Friday, January 14, 2011

Can (Predominantly Straight) Men and Women Be Friends?

I may wonder why I am asking this question. I myself have many male friends. Throughout adolescence and young adulthood, I found I got along easier with boys. They didn't bring their drama into things and we talked about interesting topics such as politics, war and the merits of both Star Wars and Monty Python. Two of my best friends in the world are guys (and they sure like to give me careful, I know a female relative in each of your families :D). At the same time, as I've gotten older, I've found myself reaching for my female friends a bit more. While I certainly want my "bros" to stay in my life, I have noticed friendship dynamics changing. As we find ourselves settling into adulthood (including long term relationships and marriage), we also find ourselves adding some consideration for decorum. While I do believe men and women can be friends, I also think that these friendships tend to have more boundaries than same-sex friendships do (assuming, of course, that all parties are straight).

First, there are things I talk about with my girlfriends that I just won't talk about with the boys. These issues range from, "Does this look OK?" to, "I'm on my period, I'm bloated and this SUCKS!!!" Fashion and biology aside, I find I want a female confidante, someone with whom I can just chill and talk about all sorts of things. While some of my male friends are sensitive and compassionate (and I do feel comfortable talking about things with some of them), they can't really play this role. You can't really have a slumber party with your straight male best friend, it looks and sounds completely inappropriate, even if all you were doing was chatting, watching a movie and eating popcorn. I also wouldn't find it appropriate to constantly confide in one guy when you're dating someone else. Sure, you can be close friends, go out for coffee, keep in touch, but there are just lines you can't cross. For me, I feel more comfortable having the "no-holds-barred" conversations with the girls.

Second, sometimes lines get blurry before you even realize it. It's great if it turns into a loving, romantic relationship that ends in marriage. It's not so great when you've been buddies forever and, all of a sudden, you have feelings and he doesn't. Or vice versa. That can make a friendship turn awkward. Of course, then it turns into, "I want to keep our friendship going," but this can prevent people from moving on because there's always that hope. Sometimes, everything turns out fine, especially if there are periods when you don't constantly have contact. It's harder when you see/talk to them every day. Also, sometimes it does turn into a romantic relationship only to end in a really bad breakup and consequent end to the friendship (though, given time, there is the possibility of patching things up).

I think it's good to have friends of the opposite sex. I think these friendships give us perceptions and insights that neither romantic nor same sex friendships can provide. Like I said, I love my boys! However, it is good to be prudent. You don't have to observe every gendered expectation out there (and I would tell you to challenge them). Hell, if none of this post works for you, don't follow it! Just always make sure you consider your own values, your own boundaries (of course, this should go for any friendship). For me, I've had some personal experience with these, which is why I'm writing this post. Good day, everyone!

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