KATHY: Yes, Tobin.
TOBIN: I wanna start off Season 3 with a question for you: What would you say is the most important thing to you in the world?
KATHY: Are we talking about like basic necessities?
TOBIN: I don’t know, just like what comes to mind? What’s top of the mind most important thing to you?
KATHY: ...having a place to live.
TOBIN: Okay, beyond...beyond that.
TOBIN: Deeper, let’s get deeper.
KATHY: Love...are you saying love?
TOBIN: Kathy! These are all the wrong answers.
TOBIN: The answer’s supposed to be me. The answer’s supposed to be our friendship.
KATHY: [LAUGHING] Oh Tobin!
TOBIN: This was gonna be like a sweet moment to kick off the episode.
KATHY: I asked you in what specific context are we talking about.
TOBIN: It’s fine, you’ve ruined it. It’s okay, let’s just jump in.
KATHY: You know what, you fall under love.
TOBIN: Uh yeah, whatever, too late. Show music please.
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy. With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: So what I was trying to say before you messed it all up is that friendship is very important.
[SFX: Television click]
TOBIN: Like, from the time we are little…
[CLIP] SESAME STREET
COOKIE MONSTER [SINGING]: Sometime me think, what is friend?
TOBIN: ...we are told how important it is to find our people…
BARNEY: [SINGING] Friends are special, so important...
TOBIN: ...to prioritize finding friends.
[CLIP] MR. ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD
MR. ROGERS: [SINGING] You are my friend, you are special. You are my friend, you are special to me.
[SFX: Television click]
KATHY: Tobin, I didn’t watch any of these shows...
TOBIN: Your time to contribute has passed! Okay?
KATHY: [LAUGHING] Okay.
TOBIN: But I would argue that for queer people, our friendships with other queer people are different. Like, the role that our queer friends play in our lives can be so much more intense. They sometimes take the place of family. We can talk about things like sexuality and gender and identity with familiarity. Our queer friends sometimes become lovers, or once were lovers...
KATHY: Nope nope nope, don’t do this to me, Tobin.
TOBIN: Alright, leaving it alone. The reason I’m bringing all of this up is because of this guy I recently met named Joe Rodriguez. Joe is 25 years old, he lives in New Jersey, he’s a writer. He also does a truly terrible Owen Wilson impression.
JOE: “I like your shirt. Wow. Look at the sky. Wow, that drag race competition is something.”
TOBIN: I'm gonna be honest with you. You have it in the sound bite of “wow.” But you lose that in every other place.
JOE: I lose it! [BOTH LAUGH]
TOBIN: If you asked him to describe what teenage Joe thought adult gay life would be...he talks about what was promised to him by gay television.
JOE: All I did was watch Will and Grace reruns on Lifetime. And then I started watching Queer as Folk reruns on Logo. And I remember seeing that and thinking that's also the life I want to and should lead in the future.
TOBIN: Living that life meant a couple things: Having a fabulous career. Being totally confident in his queerness. But maybe most important of all...
JOE: I would be surrounded by a group of friends…
[CLIP] WILL AND GRACE
JACK: Will, what do you think? Too gay?
WILL: Yeah, definitely. But the shirt looks good!
JOE: ...a group of friends that would support me and we would talk about guys we were seeing…
[CLIP] QUEER AS FOLK
MICHAEL: He signaled for you to meet him in the linen closet and he gave you this amazing blowjob and he went back to the table and the client never knew!
BRIAN: How’d you guess?
JOE: ...people that I could connect to and just talk not just the daily things but the things that matter and people who understand and get you.
TOBIN: You wanted the gaggle.
JOE: The gaggle! Yes!
TOBIN: The dictionary defines gaggle…
KATHY: No, no. No no.
TOBIN: The dictionary defines gaggle as “a group of geese,” which is not helpful for our purposes. It also defines gaggle as “a disorderly or noisy group of people,” which is sort of helpful for our purposes. What I think of when I hear the word gaggle is a group of queer friends. It’s this unique formation of queer people unlike any other. It’s the crew you meet up with to gossip, to hang. Queer Eye guys? That’s a gaggle. Taylor Swift’s squad? Not a gaggle. Also, problematic. The gaggle is a posse. The gaggle is a family. The gaggle is magic.
KATHY: Tobin, I actually don’t know this about you, but do you have a gaggle?
