I caught a few minutes of the recent interview where Oprah denied she was a lesbian and reiterated that her best friend Gayle was just that – her best friend.
I can empathise. I bet most of us can. I have a best friend who also happens to be female. We have known each other for years. She is like the sister I never had and her family has become my extended family. She lives in a different part of Australia but we keep up with phone calls and emails. If I could pick anyone in the world to spend time with, she would be that person.
Awhile ago I was talking to a man I know. He is gay and happily partnered. I mentioned I was going to see my friend the following weekend and he winked at me and intimated that my friend and I obviously had a long running sexual relationship. I was totally taken aback. I didn’t realise that having a close female friend would automatically make people think I was gay – it kind of soured my friendship with her in my mind for awhile. Perhaps I should be thicker skinned, perhaps I shouldn’t care what others think, but I’m not and I do.
So I empathise with Oprah. It must be extremely difficult to want to be with your best friend, but at the same time have to watch your every move just in case the media are watching. I empathise with everyone who has a best friend of the same sex who is now cautious about getting too physically close to them in case their closeness is misconstrued.
It all reminds me of just how influenced we are by first impressions and stereotypes. If we see two women or two men together, perhaps hugging or holding hands, they are automatically gay. If we see someone who is poorly dressed or groomed we probably think they are from a low socio economic background. If we see a blonde we might assume they are stupid. If we see someone young with a baby we perhaps think of them as irresponsible. We don’t stop to think of what each of their back stories might be.
As for me, I now try to ignore first impressions and stereotypes. I now make it a game to think of what each person’s real back story might be.