By fluke or fate, most of my gay male friends are men I've dated or slept with - usually both. So you can imagine my dilemma when, already in a loving and long-term monogamous relationship, I decide that I'd like to make some new fag buddies.
Years of reliable tried, tested and true techniques are suddenly of no use to me, so it's not so much a case of teaching an old dog a new trick as of the dog trying to avoid becoming one. No bones, please.
Days after releasing this wish to the universe, I begin to see some results.
It's Friday night when my friend Mel (of the ex files) invites me to join him and four of his pals for a cocktail. I'm reluctant at first, but my "I wanna make new friends" voice convinces me that this is an opportunity not to be missed.
It's a decision I don't regret. Amidst playful banter and frosty pints of beer on a local patio, my cocktail companions are witty and entertaining. I feel I've known them for much longer than it takes to down a couple of cold ones.
Our group shifts to another bar, and, as I settle into a nice conversation with Marc, it becomes clear to me that becoming friends is a distinct possibility. He's a kind and sensitive man with a fun sense of humour. Even better, he's well aware (courtesy of Mel) and respectful of my relationship status. Sure, he's attractive, and we share some flirty moments (it's my nature), but it's harmless fun when both parties know it won't lead to the bedroom. What it does lead to is the exchange of e-mail addresses and the start of a new friendship. Mission accomplished.
A little over a week later, set decorator Robert arrives on the scene. We're both enjoying retro night at a local club. He begins to chat me up, and before you can say "Xanadu" we bond over pets, recent furniture deliveries and trips to the beach. Not wanting to give Robert the wrong idea (I've left my "Taken" T-shirt at home), I make constant reference to my absent partner.
A self-proclaimed advocate of honesty who's intimate with the rules of monogamy, he appreciates where I'm coming from and, to my surprise, remains interested in talking with me. We exchange business cards.
With my quota for new friends quickly met, it occurs to me that I should be telling my success story to my partner, Craig. But the idea fills me with anxiety. A week of mind rehearsal does little to assuage my fears.
While cottage-bound late Friday evening, I realize that prolonging this discussion could be setting the stage for an unnecessary confrontation. And that's one production I like to avoid.
The next day, I step into the spotlight for my audience of one.
"There's something I need to share with you," I begin, realizing too late that my intro sounds like the beginning of a Dear John letter. Craig's face is expressionless. Is it too late to start over?
"Remember how I said that I'd like to make some new male friends?" I continue.
He nods, seemingly concerned about where I might be going with this. So I tell him about meeting Marc and Robert, a little bit about who they are and my hopes of getting to know both of them better.
"Are you okay with that?" I ask. It's a question that unexpectedly answers one of my own. Maybe my anxiety about this moment had as much to do with seeking Craig's approval of my new friendships as it did with informing him of them in the first place.
Talk about your uncharted territory. Since when did I need someone's permission to make a new friend?
"Of course I am," he replies. "Unless there's a reason why I shouldn't be."
Surprised, I find myself on the defensive. So I explain my reasons for not sharing the news with him earlier: this has not been my usual way of becoming friends with other gay men; I waited until I was certain of these new friends before sharing the news with him; I didn't know how to initiate the discussion without it feeling awkward or ridiculous.
"All I ask is that you not waste my time," Craig concludes. And I know what he means. Or at least I think I do. And it hurts.
Lying in bed that night, a new perspective visits me. Before Craig and I were lovers and then partners, we were friends, a forgotten exception to the rule. Suddenly, his reaction to my news makes sense. He knows my history. He knows my natural resistance to change, even when I'm the one initiating it. He knows me. And as much as it wasn't my intent, by not sharing my news with Craig earlier, I've inadvertently, needlessly aroused his suspicions. And it hurts.
But as we gloriously connect between the sheets the next morning, it's apparent that I may not be the only one who's given some additional consideration to our discussion.
As easily as change can challenge and teach us something new, so, too, can love continue to evolve.