I met one of my closest IRL friends through Twitter and no she’s not a middle-aged male serial killer in disguise. Welcome back to People & Pride, a nonchronological series that examines the impact my identity has on personal relationships and vice versa. You can read posts of People & Pride here.
I met Alicyn through a pretty standard Gay Circumstance, by which I mean through Twitter and some casual drama. She lived in the same city I went to college, but I had since moved back home when we followed each other, a two-hour drive away. Without actually talking too much, she asked me if I wanted to meet up with her while she was in town, where her home was just a half hour from mine. But, without a license, I embarrassingly admitted I was That Gay Stereotype, and that maybe we could meetup a different time (without inviting someone I hardly knew into my house).
Months passed with me envying how funny she was on Twitter, and I realized we were both going to the same Hayley Kiyoko concert. Even then, I was too shy to find her in a crowd of people and went back home with regret and without meeting her.
One day, I noticed Alicyn was selling prints of her adorable vegetable drawings, and I bought one for a friend who’d been going through a hard time, asking Al to ship it to my friend’s address. Sometime after my friend received the print, both gals messaged me on the same day to tell me they matched on Tinder.
That summer of 2018, we all planned to go to Pride together, and I made the trip to the west side of the state to do so. Knowingly, my friend had to ditch Pride for a little bit to attend a birthday dinner for her old roommate, where I was going to stay with Alicyn, her sister, her roommate, and her sister’s girlfriend. I! Was! Terrified! But I hadn’t seen my best friend in months, and I still really wanted to meet Al. So, some weeks previously, I booked my bus ticket so I couldn’t back out of the anxious agenda.
When Al and I met, I already knew she’d read some of my blog posts about how I met my girlfriend. And when I met her sister, she’d asked, “You’re dating a girl in England, right?” Al had told her to stop making it seem like she talked about me all the time, but with a laugh and a mock-wince that transformed self-embarrassment into a charming confidence that fuels her own humor. This adorable quirk and her artistic abilities rival as her top talent.
But it was nice. I like when people ask me questions in person because it makes it easier for me to talk, instead of keeping a mental list of topics to bring up in the case of dead air in a conversation. I don’t think I ever used it that day.
I’d only ever been to Pride with my girlfriend before, never with my own friends, and certainly never with people I didn’t know. Yet, there I was after my friend left, with Al—a girl I really only knew through a handful of half-conversations—and a group of strangers. Just days prior, it’d been the reason I lost sleep. But we danced to Betty Who’s performance, and I had an amazing time with Al and her friends. Even my own girlfriend was shocked at the fact I DANCED with STRANGERS and ended up ENJOYING MYSELF.
I’m not quite sure what got me through that day. Drinking in public makes me anxious, so I never had any that afternoon, even when I usually drink to take away the edge of overthinking social situations. Maybe it was the welcoming nature Al and her sister had, maybe it was the way she danced without caring, maybe it was something about her demeanor that said she was there to have a good time, and she was damn well going to have it. Whatever it was, she put in the effort to make me feel included, and it worked. Plus, she shared her ice cream with me, and as a Taurus, that certainly helped.
A few months later, she invited me to her twenty-second birthday party, which included over a dozen people I’d never met, a two-hour car ride with two people I barely knew and two complete strangers, a sleepover, party games (including an around-the-circle icebreaker TWICE), and a party-chip bowl of guacamole. I was terrified (of everything apart from the guacamole).
When I think about that day though, wedged between people on a couch, cheeks flushed red from alcohol and not embarrassment, I only remember really enjoying myself. In fact, I even remember feeling confident. I remember making jokes and talking with Alicyn’s friends and laughing and breathing and thinking, I don’t know how, but I’m doing it.
I was about to leave the country for four months to visit my girlfriend, and I really wasn’t sure if Al and I would keep in touch. We met under such awkward circumstances, and I hated being in the middle of her and my friend at the time. Not that it was ever really dramatic, but it was uncomfortable knowing things that I felt like I shouldn’t know from both sides of it. In the end, things didn’t work out, and selfishly I was pretty relieved.
