Mike and I met our sophomore year in college. We quickly became friends and stayed within a tight social circle for the remainder of undergrad years. I think I always had a crush on him, but he was dating someone, then I was. We never made the connection but he was always a constant in my life.
As we wrapped senior year on the East Coast and I tried to figure out next steps, I was definitely influenced by his decision to attend grad school in California. He and our buddy Ryan were off to medical school—but I didn’t want to lose my closest friends. Since I didn’t have anything planned yet, when they suggested I head across the country with them and start a new, post-college life, I accepted.
And new it was: Mike and I began dating. This is what I had wanted ever since we first met four years prior. I wanted so badly to make it work. Dating Mike was eerily similar to being friends with Mike, but with slightly more physical contact. And I mean slightly more. Maybe it's just because we know each other well, I thought. Maybe this is what it's like to date a close friend.
And as time passed, we settled into a comfortable relationship. We had sex on a regular, if infrequent, basis, but with time doesn't romance fizzle for everyone? We also had the inconvenience of roommates: Mike lived with Ryan, and I had two of my own. Finding privacy was like an Olympic event. We chased it, but we rarely found it. Most of our time was spent eating out, watching movies, or hanging out with friends.
Things were going well with Mike; we rarely fought. It was Mike and Ryan that seemed to be doing more of the arguing lately. Ryan had recently come out as gay and was dating a fellow med student. Tensions had risen in the apartment since Ryan's lifestyle announcement, and I couldn't help but wonder if Mike was homophobic.
One day I arrived at Mike's apartment to find Mike and Ryan in a screaming match. When I interrupted, Mike wanted to end the conversation but Ryan continued to egg Mike on, asking him to "let her know what’s really going on." After half-an-hour of calming Mike down, he finally explained: He and Ryan were lovers. The two of them had been secretly dating since our freshman year of college and dating women to cover it up.
They had planned to go to the same med school, live together and be together permanently. And where did I fit into this equation? Mike and Ryan planned on finding and marrying suitable female partners, but always living in the same city or town—so they could continue their private relationship.
Ryan eventually got tired of the charade and began openly dating other men. This sparked jealousy and anger between the two. Mike said there was no reason not to salvage the original plan.
What? Was Mike really asking me to be his beard? This had to be a joke. I went numb. No, no, no. I stood up, gathered my things, and left without saying a word. I couldn’t muster the sentences to react to Mike's treachery and narcissism, my anger and confusion.
The guy I had had a crush on for four years and finally began dating was never really attracted to me. I went into isolation. I didn't see Mike for a few weeks. I was embarrassed to explain the situation to anyone other than my closest friends.
After a few months, it became one of the scenarios I could summarize in a few short sentences: "My ex-boyfriend was a closeted gay guy who tried to stay straight by dating me." Or "My ex was cheating on me the entire time we were dating—with another man."
Aside from the health issues (luckily, we were always safe), my feelings suffered the worst damage. Did I fit the "happy family" scenario? Was I the type, years from now, to roll over while he snuck out to be with his lover? I can tell you right now, that's a big, fat "no."
Mike and I have since spoken and are now superficially friendly with one another. He graduated from med school and chose to specialize in cosmetic surgery. Fitting, as he’s so consumed with appearances.
As told to Maureen Dempsey