Sexplain It: I’m Traveling to See an Old Friend…and I Think I Might Be in Love With Him
I’m Zachary Zane, a sex writer and ethical manwhore (a fancy way of saying I sleep with a lot of people, and I’m very, very open about it). Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of sexual experiences, dating and sleeping with hundreds of people of all genders and orientations. In doing so, I’ve learned a thing or two about navigating issues in the bedroom (and a bunch of other places, TBH). I’m here to answer your most pressing sex questions with thorough, actionable advice that isn’t just “communicate with your partner,” because you know that already. Ask me anything—literally, anything—and I will gladly Sexplain It.
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Dear Sexplain It,
At the end of the summer, I’m traveling across the coast to meet up with an old friend…who I also might be in love with?! We were close in college, where I was out, but he wasn’t—I don’t think he fully realized his sexuality at the time.
After college, we moved to opposite sides of the country but stayed in touch on social media. Then, during Covid, we started talking a lot more on FaceTime…and he came out to me! I was genuinely shocked, then kind of curious if something could ever happen between us. I should also mention this man has only gotten hotter since our college days. And THEN he asked if I wanted to visit him in California.
Well, the trip is coming up, and I’m not sure what to expect or what to do. Should I tell him I like him? My feelings for him are getting stronger by the day, but we both have great jobs in our respective states, and I don’t see either one of us relocating, and I’m not sure I want a long-distance relationship. But maybe I’m getting too ahead of myself. There’s also the chance he doesn’t feel the same way, and I end up making things awkward. Help!
Dear Coastal Crushin’,
Tell him how you feel! Sure, it could make for disappointment if he doesn’t reciprocate your feelings—not to mention an awkward rest of the trip—but the risk seems worth it to me. If you saw this guy every day and he was totally enmeshed in your social circle, you’d have a lot more to possibly lose by opening up to him. But since he lives across the country, and you hadn’t spoken to him for years before the pandemic, I think it’s worth putting your newly-reignited friendship on the line.
When you see him, get a “vibe check,” as the kids say. Is he holding eye contact for a thinking-about-kissing-you amount of time? Is he making an effort to touch you, like a hand on the back or his leg brushing against yours? Are you two sharing the same bed?
If he seems to be flirting with you—or you can’t tell—I would say something short and sweet, like, “Hey, so I’m starting to develop a crush on you. Before I let my feelings fully take over, I wanted to see if you have any romantic feelings for me, too.” (This direct approach implies: “If you don’t feel the same way—I’ll be okay. We can return to a place of friendship.”)
FYI, if you do your vibe check and he’s definitely not interested—say, he reveals he’s in a monogamous relationship with the love of his life—then don’t bother confessing your crush. Enjoy your week in California with your old buddy!
But let’s say you do confess your crush: Then you talk it out. Maybe it turns out you misread the signals, and he’s not into it; then, you can respond with, “I totally understand and am excited to keep being friends.” While the romantic rejection will hurt, at least you’ll have your answer. “You’ll be able to move beyond feeling stuck in place,” said Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., founder of Modern Intimacy, when I showed her your question.
But if you ask me, there’s a better chance he says he’s started to develop feelings for you, too. After all, he came out to you, then proceeded to invite you across the country to be with him! While platonic friends travel to visit each other all the time, you’re two single gay men who haven’t seen each other since college—not BFFs who plan trips together. If you get the response you’re hoping for, well, I’m just going to leave this guide to beach sex right here.
You ask whether you’re getting too ahead of yourself. Yes, you are. Attempting to make major life decisions without certain key pieces of information—in this case, whether your friend is into you—is a recipe for anxious spiraling. Wait to construct your future until you have all the relevant building blocks. Who knows? You may learn that he’s not only into you romantically, but has also been eyeing a move to your city for years. I can’t guarantee what any of his answers will be, but I can guarantee you’re not going to have clarity without talking to the guy first.
Zachary Zane is a Brooklyn-based writer, speaker, and activist whose work focuses on lifestyle, sexuality, culture, and entertainment. He was formerly the digital associate editor at OUT Magazine. His work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Washington Post, Playboy, and more.