The relationship between a gay man and his straight female friends is one that’s shrouded in mystery, a magical friendship forged in a land where unicorns roam free, glitter rains from the heavens, and the cosmopolitans never stop coming. If you’ve watched enough TV in the past 20 years, the gay male-straight female friendhip has been exalted, put on a pedestal as the ultimate bond for all straight, lonely women. Thus was born the myth of the “fag hag.” As a woman with gay male friends, I’ve always bristled at this term, finding it offensive to both, but wondered if there really was something to it. Is there magic in the relationship between a gay man and a straight woman? Do women with lots of homosexual male friends use those relationships as substitutes? I knew I couldn’t answer this myself, so I called up the person who knows me the best — my best friend, Greg. Join us as we attempt to debunk the “fag hag” myth, once and for all.
Megan: First of all, you and I have known each other for many moons, but we didn’t become really close friends until college, and we are now very good friends. You happen to be gay, and I am straight. Currently you are in a relationship and I am not, but the reverse has also been true. Let’s get down to brass tacks here. I have been described in circles as your best friend, as the Grace to your Will, the Karen to your Jack. Basically, without being supremely offensive, lots of people have referred to me as the fly to your fruit, the hag to your fag. I’m not into this. What’s your take?
Greg: Well, I don’t love the association. It’s not just the phrase that bothers me — detractors have long been vocal about the ugliness of “hag” and the problems with “fag” — it’s the implication of an unhealthy co-dependence. A marriage of convenience: a boy and a girl with middling personalities meet and discover a common love of tiramisu, Anne of Green Gables, and tap dancing. They see their friends coupling off and picture themselves aged and alone. What follows is a sort of mind-meld, a blending of two entities into one powered by cupcakes and diamonds and lube, not unlike something you’d see in Japanese animation. They rejoin the world better, faster, stronger, completing each other’s sentences and laughing in unison. Eventually they replace standard communication with a nuanced system of eyeball moves and harrumphs. What I’m getting at, and it’s largely my own insecurity, is that I don’t want to be seen as a person who’s otherwise fine except for a human-sized barnacle. I mean, you get that, right?
Megan: Duh — I agree. This is probably why we are such good friends, right? Because we are really good friends — dare I say “best” friends — but I like to think that we have our own separate personalities. There have been great moments — that one summer in which we shared a room, slept in the same bed, and watched endless hours of MTV while smoking pot and abstaining from attending our relatively untaxing jobs. That was a good summer, Gregs. It’s clearly possible to have solid relationships between gay men and straight women that ARE NOT co-dependent and parasitic, because people are people. The main question here is what to do with the “fag hag” nomenclature. Do we come up with a new one or do we do away with the conceit entirely?
Greg: That summer was the best! So much ice cream, so few responsibilities. Though if we’re trying to assert our individuality, those memories contain damning evidence to the contrary — a shared bed, a pooled income, the hours spent deconstructing the dance to” Crazy in Love.” But back to the semantic issue. I don’t think “fag hag” (or is it “fag-hag”? or “faghag”?) is going away. It hits all the linguistic notes: it rhymes, it’s memorable, it’s sort of mean. But what if it were a little more nuanced? Eh? Perhaps a class system with different types of “fags” for different types of “hags.” Like “house hag,” aka a woman that lives with her gay best friend into her thirties, but is otherwise a swell person. “Oh, her? That’s my house hag.”
And the men could have monikers, too. “Gross fag” could be a gay man who drinks too many vodka sodas and tries to kiss, grope, or otherwise seduce his “hag.” A “gross fag” generally take photographs of these incidents for the world to see, and is known to say things like, “I’m not attracted to women, but I think they’re so beautiful.”
I’m digressing here, but I see potential. What do you think? Is it too much caste system, not enough couture?
Megan: It may just be too caste-y and not couture-y enough — not to say that we need all things to be Fabulous with a capital F. I’d argue that the notion of a “fag hag” isn’t going anywhere, but there’s gotta be a better way to qualify the relationship. Let’s face it — the relationships between gay men and their women is a special thing. Whether it’s a shared interest in musical theatre, or a deep appreciation for Britney, or the ability to carry on in a ribald manner about penises, there’s something there, a little magic, a hint of glitter, whatever. Especially because “house hag” sounds like someone who should be scrubbing the floors while you polish your butt plugs. Also, the words “fag” and “hag” are both derogatory! Here’s another query — what do you think makes the relationship between a gay man and a straight woman so magical? There’s clearly something beyond the superficial things we’ve discussed.
Greg: I could say something about a gay man providing a “safe space” for a woman. I could say that a true hag will not dissuade, but likely encourage her fag to attempt a triple salchow in stilettos. But those things have already been said, and it sounds generic. Why does the sun rise in the East and set in the West? Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Is someone watching me through my webcam right now? It’s just another of life’s great mysteries, Megs, and I think it should be left to the psychologists.
Pop quiz: the United States is requiring all women to change their middle names. You only have two options: “hag” or “diarrhea.” Which do you choose?
Megan: Sure, there’s something in the “safe space” argument, and it goes for both parties! All of YOUR triple salchows have occurred under my watchful eye, in my room. So there is that. I had a safe space to laugh, and you had a safe space in which to act up on that urge, whatever it may have been. It’s a great mystery, but it’s not necessarily un-crackable.We are friends for the same reasons I am friends with anyone else — we get along very well, have shared interests, can laugh endlessly for hours about nothing, and have a similar worldview. There’s no need to qualify it. The fact that both you and I are sexually attracted to the same gender falls pretty low on the list of reasons. I have a fair amount of gay male friends, but I do not actively court or collect them, like so many Pokemon. I sense you feel the same way about straight female friends, as we have had this discussion since time immemorial. I don’t feel the need to qualify our relationship with any special terms, because really, you are my best friend, gay or straight. The end.
Also, to answer your question, I will gladly be known as Megan “Diarrhea” Reynolds for the rest of my days, if need be! Banish the word hag! Any final thoughts, sunshine?
Greg: Only that I’m glad we didn’t contribute to the fag/hag discussion in a productive way. We may even have perpetuated the stereotypes. Par for the course with us! Let’s try to wind up in the same nursing home. I’ll be Jack if you’ll be Jen. Oh, but wait, Jen dies of a weak heart (so 19th century!) at the end of “Dawson’s Creek.” Let’s not have that happen, because I don’t want to raise your kid. Happy Pride!
Megan: Always the charmer, you are. Happy Pride, Gregs!