Since college, I’ve always had guy friends. My roommate at Duke was like Miss Popular in high school: the smart, sporty cheerleader chick. You know what I mean. I, on the other hand, was the awkward, nerdy dorky chick. Thankfully, I wasn’t scrawny too like I had been in middle-early high school (before I got into weight lifting) but still, I was definitely socially awkward, inexperienced, and sheltered. I suppose rooming with a social butterfly like Jo opened me up a little bit. I started actually hanging out with boys– probably by association to Jo than anything else. Regardless, I befriended many of them. The relationships were always platonic. Yes, I found some of them attractive but not really in the “jump his bones” kind of way; I just really enjoyed the camaraderie. My fondest memories are just of us hanging out, lunching at the cafeteria, making fun of the teachers, laughing. I loved their sarcasm and wit and humor.
Of course, at various points during my first two years in college, I did end up falling for a few of them. They never felt the same way. That was the story of my whole romantic life up until then. I always fell for the multi-talented, sharp dude, and he never reciprocated. Instead, he would talk about some other chick he was pining after. Yeah, I had a decent personality, but whatever, in the end, personality was never enough to take things to the next level. And so there I remained. For the two guys I had crushes on, being friends was difficult. But with the others, our relationships were simply great friendships. And I really believed that platonic relationships between guys and girls were possible.
Fast forward ten years. Previous to my current job, I worked for a fuel cell startup– an engineering R&D place, meaning I was one of 3 women among 50 guys. I had lunch with these guys, I went rollerblading with them, I had dinner after work with them– sometimes alone. To me, this was never anything more than simply connecting with another human (who happened to be male) and enjoying his company. Sometimes John joined. Sometimes he didn’t. He always knew what I was doing. I didn’t sneak around rendezvousing.
Anyway, there was one dude I hung out with maybe 3-4 times. We talked about the usual stuff: that hellhole of a place where we used to work, our coworkers, what we’re up to… I never flirted or touched him or anything! We were going to try this new pizza place once but it turned out to be short order. I suggested we get it take out and then just hang at his place. He said no because his place was dirty. Ok, whatever, let’s dine somewhere else.
On another occasion, he was dropping me off after dinner and we had this weird discussion about prostitution. I don’t know how it came up, but he knows I’m feminist and I don’t buy into that “woman’s personal choice to work” bullshit. Anyway, he said something like men have needs. Yeah, THAT argument. I was completely shocked and truthfully, a bit offended and disappointed. And I told him so. Seriously, I don’t fucking care about a guy’s needs. He should deal with it and not at the expense of others. I mean, this is not like a guy with stubble needing to shave, and so he gets a disposable razor and chucks it afterwards. You know what I mean??
When we arrived at my house, I invited him in for tea or whatever. I was still in disbelief about his stance and it was otherwise a weird conversation to end on… John was home, and then the three of us talked and then he headed out. After that, we sort of lost touch.
In part, I was taken aback by his position on prostitution but beyond that, I just grew busy with work and my new year’s resolutions. I figured he’s probably just a “friend for a season” sort of thing. (you know, “friend for a lifetime”, “friend for a reason”, “friend for a season.). And that was that.
A year passed. He emailed me. I replied that things were insanely hectic, which they were. I didn’t ask to meet up. I was at a different place in my life with friendships. I felt like I had been over-engaging… like I had been trying too hard with my friendships, so I was scaling back. Whatever.
Three months later, another email. Just seeing what’s new. No big deal. Then three month later (last week), I got the strangest message.
Basically, he confessed to starting to like me, and the reason he didn’t want to go to his place for pizza was because he was afraid he would make a pass at me! WHAAA?? Yeah, OMFG I am totally clueless, right???
The email disturbed me on so many different levels:
1. Huh? How is this possible? I never intended to give any message that would result in this.
2. This kind of shit does NOT happen to me. Seriously, it’s a fucking miracle that I even snagged John. It’s not like I’ve ever been hit on at a bar. I’ve always had to buy my own goddamn drinks, thank you very much!
3. Am I naive to think platonic relationships are possible?
4. What the hell happened to my radar, my people reader? Apparently, it’s not fucking calibrated!!
5. Why now? I mean, the last time we hung out was late 2007. Why is he telling me this?
6. Is it not apparent to everyone I meet that I am an uber control freak who has MAJOR issues with infidelity? Really, there is no excuse for cheating. Married or unmarried. If someone is in a relationship, fidelity needs to be upheld. It’s just so tied to honesty and trust… Ugh. Don’t even get me started…
So the thing is this: I feel a little disappointed that somehow the relationship was misunderstood. I mean, maybe people can’t help feelings but they can totally control actions. So why is he telling me? Is he throwing a bone to see if maybe the feelings are reciprocated? Is it just closure? More importantly, what are the implications of this on my other friendships with guys? Part of me is pissed! I mean, if I want to see a play with a guy friend who also happens to love Les Mis, why not? And if we grab dinner before/drinks after to discuss, why not? I can spend 8 hours shopping/eating/hanging out with my friend Pamela late into the night. We’re kindred spirits. Who’s to say kindred spirits must be the same-sex (if you’re hetero).
I turn the scenario around. Say John starts hanging out with a lady at work. Grab dinner after, hang out until 9:30 alone. If they are friends, they are friends. I don’t deny that a red flag won’t raise, but that’s because he’s typically not a social person. He doesn’t do a lot of friend activities. But would I forbid it? No, because ultimately, people are going to do what they want to do. Whether we are married or not, in a relationship or not. I am not going to live in fear or worry about what might transpire when he is alone with someone else.
For me, I know that I have no other intentions with my guy friends. Perhaps my lesson is that I cannot control the other party. But still, I can control my response. And respond I did.
Of course, now I’m going to have to poll all my other guy friends to see what this is all about…