I had a funny conversation with one of my girlfriends this weekend. She and I are about the same age and have been divorced the same amount of time. So we’re therefore in approximately the same dating spot. We’ve gone through a lot of relationship cycles since our marriages ended and are finally comfortable with what we want.
She was telling me that a man she’d been out with a couple of times had suddenly reappeared after months of silence. He was texting her frequently, attempting to schedule dates that didn’t exactly seem like dates. “Let’s do yoga together!” That kind of thing. Her question to me was whether I thought he got back in touch to start a friendship, because that was something she was very open to. Dating him again, not so much.
I probably offended her with my near-guffaw. Because the fact of the matter is, single straight men do not pursue platonic friendships with single straight women. Hell, straight men have a hard enough time pursuing friendships with other men; actively aspiring to a relationship with a female they’re not going to see naked? That just ain’t happening.
Sweeping generalization, you say? Of course it is. There are always exceptions. So please don’t email me with tales of your 4th grade best friend who was the “man of honor” at your wedding. But the conversation with my friend got me thinking about my own life. In general, I’ve always preferred male friendships. And they’ve now pretty much all evaporated. I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with one, straight, single man that I’m friends with. And I can’t for the life of me think of one. They’re all gay or married or both.
I was a tomboy from an early age. I had a particular disdain for girl politics, so I tried my damnedest not to participate in them. I worked hard to show no fear and display my mettle. I played tackle football with the boys on my street and stared right along with them at the Playboy they discovered in the weeds behind our neighborhood. I told dirty jokes and cursed and generally aimed to make them forget I was one of those silly girls that baffled them. I watched my friendships with boys stay solid as the years passed, while the girls I befriended cycled in and out according to popularity scales and who was mad at whom.
In college, I took the anti-girl thing to its nth degree by refusing to join a sorority and instead spending the majority of my time with the guys in the weirdest fraternity I could find. (Its motto was ‘Unity Without Uniformity.’) Those friendships proved to be the strongest, and I kept up with the majority of them long after college.
The kicker to all this, and the part that truly pained me, was that being the female friend meant you were basically thought of as a sister. And no one wants to date their sister. So rather than spending my adolescence being wooed and romanced and learning the ropes of what it means to be in Like with someone, I spent it *hearing* about all those things. Watching from the sidelines and spending endless afternoons listening to their woes, I became The Explainer of All Things Female. And after explaining it all, I went home alone and wondered when it was going to be my turn.
Well apparently, your turn comes when you’ve married, had kids, divorced, and are still standing. You’re experienced now, in a way that not many people are. You’ve learned a lot of painful lessons that you’re ready to employ with the next relationship. And frankly, you’re one of the few viable, available women left. So the casual hangouts you once took for granted are no longer possible. Every interaction becomes loaded with innuendo, and you find yourself artfully declining invitations that are clearly beyond, “Let’s do yoga together.” Which makes things completely awkward between the two of you, and the friendship you once had flies directly out the window.
It’s the cruel irony of gender and sexuality—when one of you is ready, the other isn’t, and vice versa. Or even crueler, it’s never meant to happen in the first place, but you can’t get past your genitals to form a deep, platonic relationship. I have some truly great male friends that I love dearly and count on for advice, arguments, and just general fun. But they’re all married. And though I hate this fact, I’m fairly confident that if they were to leave their wives, our friendships would be altered irrevocably. Because the possibility would be there, hanging in the air. I guess that’s what screws things up at the end of the day, and also keeps us moving forward through all of the bullshit – possibility.