy Playmate in all her naked glory. I was confused.
“Are you here to… get a Brazilian wax?” I asked, staring at the hairless specimen on the page. Jacs shook her head.
“You’re getting your breasts done!” I exclaimed. For years Jacs had talked about going up a few cup sizes.
“Now you see why I said this was the kind of situation only a GBF was suitable for.”
“In what way?” I asked. “This isn’t exactly my usual expertise.”
“I knew you weren’t going to disapprove on feminist grounds or get jealous like a girlfriend could,” Jacs said, taking the magazine page back. “And I love Jules (her boyfriend) but I didn’t want him here acting like he was picking out new toys. I need you to make sure I don’t become one of those girls all the other GBFs snicker at because she looks like she has a floatation device strapped to her chest.”
She had a point. Twenty minutes and three cup sizes later we had chosen a new, improved bosom for Jacs: not so big as to draw stares but enough of a difference that it was a definite upgrade.
“Is this your boyfriend?” the surgeon asked.
“She should be so lucky.” I handed him back a set of implants I’d vetoed.
“I am.” Jacs smiled.