TOBIN: So I had a gaggle in grad school. It was like a mix of guys where some of us had been long time friends, some people had crushes that didn’t work out, some of us had hooked up…
TOBIN: And then we sort of fell into this tight friendship. And it felt like whenever we hung out as a group, we kind of amplified each others’ personalities. Like I think the loudest I’ve ever been is with that group of people.
JOE: That's what I thought I would be getting. And like that's just not the truth today.
TOBIN: Joe has never found his gaggle, but he really, really wants one. He tells this story about being invited to a New Year’s Eve party where there happened to be a group of gay friends hanging out.
JOE: It was so fascinating because I got an inside look. I was like, “Do like you guys do brunch? And do you guys hang out with each other on like the rooftop, and things like that?” And he's like, “yeah, like sure why not.” They were so kind and friendly and we had gone out after the ball dropped. And that feeling of belonging to like some group felt so nice and so warm. That's the best way to describe it. Warm.
TOBIN: Why would it be important to you to have that gaggle?
JOE: Because it's this chosen family that I've been told you choose to be around because they understand you and they get you. And I don't have that and I have and still crave it constantly.
TOBIN: Soooo talking to Joe...he’s this sweet, fun, funny guy who has so much going for him. I was like, there must be something I could do to help the guy out. You know, maybe like a friend-tervention, if you will?
KATHY: Tobin, what are you getting into?
TOBIN: I have an idea for you and I want to know what you think. And we can figure out the logistics of this.
TOBIN: But what if Nancy were to come into your life and the mission statement would be: we're gonna find you a gaggle.
JOE: Yes! A gaggle for me?
KATHY: I love this, I’m on board, what happens first?
TOBIN: Okay so first, an inventory of what’s getting in Joe’s way, like why hasn’t he been able to form his dream gaggle? So obstacle #1: his current life situation. He lives in a part of New Jersey where he’s kind of isolated.
JOE: So I live in Edison, New Jersey. It's suburbia and I live at home so that's fun because I don't have to pay rent. But also not fun because I also live at home.
TOBIN: And also while he tries to get his writing career going, he works in the returns department at a superstore.
KATHY: Got it, circumstances aren’t great.
TOBIN: Hmhmm. Obstacle #2: Joe says he only recently is getting more comfortable with his own queerness.
JOE: Childhood was interesting. I had effeminate qualities, but that was like looked upon as a bad thing so I would retreat back. So I grew up shy.
TOBIN: Like give me an example of...were there are things that you did that you then stop doing.
JOE: Oh, I would skip down the hallways and I sang Celine Dion when I was like 7 or 8 at the talent show.
TOBIN: You did!
JOE: I did. It was awful.
TOBIN: What did you sing?
JOE: My Heart Will Go On, of course. Iconic. And I had done every like breathy like [BREATH SOUNDS].
TOBIN: [LAUGHS AND CLAPS]
JOE: I don't know why any like red flags didn’t go up like this child is fully gay.
TOBIN: Needless to say, his performance was not well received.
KATHY: Can I just say, kids are the worst.
TOBIN: The worst!
KATHY: My Heart Will Go On is an undeniable classic.
TOBIN: It’s so good.
KATHY: We need to play a clip.
TOBIN: Um, I’m pretty sure we can’t get the rights to play it, so I’m gonna play as much as I feel comfortable with without pissing off Celine Dion.
[CLIP] CELINE DION - MY HEART WILL GO ON
CELINE: You’re here, there’s not---
[CLIP CUTS OFF]
TOBIN: And that is all you get.
KATHY: [LAUGHS] Aww.
TOBIN: We’re gonna move on now.
TOBIN: The point is...Joe says he got bullied into hiding these queerer parts of himself, and he feels like he’s just now undoing a lot of that damage. But he’s not all the way there. He’s still figuring out how to be confident, especially around other queer people. And that leads to his other big obstacle: Joe says he kinda has no idea where to start with making friends as an adult.
TOBIN: Do you feel like you’ve made attempts at like building this friend group before?
JOE: If by attempts, you mean just staring at people and wanting to be their friend at bar? Then, yes.
JOE: And not doing anything about it. Every time I do come to a bar, I just end up getting a drink and wanting to talk to people and then I just get too anxious and I'm just scrolling on my phone the whole time. It's that or this anxiety of if I do see people who look like they're having a good time and I want to approach them, but I don't feel like intruding or I feel like I would not be welcomed somehow in a group.
JOE: Because what do you say to somebody? “I like your shirt. Nice ring. Nice finger. I like your nose.” I don’t know. “Your face is really nice.” What are you supposed to make a friendship out of that?
