My first real crush was on a guy named Greg. I probably shouldn’t refer to him by name, but we haven’t spoken in 10 years and he unfollowed me on Facebook, so I doubt he’ll ever see this. But if he does, “Hey Greg! Hope you like this post :D” 

I met Greg my sophomore year of high school through some mutual female friends. And I became instantly obsessed with him. And for valid reasons. He was Zac Efron-level hot with that silky bro flow haircut that was all the rage in 2009, and the most mesmerizing green eyes I had ever seen.

He was also ripped and could speak Russian. What more could you want?

Greg was more than just good looks though. He was super funny and effortlessly cool. He didn’t care about what other people thought, and allowed himself to be silly in a way most straight guys wouldn’t. And he somehow made everyone he talked to feel special. Which, as a desperately uncool 16-year-old, meant everything to me.

Greg and I went to the same all-boys catholic school, but we were a year apart. Our public personas couldn’t have been any more different. He was an athlete embedded in what was arguably the douchiest social group at school. I was a closeted theatre kid who was too terrified of his straight peers to ever speak in class. 

And while I was obviously physically attracted to Greg, what I liked most about him was that he saw something in me no straight guy ever had. I wasn’t the quiet/weird/effeminate theatre kid to Greg. I was funny and interesting. I was worthy of being acknowledged and understood. I was worth saying “hi” to in the hallway.

One time, at a party, some straight guys made fun of me for being gay. Later that night, Greg messaged me to say, “Don’t worry, Connor. I don’t think you’re gay.” And even though I knew he was wrong, I found his words to be reassuring. Because it felt like he wasn’t actually commenting on my sexuality, but rather saying I wasn’t what my straight peers ridiculed me for being. I wasn’t someone who should be bullied just for being different. It felt like he saw me in a way no other guy ever had—and even though his view of me wasn’t right, the way it made me feel was.

As time passed, I tried to keep our friendship alive. When I found out he had a crush on my friend, I tried to trick her into liking him. When I’d get together with mutual friends, I’d ask them to invite him on my behalf. I did everything I could to sustain the friendship even though I knew it was doomed from the start.

Because Greg and I’s friendship hadn’t been built on honesty. It could only work as long as I stayed in the closet and kept my feelings at bay, which I knew I couldn’t do for much longer. 

We both eventually lost touch with the social group that bridged our two worlds together.  And once we found our new friend groups, we became more like the people everyone had always expected us to be. I became more flamboyant and my homosexuality became openly assumed and agreed upon. He became the popular athlete who only interacted with people of his social status. Our conversations became infrequent, and eventually we stopped saying “hi” to each other in the hallway. I can’t remember the last time I talked to him, but I knew the chances of us talking again were nonexistent once he unfriended me on Facebook.

I know I didn’t truly love Greg. But when I think about the guys who’ve impacted me the most in my life, he’s always front and center. Honestly, getting unfriended by him hurt more than most of my breakups.

Greg isn’t the last straight boy I crushed on. I’ve had micro-crushes on pretty much every straight guy I’ve become friends with. And it’s not because I want what I can’t have or because I like the thrill of the chase. I think I develop crushes on straight guys because I’ve never been taught how to have a real friendship with a straight guy. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do when a straight guy expresses genuine interest in me as a person, or what it means when I feel like I can actually be myself around one.

Years of bullying and social conditioning taught me that straight guys want absolutely nothing to do with me. So when I meet a straight guy who challenges that idea, it’s hard for me to accept that what they want is genuine friendship.  But with time, I’ve learned that straight guys can care about me without any strings attached. I don’t have to set them up with girls to earn their friendship. I don’t have to conduct our friendship behind closed doors and tell myself it’s okay when they ignore me in person.

I now have straight men in my life that I love and care about, whom love and care about me in return. 

And that love is as rewarding as whatever thing I had with Greg.