Girl-guy bonds

True tales highlight Will and Grace-like pals

By Jessica Carreras

'Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys'

Tom Dolby and Melissa de La Cruz

Dutton Adult

Available now

It's been said that a gay best friend is as necessary to a woman as owning a designer purse. Writers and friends Melissa de La Cruz and Tom Dolby, however, resent that. "There's this thing with the 'token' gay best friend, and it's not about that," de La Cruz insists.

The duo has since decided to put that mentality into their newest book: a collection of essays about life, love, coming out and, of course, that unique bond between hetero women and queer men.

"Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys: True Tales of Love, Lust and Friendship Between Straight Women and Gay Men," goes beyond the traditional definition of gay-man-straight-woman friendships. "We wanted to break this fag hag stereotype," Dolby explains. "What we saw more was that there were so many different definitions of these friendships. There's really no one mold that it fits into."

Accordingly, the book is divided into sections of essays that touch upon various aspects of friendships between gay men and straight women. Some, like de La Cruz's story of her first love in college (who happened to be gay), are about loving someone who, thanks to sexual orientation, can't love you back. The section "Growing Up, Coming Out" goes back to high school or earlier when friendships endure a sometimes difficult coming out stage. "The book is all about friendship, but it's not all sunshine and roses," Dolby says. "We really want to show that it's not always happy."

There are, however, stories that focus on cheerful times. "Shop Girls," for example, details writer Karen Robinovitz's best gay friends and their shopping adventures together. Gay men, she insists, are the best companions a girl could ask for.

As for Dolby and de La Cruz's friendship, it was one that began professionally. They met in 1999 when de La Cruz was hired as a columnist for a City Guide Web site under Dolby, who was an editor for the site. They haven't lived in the same city since 2001, with she in California and he in New York City, but they keep their cross-country friendship alive through frequent e-mailing and now, through this project.

"Tom is really my best writer friend more so than he's my best gay friend," de La Cruz explains, although it was their friendship that brought about the idea of the book. "Basically, this book would not exist without Tom," she admits, both for their inspiring friendship and his agreement to work on the book with her.

De La Cruz, who attended an all-girls high school, didn't have gay friends until going to Columbia and meeting Morgan, the inspiration for her essay, "A Manhattan Love Story." "We were very intense people and it was a very defining moment in my life," she says of their friendship. "The fact that he was gay was almost irrelevant to our feelings for each other."

Their decade-long friendship ended abruptly, however, when de La Cruz met her now-husband and Morgan cut off all communication with her. The break-up, at the time, hurt. "I think maybe writing (the story) was cathartic," she says, laughing.

Dolby's essay, "Future Perfect," begins more light-heartedly with the story of his journey to see a psychic in Florida, a decision spurred by a battle with depression. The trip, it turned out, was not as telling of Dolby's future as he might of hoped, but it did help him get through a difficult time in his life.

Ten percent of proceeds from "Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys" will go toward the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for gay teens. "I think it is so important for young gay people," Dolby says, "particularly in this political climate where, as a gay teen, you're not going to feel supported."

Though they reject the worn-out image of the marabou-wearing fag hag, both de La Cruz and Dolby agree that life is simply better for the Will and Graces when they have each other as friends. "I definitely think that if you have a gay best friend, you're life is more enriched," de La Cruz says. "All women should be that lucky."

"We're all in the same boat and deal with the same issues," Dolby adds, noting that he doesn't understand some gay men's reluctance to branch out of their own crowd. "I don't want to judge gay men who don't have female friends, but life can be really limiting if you stick to one gender."

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