TOBIN: So these are the challenges Joe is up against in his quest to find his mythical gaggle. But he says he’s ready to break free, to really make some changes.
JOE: I have an analogy that we're all trees. Our branches grow, but now I want my petals to, like, flourish. I would love to be a cherry blossom tree.
JOE: And so I just really want my little pink petals to just like come and that's the queerness that I want to come out.
TOBIN: Let’s get your cherry blossoms flourishing.
JOE: Hmm, that sounds…
TOBIN: I know, it’s starting to sound gross.
JOE: Yeah, it’s very gross.
JOE: Let's get this cherry blossomed.
TOBIN: [LAUGHS MORE]
TOBIN: Now, I had some ideas for Joe, but I also wanted reinforcements. So I was like, what if there were such thing as like a queer friendship guru?
TOBIN: You know, someone who knows how to network with other queers. How to meet other queers. How to make queer friends. So a couple weeks after Joe and I talked about his gaggle obstacles, I brought him back into the studio along with Fran Tirado.
[CLIP] FOOD 4 THOT
FRAN: I’m Fran. I’m a writer, editor, and in my biopic, Fran is played by none other than Laura Dern.
TOBIN: This is Fran on the podcast, Food 4 Thot. If you haven’t heard it, it’s this amazing show where a group of queer friends talk about literature and sex and a bunch of other stuff. Fran is one of the co-hosts and he’s sort of this queer powerhouse. He’s written for Teen Vogue and Hello Mr. If you follow him on Instagram, he is constantly at some kind of queer gathering.
FRAN: I have always been the kind of person that goes out like four to seven nights a week. I love introducing new people to new people getting strangers to talk getting queer people to talk. But I know you’re...
JOE: That’s fascinating.
FRAN: You can't see Joe but he's making a face right now.
JOE: I’m like, wow.
FRAN: Like holy fuck. How do you do that?
JOE: What a life!
FRAN: I have people that have come to me and said, “Oh my god I don't have any gay friends, I don't have any queer friends,” and I'm all like, “I haven't seen a straight person in nine days.” Like, I have no idea...I want to share my experience with other people.
TOBIN: So with Fran, we sort of worked through Joe’s obstacles one by one, the first being his living situation and working odd hours. Fran’s advice? You have to make time for friendship when you can, and you have to be smart about it.
FRAN: Think about how you would treat friendship and what your relationship to friendship would be if you were paid hourly to do it.
JOE: Gosh. What a concept. Wow.
FRAN: Think about it. Because every time when I go out I'm thinking like...okay, I have to alot like three hours for this thing, this like gay gaggle, whatever, party or something like that. You have to think about how you would treat that space if you were getting paid to be there.
KATHY: That’s intense.
TOBIN: Yeah, I mean I think for some people that would be a stressful piece of advice, to think of it as a job.
KATHY: Uh huh.
TOBIN: But I think Fran’s bigger point is that if you think of it like a job, it makes you think more pragmatically as opposed to emotionally. So it allows you to remove yourself a little bit from the anxiety.
FRAN: Because you're like, “Oh this is my job” rather than, “the stakes are super high and I'm going to be humiliated and like it's a personal downfall.”
TOBIN: So Joe also talked about feeling really shy and insecure, especially in queer spaces.
FRAN: So here's one thing that I'll say: everyone that you interact with in any sort of group, whether it's a group that has tons of friends at it or whether you're with friends or whether you're there by yourself and other people are there, everyone has the same insecurities as you in varying degrees and different levels. Everyone. They can be the CEO of whatever company or some huge gay nightlife personality and they have the exact same insecurities as you. And reminding yourself of that is so important especially in the moment.
JOE: Can that be like an open conversation that people have like more often?
JOE: Like, “Hey, you insecure?”
JOE: Not like, “You up?” on dating apps. More like, “You insecure?”
FRAN: “You on Lorazepam, girl? Whatchoo doin, Xanax, huh?”
JOE: “How do you cope?”
FRAN: “So, anxiety right?” But this is real actual advice that has worked for me. I am also someone that dwindles when someone in the room has a bigger personality than me. Or if I feel like there's someone who's just funnier or smarter than I am or whatever, I will observe them and invent an insecurity that they have.
