Or lack thereof, wherein lies my particular area of expertise.
In recent weeks, I’ve spent an enormous number of hours with my fabulous (read: insane) friends. This is in part because it’s summertime and school is no longer in session, thus eliminating my academic responsibilities and allowing me to shirk my professional ones (I work in education). And it’s in part because of my recent breakup, which has left me without a constant companion but still happily enshrouded in the love of close friends. Most of whom are men. Which brings me to today’s lesson…
How to be friends with lots of different people and *gasp* not have sex with any of them.
Now I hate to jump right in with my high-horsey, superior “as a society” bit, but I really don’t at all, so as a society, we have been groomed to expect that male-female friendship is merely a precursor to something greater. (Read: Fornication, and all that ensues when the glow of that particular sin wears off.)
Remember these guys?
Yup. They were friends for about eight seconds in Season 1, when Cory thought Topanga was weird, before he realized a girl with hair like that was not to be fucked with. She had serious hair. Then they got married.
Okay, how about these guys?
I probably could have found a more mainstream photo, but this is my absolute FAVORITE Mark Seliger photo, so it stays.
I tried to put this baby in Photoshop and draw some arrows to denote romantic interests between friends, but two things happened: 1) I don’t know how to use Photoshop and 2) I couldn’t keep track. Phoebe kissed Rachel, and also Joey, and even Chandler; Rachel kissed Ross, and then Joey, and then Ross again; Monica kissed Chandler – and I think at some point Joey, but not Ross because he was her brother, and so it goes. That purple apartment in the Village might as well have been a whorehouse. And “Friends” was right there in the title.
So back to our society. With these horndogs as our cultural role models, it’s no great surprise that we see sex in every relationship, not just the sexy ones. But I’m always flabbergasted at the number of people with whom the grapevine pairs me. I’m not drop-dead sexy, I’m not a big huge slut, and under normal circumstances, I’m not even of public interest, so what gives? Well, kids. I’ll tell ya what gives.
We don’t like friendships that are messy. Female friendships are things we can handle. They make sense. Rarely are others threatened by a platonic relationship between two women. In theory at least, they share similar interests, similar life experiences (attributable only to the fact that both lack that pesky Y chromosome), and (again, in theory) they can likely be friends forever and ever, till death do they part. *Note: Anyone who has ever borne witness to drunken cattiness between women might argue that the chances of being involved in a female friendship with any degree of permanence is roughly akin to that of being killed by a flying bear. (Unlikely, but not impossible.)
But men and women do not share the basic human experience we’re so fond of referencing, and this bothers us on some psychic level. A strange criteria for friendship, because I can count on one hand the number of occasions on which I’ve had any sort of meaningful conversation with a girlfriend on what it’s like to be a woman. (I cannot, however, count on both hands and feet the number of cocktails it took us to get to that particular subject matter.) In this enlightened age, it seems silly and antiquated to believe – however subconsciously – that men and women have such a limited number of shared interests that any relationship between the two will ultimately result in a manifestation of their one common interest. (Carnal pursuits of the flesh, in case I lost you there.)
I think the other thing that bothers us about these “unconventional” relationships (if you can even call them that), is that – at least for us twenty- and thirty-somethings – they tend to come with an expiration date. If I may generalize, I think it’s safe to say that we as a group like to think of ourselves as highly evolved human beings, far more open-minded and pioneering in our relationships than members of our parents’ generation. And as such, we like to believe that we’re comfortable enough with our partners and our friends to maintain close and platonic male-female friendships well after the dawn of a serious relationship. Frankly, though, that’s bullshit. In my limited experience with marriage (i.e. spying on my friends’ wedded bliss), I’ve found that the party line usually reads something to the effect of: “We can be friends with whomever we choose, but he/she satiates my need for close male/female interaction.” Yes, people have actually said this to me. Who’s highly evolved now, cavepeople? Like it or not, though, this is how we think. And I think this seeps into how we view the relationships of others. Why, we ask ourselves, if we are all doing what we’re supposed to, evolutionarily (I know it’s not a word) speaking, and stumbling around the planet looking for suitable mates, would we start something we have no hope of finishing? If there’s no hope for sex, love, marriage, and ultimately divorce, why bother getting it started at all? Furthermore, if when the wedded bliss and ensuing alimony kick in, we’re giving it all up anyway (in favor of our loving partners, who then become our ambassadors to the opposite sex), what’s the point?
I’d like to share a personal experience on here, specifically because the gentleman involved asked me not to do so, and I like to push his buttons. I have a dear friend with whom my relationship has always been strictly platonic, brother-sister style. In recent weeks, we’ve spent a great deal of time together, nurturing the shared interests we couldn’t possibly have because I’m a woman and he’s a man. And nothing short of everyone we’ve ever fucking met has asked if there’s something going on between us. I recently described us to an outsider as “intellectual fuck buddies,” a phrase I’m more proud of having coined every time I say it. People still don’t believe me, but I’m sticking to my guns in that it’s important to have people around you that turn your brain on. Sad, though, that with all the rumored sex we’re having, neither of us is actually getting laid.
And now an example of the expiration date I was referring to. Some months ago, I was talking (talk – v. Speak in order to give information or express ideas or feelings; converse or communicate by spoken words) to a platonic male friend in a bar. Mind you, we were standing in a group of about six people discussing Dr. Seuss (a clear marker of infidelity, if ever there was one). His girlfriend stormed in, pulled him aside, and proceeded to ask – none too quietly, mind you – if he and I had recently engaged in illicit activity (Copulation, et al). He vehemently denied any relationship (a fact that didn’t bother me since, in fact, there was none), and told her she was being ridiculous. The scandal continued into the evening and has since subsided. But when she’s in the room, I try to steer clear of him, lest my efforts at mundane conversation about the weather should lead me to a future social casting as as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.
Because who wants to be associated with this chick?
Sadly, I totally understand where all of these opinions are coming from. I’ve harbored supreme jealousy over my exes’ friendships, and I’ve engaged in shameless speculation over the (ultimately fictional) love lives of friends. We all do it. Everyone does it. There is no relationship we don’t categorize – social navigation is just easier that way. But wouldn’t it be nice if high school ended at graduation?