Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why are we still asking if women and men can be "just friends"?

So, my most recent blog post raised a few questions among people who continue to wonder if men and women can truly be “just friends.”

Needless to say, I respond with a resounding “yes,” but that question makes me crazy. Why in the world would that not be the case? Are we all so amazingly alluring that people of the opposite gender—or those of the same gender who happen to be gay—can’t keep their hands off us?

I’ve always, always had male friends, and a fair number of them. Some of them have been gay, and some have been heterosexual, but one thing remains constant—in all my platonic relationships with men, we’ve managed, somehow, to keep our hands above the table.

I’m being facetious, but come on. How demeaning is it to assume that because I have one set of body parts and they have another, we can’t keep things on a non-sexual level?

I broached this subject with a college friend of mine who has been a mental-health professional for two decades. Her take on the subject: It makes sense that I have a number of male friends, because I possess a number of "stereotypically male" character traits. (That's something Kevin, my husband, loves hearing, I'm sure.)

Simply put, in most areas of my life, I have a tendency to shoot first and apologize later, and I also tend to be attracted to strong, quick-thinking, opinionated individuals. Society rewards those traits more often in men than in women, so that's why I gravitate toward males, she says.

OK, I have a hard time agreeing with the "stereotypically male" categorization, as many of the women I know are stronger than any of the men I have ever encountered. But I do tend be a little boisterous, and I have no trouble standing up for myself. Kevin, interestingly, is on the quiet side; for the most part, though, I do usually lean toward people with stronger personalities.

Maybe that explains things, but I don't feel as if my propensity is strange in any way, and I have difficulty with people who question it. In fact, I find it amazing that some people my age have never had friends of the opposite gender.

A conservative man I know asserts that such relationships are “not advisable” because when you fraternize with people to whom you could feasibly be sexually attracted, “it’s always going to go that way.” Um, wrong. I can guarantee that would make a lot of my male friends laugh really hard.

I also find that whole premise insulting. What if it so happened that a 40-something man and woman were friends in the workplace, and one of them were to think, “Hey, back in my 20s, when I was single, it would have been fun to date that person.” Does that mean the man and woman are going to make off for the Country Inn & Suites on their lunch hour? Of course not. Each one of them can appreciate the other while continuing to be respectful of their marriages or other relationships, and not allowing things venture into uncomfortable territory.

Kevin has a female friend at work to whom I frequently refer as his “work wife.” When he and I were first dating, I admit to having been a tad unsure of their relationship; Crystal is cute and smart and really, really funny. Now, 10 years into my relationship with Kevin, I’ve come to not only be entirely relaxed about the relationship, but appreciative of it.

Crystal is a good influence on my husband, who isn’t always the world’s most outwardly sensitive individual. I have a feeling she often helps him see a softer side of things. And the two of them share a wicked sense of humor that sometimes makes me wish I worked in the office next to them.

My son has many female friends; my daughter seems to be following in her mother’s footsteps as far as her propensity toward strong personalities and has several close guy friends as well. Thankfully, that fact doesn’t seem to adversely impact their romantic relationships. Perhaps this generation is a little better at understanding that everything is really, truly not all about sexual attraction; I’m sure that’s why they’re so much better than we were at embracing gay individuals.

So this week, I’ll probably take a walk with my friend Tyler and text with my friend Chuck and have lunch with a friend who happens to be a lesbian. And chances are pretty certain that I won’t end up sleeping with any of them. Because, really, the focus in all of those relationships tends to be what’s between their ears rather than what could conceivably happen between the sheets.

No comments:

Post a Comment