FRAN: Literally. No, I'm serious. I'll look at them and I'll be like, I saw that they were chewing their fingers—because I also chew my fingers—and I'm like oh maybe they also have like crazy anxiety like I do. Or maybe they also got an argument with their mom this morning. Or maybe they also don't read the New Yorker front to back, which is like an insecurity that I have. Whatever insecurity you have yourself, or you’re like “oh my god they don't drink 8 glass of water.” Whatever, like, thing you want to invent about them.
KATHY: Oh that’s sneaky but I think I love it. It’s like the imagine everyone is naked trick.
TOBIN: It is like the imagine everyone is naked trick, except it’s more like imagine everyone is also insecure. Except you don’t have to imagine that hard because everyone else is actually insecure.
KATHY: [LAUGHS] Okay.
TOBIN: Fran also had really great advice for those times that Joe is in a bar and feeling like he doesn’t know how to talk to people.
FRAN: Here's the thing, is that the “nice shirt line” is...it actually works. It's okay to do something that's so simple, so excruciatingly basic, to initiate the conversation in order to get to the meat that you want to get to. But you have to commit to it, and figure out how what your second and third line is.
TOBIN: So you know, you have to commit to conversation. And that includes putting your phone away and being open...
FRAN: That I think is the biggest learning curve that I had is that I also have like very off putting body language that would just like not let any...like I just, no one ever talk to me ever. Like yeah just like standing at the bar scowling, texts, sending emails and scowling.
JOE: [LAUGHS] Why won’t anyone be my friend?
FRAN: Yeah, exactly!
TOBIN: And once you’ve clicked with someone and started to gel, you know, commit to building that friendship.
FRAN: I can't even begin to stress how important textual communication is. You're very funny. It's easier to talk to people on text than it is in person. You have a lot of time to think over and to crack jokes and to find ways to relate to them or to send them whatever Rupaul meme you have or whatever horoscope you had that like...whatever way you want to connect with them to help maintain a relationship…
JOE: Like tagging them and like a meme that you saw on Instagram.
FRAN: Yes absolutely.
JOE: Little things like that.
FRAN: Literally every single one of my best friends, with the exception of one, I've met through Instagram, and those relationships started from us following each other. I comment on one thing that they, that I thought was cool. They comment on one thing of mine, I comment back, we slip into the DM's. We talk a little bit on DM's. We tag each other in photos. It's like a very long game until finally we get over the hump of saying, “Oh let's get drinks.”
KATHY: Okay but like, I’ve kind of fallen into a trap of not knowing if somebody’s trying to be my friend or like trying to date me.
TOBIN: That’s a great point. And I mean, I wish there was an easy answer. I think part of it is being intentional with talking about how you’re looking to build deeper friendships. But you know, as Fran pointed out...
FRAN: We don’t have necessarily a perfect answer for the difference between, like, platonic friendships and romantic friendships, other than the fact that we fuck some people and we don’t fuck other people. However, sometimes you have to make out with your friends to figure out that you don’t want to date them.
JOE: I just want like a quick follow up. Do you think that shows like Queer as Folk and Looking, that show you're like, “Oh I have like my family.” My chosen family is like this thing that's like reverberated all over the internet in queer spaces. Is that a real thing?
JOE: Because I'm waiting for that. And I feel like I was promised that growing up watching these shows.
FRAN: So the quintessential queer family is not a real thing. There are a bunch of different kinds of queer families that exist and a bunch of different ways that you can create queer families. So reminding yourself that like the queer community is not this amorphous blob. Your queer families are gonna look completely different from other people's queer families.
TOBIN: Well so maybe now is a good time…
FRAN: To go through the thingys?
JOE: So I’m wildly anxious. Oh my god.
TOBIN: Don't be anxious. I feel like I've built this up too much.
TOBIN: So, what would self-improvement be without challenges? Fran and I worked together to devise a list of friendship goals. These were tasks that Joe could complete that would help him improve his friendship making skills, and get him closer to having a gaggle of his very own. We had a list of almost 20 goals broken up into different categories of easy, medium, and ultimate.
KATHY: That is so many goals.
TOBIN: I know.
KATHY: It’s intense.
TOBIN: I know, it’s a lot. But we let Joe choose which ones he wanted to take on.
TOBIN: So, an easy goal he picked was something like...
JOE: Joining another group…
TOBIN: That gaggle Joe mentioned hanging out with once? Maybe he could invite some of those folks to hang out again. Also on the list…
JOE: Up the ante with casual friends...
TOBIN: Maybe Joe had queer acquaintances that he’d like to be better friends with. There was also the option to pursue friendships with queer people he interacted with online on Twitter and Instagram.