But before then though, I already considered Alicyn a friend. And when she invited me to her birthday party and danced an Irish jig to Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” I think she might’ve considered me a friend too, especially accompanied by the “I’m so glad you came” comments she made any time she sat next to me that night. Later that autumn, she came to see me the few times she was back in town, and I’d long since stopped wondering about whether or not we’d keep in touch.
This might not seem like much of a pride-spin on our friendship so far, but Alicyn is really the first friend I’ve made without any “coming-outs.” Before we actually met each other, we knew the other was queer, and our circumstances of finding each other was such a mid-twenties gay experience it’s practically a stereotype. But from this circumstance came the plot twist: the person I met online was both nearby AND likable. (Not to mention wlw circles are so small, that the reason we finally met in person was all down to my best friend matching her on Tinder.) Absolutely none of which would’ve happened without our identities. Not saying that straight people don’t make friends online too, but I would not be so addicted to being online if it was easy to find people I could relate to in person. (Yes, I am blaming my Twitter addiction on the straight population. No, I’m not sorry.)
More so than our cyber-gay meeting or the fact that the first day we spent together was at a Pride celebration, a real prideful bond sunk in when I met her family recently. We spent several days together at her family’s lakeside cottage with her parents, her sister, Andie, and Andie’s girlfriend (that I’d met before), along with her older sister, her sister’s fiancé and her newborn baby. Plus, an aunt and uncle joined us later on. I’d also anticipated on seeing some of her cousins and (finally) meeting her girlfriend, which ended up not working out, but I still managed to panic about all the people, nonetheless.
Whether by circumstance or by active and intentional effort, her entire family had the most welcoming, accepting, and loving energy, one that I’d never felt so embraced by other than my own immediate family. I had been so at ease with all of them, in more ways than one.
It was simply just nice to be around other queer people in person. Andie and her girlfriend, Kristel, are so loving towards one another, and it was healing in a way to be around them and others, where their love was treated just the same as everyone else’s, especially by their family. My own parents have never been bad people when it comes to my girlfriend and me, but in many ways, we will always be treated a little differently because our circumstances are so much different than my sister’s relationship (not because of identity or gender, but just due to those 4,000 miles I hate so much). It’s not something I blame my parents for.
Even that too, though, was treated as a normalcy while I was there. They asked questions about England (which I appreciate because I so often forget that having a girlfriend halfway across the world does make me at least a little bit interesting), but not in a way that made me feel like it was weird or abnormal. And best of all, the situation wasn’t ignored, as I so often find people avoid the topic altogether. Which topic? The girlfriend, the distance, the hardships, the identity, take your pick. Straights don’t mean harm by avoiding topics they aren’t familiar with, but having the topic of your own identity avoided for months at a time can be very discouraging, even when it’s unintentional.
Her family wasn’t like that. Al herself has never been like that, even just with my girlfriend. She always asks about how we are, how my girlfriend is doing, what our plans are, and that interest and care extended to her family too. They asked me questions, they joked about how Al only makes friends on Twitter, they talked about their “lesbian aunt” and weren’t afraid to say the word. It was refreshing and inclusive beyond tossing me a casual welcome wagon. It felt more like an invitation to be part of the family and they had a space waiting for me.
Even besides the gay stuff, being myself with Al and her family was just so easy. I truly anticipated being worked up and stressed during the trip and packed a CBD gummy worm with me. I was even panicked over the fact I decided to only bring one, thinking I’d be anxious every day that I woke up in an unfamiliar place. But after the first day, I forgot about being worried. I forgot about being anxious or tense or hyper-sensitive to my every action. I even forgot about the gummy I packed with me and ended up never taking it.
It was the most relaxed and happy I’d been for the longest consecutive period since returning home from my girlfriend’s almost four months ago. It’s precisely this relaxing factor about Alicyn (and her family) that tells me my girlfriend, Jas, is going to love her. I haven’t had a friend with a humor and personality so similar to Jas’, especially given that Jas’ humor is so British that Americans hardly ever match it. With their deep Virgo empathy, (annoying Virgo self-criticism), and downright goofy natures that makes a good laugh out of self-doubt, I know that Jas is going to love Al when they finally meet later this year. In fact, I might be slightly worried about being the third wheel.
If you want to make your Twitter experience worth it, follow Alicyn she will not disappoint.