We occasionally hooked up. But would he ever ask me out?


I met him during my freshman year of college. We were at a nightclub near West Hollywood that was frequented by underage kids who wanted to feel cool.

Griffin was leaning over a table beside a dozen of his fraternity brothers. There were clear glass bottles in buckets of ice below them. The female friend I came with introduced me to Griffin and a few of the brothers. She was a Kappa at USC, and he was a Lambda.

“Isn’t he hot?” she shouted in my ear. “I tried to hook up with him at a frat party a few months ago, but he started twerking, if you know what I mean!” I knew exactly what she meant.

I wasn’t out of the closet yet. Although I had been aroused by men since I was 13, I told myself that I would only come out when I had deep feelings for another man. Back then, I had never experienced the feeling of having a crush before — the sense of being unable to get someone out of your head and constantly fantasizing about a future life together. Without that feeling, I realized that I couldn’t admit that I was gay to myself or to everyone else.

That night I met Griffin, I experienced those feelings for the first time. I couldn’t stop looking at him from across the dance floor. Not only was he physically perfect, with a sharp jawline and gorgeous eyelashes, he also embodied the person I wanted to be — openly gay and accepted into a large group of male friends. That was something I had never had before. I wanted him and immediately wanted to be him.

At the time, I was living in my sister’s apartment, sleeping in her guest bedroom. She was traveling with her boyfriend. Thankfully her apartment was a short distance from the nightclub. I found Griffin later, and we ended up spending the night together.

After that, I knew I was gay, and it was time to come out of the closet. I fantasized about dating him, but there was just one problem: He was leaving for the summer and going home to Texas. However, that didn’t stop me from being completely into him.

I was already planning to transfer from Santa Monica College to USC in the fall. I had always set my sights on USC, but now there was an even bigger reason to enroll. I wanted Griffin’s life — to be popular and openly gay in a top-tier college fraternity. And, of course, I wanted him. He was all I could think about that summer.

In August, I walked up the steps of his fraternity house for the first day of rush. My hands were shaking as I thought about how our second interaction would go. I found him standing in Lambda Chi Alpha’s stained, beer-smelling party atrium and chatting with some of the other rushees.

“Hi, Griffin,” I said, hands in my pockets to hide my nervousness.

“Tanner!” he replied as if he hadn’t seen me in ages. “How are you?”

We engaged in small talk until the small talk became too trivial. “Well, it was good seeing you,” I said.

At the end of rush, I joined another fraternity, one that fit my personality better. Considered the first openly gay brother in Tau Kappa Epsilon at USC, I finally felt accepted by a large group of men — something I had always wanted but never experienced during adolescence.

I obsessed over Griffin throughout sophomore year. We would run into each other at parties and off-campus bars. A few times we ended up going home together, but I was always too nervous to ask for anything more.

Looking back, he probably could tell that I was infatuated with him. I could hardly get words out when speaking to him unless I was incredibly drunk, at which point I would not so subtly follow him around whatever venue I found him in.

During junior year, I hardly saw him. Our paths rarely crossed. He had a boyfriend and went abroad, and I took a step back from Greek life to recover from the bad habits I had picked up during my previous year as a fraternity degenerate. (Let’s just say that I needed therapy more than I needed a man.)

Fast-forward to senior year. One night during first semester, I slept over at my Delta Gamma friend’s house where she lived with six other women. I woke up beside her in the middle of the night and then went downstairs to get a glass of water only to find Griffin there in the kitchen. He was fresh out of his relationship, and he was with a female friend of his who lived in the house.

It was 1 in the morning, and they had just returned from a night out. As much as I told myself it wasn’t worth getting involved with him again, I couldn’t resist when he asked me to come home with him.

“Where are you going?” my friend asked when I went back upstairs to grab my belongings from her bedside.

“Can’t sleep,” I said. “Gonna walk home.” I lived up the street, and I didn’t want to admit to a hookup that even she knew would stir up feelings. And it did.

Griffin and I shared a few more nights together that semester. At the start of the second semester, I finally told him how I felt. If he wasn’t ready to at least take me on a date, I needed to move on.

We went on that date and had wine on my roof while we asked each other questions about life. Both of us smiled between each answer. That was three years ago, and we’ve been happily together ever since.

The author is writing his debut novel, “Tales of a Gay Frat Star.” Follow his book journey on Instagram and TikTok: @tanneraiello

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