JOE: Internet courtship, which, for me, is like my favorite.
FRAN: Yeah, mine, too!
TOBIN: He also picked more difficult tasks that involved more action. Like, for example…
JOE: The one that sticks out to me most is going to a bar on a weeknight.
TOBIN: ...you know, going to queer spaces when it’s a little more mellow, a little less booze-y, less hook-up-y.
FRAN: Going to a gay bar when it’s not super clubby or super hook-up-y will help lower the pressures.
TOBIN: But the one the task that we required him to do, that he absolutely had to follow through on, the gay pot of gold at the end of the gay rainbow...was hosting a brunch for his newfound friends.
KATHY: I love brunch so much.
TOBIN: Uh, as you know, I am not the biggest fan.
KATHY: I know, it’s very weird, Tobin. Brunch is the best.
TOBIN: It’s not my favorite. But I’m here for it, because we’re endorsing it in the name of new friendship.
KATHY: Also because brunch.
TOBIN: Joe, you have like this thing in front of you. How are you feeling about it?
JOE: Um, it’s exciting but scary to actually tackle this and actually get over some insecurities and fears. It’s cool to imagine myself what I'll look like on the other side of this.
KATHY: So, how did he do? Did he find his gaggle? Did people show up to brunch?
KATHY: Oh this is where we go to break, isn’t it?
TOBIN: Yep. Cliffhanger!
VOX: Nancy will be back in a minute.
TOBIN: But before we go to break, we have a little surprise for Nancy listeners.
KATHY: Yes we do.
TOBIN: So, maybe you’re sitting there, listening to this episode, your queer heart exploding with love and hope for Joe. But you’re also thinking, hey...I need a friend-tervention of my very own.
KATHY: Well, you are in luck. That friendship tool box we put together for Joe? We’re going to share it with you, too!
TOBIN: We’re calling it “How to Get a Gaggle.” Maybe you’re wanting to find your own gaggle just like Joe, or maybe you’re just always looking to expand your queer circle, like me and Kathy.
KATHY: The point is, finding queers to hang with? We think that’s important. And we want to help you in that mission.
TOBIN: If you’re interested in taking on friendship challenges, if you want to hear how Joe is doing with his mission to find his gaggle, if you want advice from me and Kathy on how to meet new people, go to nancypodcast.org/friends to sign up. We’ll be sending you tips, ideas, and tricks all in the name of finding a gaggle to call your very own.
VOX 1: Ahhh making friends as an adult can be tricky.
VOX 1: I mean, I’m very open about it so usually I can meet them at the grocery store if I accidentally run into them or step on their toes or something?
KATHY: How do you make friends as an adult? Because I think I have a really hard time doing that.
VOX 2: Um, I don't have friends. This is my only friend I have and he’s my boyfriend too. It’s hard!
KATHY: It’s very hard. There should be a class.
VOX 1: There should be a class. [SIGH]
TOBIN: Okay, since last we podcasted, we met a guy named Joe who wants to find his very own gaggle. We equipped him with some guidance, and then sent him out on a quest to start friending it up.
KATHY: Yes, and I am already stressed out about what he has to do.
TOBIN: I know. I mean, I barely see my friends as it is, so the thought of going on a mission to make more is a lot.
KATHY: It is! And these things take so much time.
TOBIN: It does. I mean, did any of Fran’s tips stick out to you as like stuff you’d want to try or work on?
KATHY: I’ve done a...I’ve done the whole Instagram social thing, sliding into I guess a DM, if that’s what you would call it.
TOBIN: Oh, you’re very good at that.
KATHY: Am I, though?
TOBIN: That’s a talent of Kathy Tu’s.
KATHY: Okay, alright. Did anything stick out to you?
TOBIN: Okay, the one where he was like “think of it as a job,” ‘cause you know like the Asian brain was like, “oh I can do well at this.”
TOBIN: Task oriented? Yes please.
KATHY: [LAUGHS] Okay so, what happened to him? How did it go?
TOBIN: Well, so we gave Joe some tasks that were different levels of difficulty, and he chose a couple to pursue. The first one was the sort of low level, easy lift. Fran had mentioned that social media can be a great place to interact with other queer folks. You know, tweet at people, respond to Instagram stories, slide into someone’s DMs…
TOBIN: Easy, easy. Joe kept an audio diary to track his progress. So, without further ado, I just wanted an excuse to use this Mortal Kombat sound effect...
