This article is likely to stir up some healthy debate and raise some eyebrows amongst those in my social circle. I'm cool with that and I'd like to know what other people think about this, too. So be sure to comment!
Imagine this scene, dear reader: You are at the zoo. You're walking around munching on a snack, like a juicy steak on a stick and taking in the sights and sounds of a large variety of exotic animals and some that are not so exotic. You happen upon a tiger. You are fascinated by the tiger as it does what caged tigers do. As you fix your sights on the tiger you notice that it, too, has fixed its sights on you. What are you doing? You're merely standing on the other side of the cage looking on at the tiger. What right has the tiger to return your interest? Well, it should, again, be noted that you're chewing and chomping away at a juicy steak on a stick. The moment intensifies as one pair of eyes locks with the other….
Oh and the names used in this article have been changed to protect that none-so-innocent.
Men and women just being friends is kind of like that: Two irresistible forces separated by some type of cage or barrier. This is an argument as old as time itself, when Neanderthals were trying not to become exterminated by the cold and evolved humans; an argument as old as “When Harry Met Sally,” the ultimate argument on the topic of male and female friendships.
The topic of men and women just being friends is touchy and confusing, at best and downright crude at worst. That is, in my opinion, it's difficult to really talk about men and women being just friends.
My opinion is that, no, women and men can never truly be friends. But, really, it comes down to what one considers a friend to be any way.
What is in a Friend Anyway?
Merriam-Webster's online defines friendship as “the state of being friends.” Well, great! That's about as useful as a poopy flavored Popsicle stick. Merriam-Webster online goes on to tell us that a friend is: 1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem. Well isn't that nice? I agree with that definition of friendship. Friendship between men and women, however, I feel takes on a slightly more complicated role.
The nature of the beast dictates that attraction to a member of the complimentary sex or opposite (and yes, I do realize that people of the same sex share in this discussion, too, Edward) is natural, for it is the “nature of the beast.” Right? That's is, people are attracted to a particular gender will seek out those individuals with the qualities they most value. It's a natural thing to do. The qualities can be ranging, of course, from a style of dress or size of a particular body part. Sure, one could say I'm over simplifying, but I don't think so. That said, what does this really mean? I think one must take an inventory of their friends from the gender they are compatible with. I look to my female friends. I have a lot of them, for a guy, I think. I appreciate them all for their various qualities. By no means, though, would I say that is where the admiration stops for me.
The Lowdown on Male and Female Friendships.
Before I go on, I'm sure to suffer a firestorm from some of my friends and might make some feel uneasy. Certainly that's not the goal, so read on, digest and then send flaming comments to me.
I can't tell you how many times I've had this discussion. The comments that contradict my own are usually the same: “Oh, but I've known her/him for such a long time. We're like brother and/or sister.” Or my favorite: “There is no way they feel like that. I don't feel that way for them! I just know that they don't feel that way about me.” Well, yeah, if we all knew what the other person was thinking I'd have no reason to write this article. Really, this article, when you consider it, could be a call to action: Be real and be honest with your feelings about your friends. Could a person concede that they have had non-friendly thoughts about their friend? Could a person concede that they are the object of a friend's desire? In most cases the answer is no. I feel that the truth scares people on this topic.
Some of my very best friends are females. Do I see them as just friends? Yes, I do. But, wait, how can that be when I have stated that men and women cannot just be friends? Well, it's tricky, you see. For my male friends I share affection for them and enjoy hanging out with them. Though I'd get punched in the nuts for using the word “affection,” but I digress. But that's where those feelings end. And it's solely because they are male. Females on the other hand I see differently. While I can be platonic friends with my female friends and share affection for them when we hang out there's something more there, because they are female. What I mean is, Carlie might be one of my best friends and I enjoy seeing her and always give her a big hug. I confide a lot to her. But at the same time I can say that when I've seen her I've had stray thoughts. A stray thought meaning that I'm having a thought that isn't entirely “friendly,” per se. For instance: I remember for Carlie's birthday a group of us went out to celebrate. I remember thinking this when I saw Carlie, “Wow!!! She's so hot right now!” I couldn't peel my eyes from her cleavage. Nothing will ever come of it. However, I'd say that, based on my innate attraction for Carlie, my thoughts are not strictly confined to the purest definition of friendship. It's something else that isn't quite friendship.
To come to this understanding of the beliefs of men and women I have had to experience a few things first hand. You see, many moons ago when I was still rather naïve I thought that men and women could, in fact, be true friends. And I had a great example with which to argue my point. I have a friend that I grew up with, Kendra. She and I are still friends to this day. We grew up on the same street together and went through plenty of hard times together. I never felt any sort of attraction toward her. We were just friends and that's all that I thought of her as and that's what I believed she felt as well. One of my best friends, at the time, Sean, told me that I was wrong and that men and women being friends was a pipe dream because of the nature of attraction. I thought he was dumb and merely trying very hard to get me to sleep with Kendra.
It wasn't until I had come home to visit family and friends (I had moved to a different state after high school) that I finally became a believer of Sean's theory. Kendra had rented movies and invited a couple of people over to her place to have some drinks and watch movies. The night went along without incident as we all drank and had a good time. In the wee hours of the morning my buddy, Tom and I, decided we were going to call it a night and leave. Kendra became really bitchy at this point. Insisting that I stay; offering her the couch or, wait for it, share her bed. Again, at the time, I didn't see anything odd about this.
Later, my friend Tom had told me something that shattered my world at the time… Though sworn to secrecy, Tom told me that Kendra wanted me to stay the night with her. I asked him why. He laughed hysterically at me and couldn't believe I would ask. Apparently, she had told him that she wanted me pretty badly and had felt that way for a long, long time. I was shocked. My whole argument's basis for men and women being just friends was shattered. Kendra and I had a couple awkward moments the next time we met up but nothing happened.
The point that I'm trying to make is this: Between men and women true friendship, in its purest form, doesn't exist. One person is always going to have those stray non-friendly thoughts for the other person or both people will share those thoughts and feeling for one another.
These feelings and thoughts are very real and, that, many people won't admit that they have them in fear of losing a friendship or, more likely, a fear of acting on them because those feelings have been acknowledged.
So What Do You Do?
I don't personally feel that I will cross any lines with my female friends. I acknowledge what I think and feel and I choose to continue my friendships rather than indulge a thought that isn't anything meaningful beyond a carnal acknowledgment of what is in front of me… Wow. I kind of sound like a jerk, don't I? I guess I feel I can say these things plainly as I feel that this acknowledgement of the dynamics of friendship between men and women has freed me, to some degree. In some ways, I feel it's made me more confident in dealing with women. I feel a certain freedom because even though I acknowledge that an attraction, regardless of how minute it may be, between my female friends and I may exist I respect it. One way to describe the previous statement is this: Maybe you have a gun in your house. You like guns, but have a respect for the power they wield. Because of that power you would never choose to fire that gun. My respect of the friendships I have with my female friends is much the same. I recognize that there is a power given and the currency is the trust that we share with each other. As uncle Ben said to Spidey, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Uncle Ben not only makes a mean dirty rice bowl, but he knows the nuances of friendship between men and women and that it's to be respected and understood.
This knowledge has helped me become better friends with women, I feel. I can draw the line, if I need to because I recognize the signs of attraction, regardless of which person has the attraction.
So I guess this article could be summed up with a line that was already written, toward the beginning: No, women and men can never truly be friends. People need to start being real about it.
Be sure to check back on this blog. There is another in article in this series coming up from the female perspective. Should be a raging hormonal good time.
What do you think about this fresh new hell I speak of? Leave a comment!