My entire life, I’ve loved men. Which is why I was so disappointed when I learned that I can’t be friends with them. I’ve been resisting the truth since high school, but I waved a white flag when my marriage was at stake.
Initially, I was willing to deal with the complications that accompanied male friendship, because what I was getting in return far outweighed them. Around men I have always been more open, more honest, and in general less fearful of being myself. Goofy, vulgar, gross, smart. You name it; with men I could be it. And in return for my transparency I received intimacy. I have felt deep connections with male friends, because I have been myself around them.
In some ways, male friendships are less labor intensive than their female counterpart. Think back to the horrors of middle school, it’s unlikely you remember the boys ostracizing one of their friends every other week. This is a distinctly female behavior. Men don’t talk trash with the same gusto that women do and they don’t make vaguely insulting comments. Comparison and jealously are largely left out.
But we do have one small issue, and that is sex. Your guy friend would sleep with you. It doesn’t have to be a problem, but it is a reality.
In high school, my best guy friend told a locker-room I had given him a blowjob. Cool story bro. You can imagine my confusion and frustration, here I’d been counseling him through a tumultuous breakup and this is how I’m repaid? I wouldn’t have listened to him repeat the same thing over and over again week after week if I had known he was going to pretend I spent that time going down on him.
The problem with male/female friendship is that it tricks you, because on a surface level, it operates very smoothly. And that’s not really a problem, as long as you remain there. But as you transition to a deeper friendship, it starts to look a lot like a sexless intimate relationship. Which again, also isn’t a problem… unless you are in fact in another intimate relationship.
My closest friendships with the opposite sex shake out into two categories (and I think you’ll find that to be the case for you as well)… ones that remain shallow and eventually extinguish themselves, or ones that progress into a full-blown relationship. Shallow isn’t a bad word, it just means that you can hang out, run errands, grab dinner, chat and text, but it is punctuated by periods of no contact. It’s not dating, don’t treat it as such, you’ll end up in bed or with unrequited feelings. Men and women are not interchangeable in friendship; you cannot substitute a man for a woman in all of the normal friend activities and expect the dynamic to be the same.
I repeat, no one hangs out constantly with someone of the opposite sex, and doesn’t run into a situation where genitals either come out, or try to. That’s because our fate as a species depends on it. Don’t be mad at me; be mad at your biology. We start to like each other because if we don’t, then we cease to exist.
These friendships often seem like they work because one or both parties is actively involved with or pursuing other people. If you’re in a happy committed relationship you’ll notice you likely stop hearing from your friends of the opposite sex either altogether or on a very limited basis. And that’s a good thing. For instance, I talk to my day one homies when they have a child, get married, get promoted or occasionally to catch up. It would be weird if we were texting all day long.
After I became engaged, I never heard from my best guy friend again. I kid you not. Not a single word. I’ll admit this is an extreme case and not the norm for guy/girl friendships. But this is what I’ve realized: I was essentially dating him. We worked out together, we ate together, we did nice things for each other, and we made fun of each other. And on rare occasion, when he was intoxicated, he made it abundantly clear that he’d like to put his P in my V. I thought if I ignored it, it would go away. Selfishly, I chose to disregard those fleeting moments of truth, for comfort and companionship.
And the last boy I tried to be friends with? Well, that’s more of a book than a blog. Let’s just say, to some, “friendship” is a foot in the door technique, where not even marriage will serve as a barricade.
And while the men we surround ourselves with might not always be waiting to seize an opportunity, there’s another issue to consider, which lies entirely within ourselves.
Are the boys in your life making you feel great? Do they laugh at your jokes, ask for your advice, confide in you, and allude to your beauty? Are they a placeholder, filling in until you’re happily committed to some else? Maybe they are compensating for what is lacking in your relationship, or distracting you from issues you don’t want to deal with personally. Further, It’s important we respect the boundaries of our male friends’ intimate relationships, don’t insert yourself between him and his partner.
Examine your friendships with the opposite sex and be deeply critical. Male friendship has provided me with affirmation my entire life. They’ve made me feel pretty, funny, and smart. In hindsight, a lot of mine served a need that should have been fulfilled by a significant other, and at a core level… myself.
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