[SFX: MORTAL KOMBAT — ”ROUND ONE: FIGHT!”]
JOE: So for the first portion of this challenge I’ve been kind of, I dunno, super hesitant. But the act of doing it and pushing myself is way more easier said than done.
JOE: So I just got back from work. It’s a little late. But I’m mad. ‘Cause during my break, I was trying to figure out, I was looking through Instagram stories and finding something to relate on but I couldn’t. And this feels so hard. And I don’t know if this is just like me doing this to myself, or it’s actually like this hard to make friends. Oh my god, being an adult is awful. I hate this. It’s the worst, but I like need it so bad.
TOBIN: So, round 1, I guess I would say...
[SFX: MORTAL KOMBAT — ”FATALITY!”]
TOBIN: Okay, maybe that’s a little severe. But I would say that Joe got KO’d, you know, he totally got in his head about it. He was able to connect with a few folks through Twitter, but none of it turned into meaningful interactions.
KATHY: Can I just point out the obvious here, which we haven’t said yet.
KATHY: We gave Joe like a short amount of time to do this. And a month is so short to try to get this stuff done.
TOBIN: It’s true, it’s true! Which is why we had to kick it into high gear. Which brings us to the medium challenge that Joe selected: going to a queer space IRL.
[SFX: MORTAL KOMBAT — ”ROUND TWO: FIGHT!”]
TOBIN: So a couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday night, I took Joe to a bar in the bed stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn called C’Mon Everybody. It’s this cozy 70’s themed bar with a disco ball in the back room where bands play. They host a lot of queer events, including a drag race viewing party that I go to. And as we ordered whiskey gingers—a drink I truly have not had since I was 25—I took a look at the crowd. It wasn’t packed, which was good. But there were a lot of twosomes and groups, which was bad. We settled into a table in the corner to prepare for the night ahead.
TOBIN: How are you feeling?
JOE: Um...mostly nervous. If you could see my body language, I’m like tight and constricted and I basically look like Golem.
TOBIN: Watching Joe nervously sip at his drink, hearing his voice shake, I had a moment where I wondered if this was a bad idea. But I mustered my best cheerleader voice and sent Joe on his way.
TOBIN: You’re funny, you’re charming, you’re smart. Go get ‘em. Don’t slouch like that.
JOE: [LAUGHS] Don’t do my Golem? Actually, I should lead with my Drew Barrymore impression. Which, have you heard? No? Did I show that to you?
TOBIN: Do it on your way out.
JOE: I showed you my Owen Wilson...
TOBIN: So let me give you an idea of the set up: the space is in sort of a U-shape, with the bar one one side, and a more secluded seating area on the other. I sat in the more private area with my headphones on, which meant I couldn’t see what Joe was doing, but he had a mic pinned to his lapel which let me listen in on everything he was saying. Which, you know, did start with him doing his truly awful Drew Barrymore impression just to himself.
JOE: “Hey guys. I love school, and this is just so amazing. I love this so much.”
KATHY: OMG, he’s having a MELTDOWN.
TOBIN: I know, I know. But, fear not, this amazing thing happened almost right away. Joe spotted this guy sitting at the bar and went right up to him to say hello. They struck up this incredible conversation. They talked about movie and TV shows they both loved. They got into their dating life. And almost immediately, this guy was like “Oh my god, we have to hang out more. We’re like my new besties.”
TOBIN: I am, unfortunately, 100% kidding.
TOBIN: Kathy, this is important. You need to learn that life doesn’t work this way. You need to know that by now.
KATHY: You know what else I should know, is that you just keep lying to me.
TOBIN: What happened is that Joe started out having a really tough time.
JOE: I feel so intrusive.
TOBIN: He spent a bunch of time sitting at the bar by himself, trying to figure out where to start.
JOE: Some of these people look too cool for me. And I also look like I’m schizophrenic because I look like I’m talking to myself.
KATHY: You know, I would’ve done the same thing.
TOBIN: Yeah, me too. But you know, it wasn’t time for doubt. It was time to cheerlead.
TOBIN: How do you feel so far?
JOE: I feel awful ‘cause I failed. [LAUGHS] I’m a failure.
TOBIN: But that’s like part of this process. So I would say you accomplished another one of the tasks which is to not do well.
JOE: Yes, technically. I also didn’t take out my phone the whole time.
TOBIN: Yes! Another thing that you did.
