According to Jamie Bufalino, sex columnist at Time Out New York, straight women and their gay best friends may really be too close for comfort. "What it comes down to is that both gay men and straight women often have really hard experiences with men," he says. "But it's harder for straight women in these situations. Gay men might be experiencing emotional attraction, but straight women have to deal with the physical attraction as well."
Lara Smith*, 23, can attest. The Brooklyn-based teacher forged a fast friendship with Thomas Lloyd*, 32, her gay coworker, but soon found herself pushing the boundaries of their relationship. She constantly called and sent text messages, which were reciprocated and encouraged. "Pretty soon I was telling him details I wouldn't tell anyone else, going to his apartment daily, even helping him with errands," she says. The two stayed close for almost two years, often ensconced in the intimate space of Lloyd's studio apartment; both sometimes felt that the only thing missing from their relationship was sex. Intellectually, Smith understood that Lloyd was gay, but found it impossible to wish he wasn't. Eventually the lack of emotional and physical satisfaction caught up with her, and she started to feel used, disrespected, and misunderstood—and increasingly unsuccessful in the dating scene. "In the end, we had to 'break up'—at least temporarily," she says.
A physical split is a good way to create emotional space in the friendship between a gay man and a straight woman—but sometimes a bit of self-analysis can do the trick. Though Ari Karpel, a 35-year-old gay man and life coach, always had female friends, he realized early on in his coming-out process that many women put him on a pedestal. "They were fans more than friends," he says. Then he met Elisa Zuritsky, 37, a straight woman who worked as a writer for Sex and the City. They spent hours sharing intimate aspects of their lives; their friendship became a platonic love affair. "I would go to every black-tie event with her like a boyfriend would," Karpel says. "One weekend, I was flown first class to Los Angeles. I remember putting her dress out on the bed at this fancy hotel and feeling like a handmaid, wondering how I had become the fan." In adoring and idealizing Zuritsky, Karpel had become dependent on her for the deep intimacy that he couldn't find with a man. Years have passed, and though he jokingly referred to himself as "Elisa's ex-boyfriend" during her wedding toast, he is finally dating a man who, as he puts it, "is completely ready" for full-blown intimacy.