JOE: I just...everyone else seems like, “I’m an artist in Brooklyn. UGH!”
TOBIN: Is that your impression of somebody from Brooklyn? Like UGH?
JOE: Yeah, it’s like, “Oh, did you see that piece in that thing in the blog that’s in the, oh and the ground? And UGH!” And everyone’s so like forward thinking and ahead, and I’m like yes, fart jokes and Drag Race, you into it?
TOBIN: Joe, everyone I know who’s in Brooklyn is into fart jokes and Drag Race. Everyone.
TOBIN: Joe seemed unconvinced and also increasingly freaked out. But just at that moment, he mentioned the gaggle he had hung out with on New Year’s Eve, and revealed something kind of incredible. They had invited him to hang again.
TOBIN: Wait, is this an open invitation though?
JOE: Yeah, I’m going to invite them to the brunch.
TOBIN: You absolutely have to.
TOBIN: Oh my god! Joe! Joe!
JOE: I have a group available but it’s like, my schedule doesn’t allow me to…
TOBIN: But you don’t have to be in all the time, you know what I mean? Like, there was that thing that Fran was saying about, you know, that you can be the organizer when you are available.
JOE: That’s true, but then what if nobody shows up? [LAUGHS]
TOBIN: Even if half of them show up, that’s a huge success.
TOBIN: Suddenly, it was clear that Joe had all the tools he needed. He just needed a push in the right direction. You know, he was already starting to “secret” his gaggle into existence. The universe was providing. Or you know maybe I just felt that way because I’m on my third whiskey ginger. Regardless, pretty soon afterwards, Joe is back on the floor and he spots two guys he thinks he could be friends with. So he goes in for the kill with that old chestnut...
JOE: I like your shirt.
PERSON: Oh thanks!
JOE: I admired it from afar and I was like, “Wow. Amazing.”
PERSON: Thank you.
JOE: “The best. Where could she get it?”
PERSON: I actually have no idea where I got it from.
TOBIN: And Joe was like a small talk machine. He followed up by talking about the Drag Race viewing at the bar…
JOE: Apparently there’s a like a really big Drag Race scene that goes on here every Thursday. Do you guys watch Drag Race?
PERSON: What? I don’t watch Drag Race, but I love drag.
JOE: Every Thursday. Every time I like tell straight people about drag race, I’m like it’s the Super Bowl for gay people.
TOBIN: Charming! Charismatic! He was able to keep a really interesting conversation going.
KATHY: YES, Joe!
TOBIN: Wait, let me do the sound effect real quick.
[SFX: MORTAL KOMBAT — ”OUTSTANDING”]
TOBIN: And even better…
JOE: I’m hosting a brunch next month, late next month, if you guys wanted to come?
TOBIN: He got those digits.
JOE: So if you wanted to exchange numbers...
TOBIN: Um, you can’t see it, but I’m fistbumping the air right now. This is amazing.
KATHY: He did it! He followed up! We have digits!
TOBIN: I know! I mean, the Joe who walked into the bar that night was not the Joe I saw at the end of the night. You could see it in his posture even. When he came back to the table, he sat up, he was animated. He was amped!
TOBIN: So fucking good.
JOE: I did?
TOBIN: Do you feel good?
JOE: Yeah! How did it sound?
TOBIN: It sounded like you were super charming. You made them laugh. You talked about Drag Race. You gave them something to bounce off of. I’m going to declare this night a huge success.
JOE: I think so! I just got two numbers from what I think was a date? So we’re done, we can go home, bye.
TOBIN: That night at the bar felt like a real turning point. The brunch was getting near and my confidence in Joe was high. He was taking on the challenges head on.
JOE: I’ve been trying to make a more conscious effort to reach out to people on social that I would like to be friends with. And I had a couple glasses of wine, I was like, let me be bold and ask someone that I like on Twitter who I’ve met before, let’s see if they want to watch Drag Race. And so I did. And they were like, “Oh yeah, I’m actually going with this other Twitter gay. We’re gonna watch Drag Race if you want to join us. And I was like, “I’d love to!” And I’m very excited and I’m very nervous.
TOBIN: Twitter friends! Bar friends! We were barreling towards a happy ending, gaggle and all.
TOBIN: But then…
JOE: I haven’t reached out to the people that I met at the bar with Tobin because I’m so scared that like, the way I read the situation was they felt kind of like, “Uh, sure I guess. Yeah, why not.” And like, they just kind of took my number. And it’s honestly, I’m in my own head and I get in my own way.
TOBIN: It turns out, Joe didn’t follow through with the guys he met at the bar. And some of his new friends he made on social media said that they couldn’t make it to the brunch.
TOBIN: The day of the event, I had no idea if anyone would show up.
[SFX: MORTAL KOMBAT — ”FINAL ROUND: FIGHT!”]
JOE: We are outside of a diner. We’re getting ready for brunch. And I’m like, no parts nervous and every part excited.
KATHY: So...did anyone show?
COLE: I’m Cole.
IAN: I’m Ian.
RYAN: I’m Ryan.
EDDY: I’m Eddy.
TOBIN: And you’re Joe.
KATHY: Oh my god! That’s four other people!
TOBIN: Four other people!
KATHY: Where did they all come from?
TOBIN: So, the attendees came from two basic places: one was a college friend that he was trying to build a deeper friendship with, and the other guys came from the New Year’s Eve gaggle. And it all added up to this nice little group of us sitting at this adorable place called MeMe’s Diner. It’s this sunlit place where the din of the crowd is just right, and the egg sandwiches are a little runny. It was the perfect setting. And I have to say, among the wishlist of things Joe wanted out of his ideal brunch, this hit all the marks.
COLE: Um, I love Monique Heart. Like that’s easily my favorite right now.
TOBIN: They talked about their favorite Drag Race contestants. They talked about more serious stuff...
COLE: I recently came out as bi and I pass as very straight, and growing up, I never felt like I wasn’t represented...
TOBIN: They read each other...
EDDY: You don’t have a penis to me. You’re like a Ken doll.
IAN : That reminds me I have to tell you about a weird dream about you I had about you the other day, that also goes into we’re still non-sexual, even in my dreams.
TOBIN: And just as they started to settle into a perfect rhythm, Joe slipped back into an old habit: he got really self-effacing again.
JOE: I call myself a LAG: a lonely anxious gay. Which I think is hilarious.
IAN: But you think your self-deprecating humor is funny. I’m just like, damn it boy. Love yourself.
JOE: It’s like deep down. Like I know I’m a solid 7 out of 10. And I know that like...
COLE: I have a question, because that’s the first thing you went to. Is that how you value yourself?
JOE: Kind of.
TOBIN: And just as a gaggle is supposed to do, they told Joe what he needed to hear.
IAN: You talk about your appearance like it’s a 7 out of 10. What are your 10 out of 10’s?
JOE: Oh my humor, my wittiness, my domesticity. I think that I’m like funny and witty and smart. I’m starting to believe that I’m smart.
IAN: Good, good. Go into it, then. Go into like relationships then saying, “Okay, I’m going to show off my 10 out of 10’s.” So they understand, like, this is why they want to be friends with you.
TOBIN: Sitting at the table, I remembered how Joe had described the feeling of hanging out with a queer group of friends, the thing he didn’t have but wanted so badly. And now, hearing these guys, how the conversation could easily move from serious to flirty to hilarious and irreverent...it felt warm. Eventually we wrapped up brunch…
JOE: It was really good to see you. Thanks for coming!
TOBIN: ...said our goodbyes…
JOE: Thank you so much for coming!
TOBIN: ...and headed out into the afternoon.
TOBIN: How was that for you?
JOE: So successful. I feel really good!
TOBIN: Well the thing you had talked about from the jump, was gay brunch.
JOE: Yes! And I did it!
TOBIN: You did it!
JOE: I did it!
KATHY: Oh Joe. Okay, now do me.
TOBIN: [LAUGHS] I gotta do this shit for you now? You have me!
KATHY: Alright. Cool. You’re still third on the list. Shelter, food, Tobin.
TOBIN: Oh my god. Show cancelled. We did one episode of Season 3. Surprise everyone, Season 3 is one episode.
[CREDIT MUSIC STARTS]
KATHY: And don’t forget, you should sign up for our “How to Get a Gaggle Project” right now. Go to nancypodcast.org/friends to get a month of support and guidance as you seek out your new queer friends.
TOBIN: Alright, alright, it is credits time!
TOBIN: Matt Collette!
KATHY: Sound designer...
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom
TOBIN: Jenny Lawton.
KATHY: Executive producer...
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman!
KATHY: And special thanks this week to Charlotte Cooper and our many, many WNYC Studios colleagues who helped make our friend project happen.
TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.
KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
KATHY: Someone did ask me once if we dated and I was like, “Are you serious right now?!”