Boys & Girls: Lovers or Friends?

I’m feeling really grateful for men these days. Particularly, the intelligent, attractive, wonderful ones that I’m privileged to call friends. Yes, friends. As if there aren’t enough things to debate – like whether or not I still want to be a therapist after learning how many ways it is possible for me to get thrown in jail  – we have found ourselves debating recently whether men and women can be friends.

Maybe you’ve seen this video, with its brilliantly researched findings that cover a large span of the human population and their opinions on the matter (read: an afternoon’s worth of stalking people on the Utah State campus). According to this painstaking research, girls always think that they’re friends with the guys while the guys all firmly state that such strictly platonic relationships are impossible to be had. I don’t know, maybe that’s a nice thing to hear if you like to believe that every guy you interact with has a secret crush on you. If that’s you, feel free to disagree with me.

I’m only one person, and my opinion is obviously not law, but I think there are some pretty logical reasons for why this way of thinking is both confusing and nonsensical.

  1. If this were true, then we’re just creating an army of little narcissists – ladies who are walking around thinking that every.single.man they are “friends” with is secretly jonesing for them. I mean, come on. I’m all for self-confidence and embracing your beauty and wit, but I happen to believe that I can be appreciated for the person I am without that immediately leading to romantic attraction. In fact, I regularly describe my guy friends as the most attractive, eligible guys I know. Does this mean I want to date them all? For goodness sake, no.
  2. This automatically makes all men liars. If you really don’t just think of me as a friend, why do you pretend to be my friend? Why don’t you just hold my hand and play with my hair so I know we’re more than just friends? Just kidding, please never touch a black woman’s hair. In any case, I’d rather not think that all my guy friends are pathological liars, and that when they treat me as a friend or as a sister, they actually mean it.
  3. I once was told by a guy that he couldn’t be friends with me because he found me too attractive for our relationship to remain simply platonic. He said he could definitely be friends with a woman as long as she’s unattractive. That’s all fine and dandy – and wierdly complimentary? – but what does the fact that I have a fair number of guy friends today say about me? I refuse to believe that my looks have significantly deteriorated to the point where I’m easy to be friends with because ain’t nobody wanna look at that. No sir.

Friendships with people whose emotions do not follow a monthly cycle are the best. I’ve always appreciated the constancy, and the different perspective they bring. But I also appreciate that they care about me, affirm me, get drinks with me, and give me giant bear hugs without it changing the ease and comfort of our relationships. Sure, I used to do the thing where every compliment from a guy had to mean something other than the words spoken. But most of the time, “You look really pretty today” means quite simply, you look really pretty today. I’ve learned to curtsy and say thank ye kindly and move the heck on with a smile on my face.

The process of me learning to not crush on every single guy I know coincides really nicely with the process of me discovering my worth and value. The more I came to understand that I am good enough and worthy of love and affection as a whole and not just because of my feminine body parts, I started to appreciate what others had been seeing all along. I am a whole, complete individual – not just a face, or breasts, or a small waist and an average butt. In the same way, a guy has become more than just a potential cure for a lonely season, but a whole person deserving of love and affection just like I am.

The other side of this argument is the fact that I’ve routinely been called the most oblivious woman alive by my female friends. Maybe it’s true; maybe my literal [almost legal] blindness has infected my relational eyesight as well. If that’s the case – if ALL of my guy friends actually want to recite love poetry, perhaps from Song of Songs, to me – then I will stand corrected. But until then, I refuse to be a narcissist, and I refuse to make them liars.

I guess this is an ode to my menfolk. Thanks for helping me disprove the myth that girls and guys can’t be friends. You’re the tops.

To Exhale

The media has sold us on this idea of the made-just-for-you person who will love you for exactly who you are right now, flaws and all. We’ve been taught to wait for this person – to hold out for the magic. Butterflies, incoherent speech, and irregular heart rhythms are all indicators of this person’s arrival. Once you’ve found each other, you’ll live happily ever after.

I don’t subscribe to this way of thinking.

I’m a hopeless romantic, yet I do not believe in “the one”. I’ve found that believing in “the one” tends to make a person lazy. There’s no motivation to grow, to evolve, to change, to blossom. Because we are fed this idea that someday a man will find all the unrefined parts of us beautiful, we tend to fold our hands – instead of leaning into the discomfort when people point out the distasteful parts of our character, we write them off. Though I’m well aware that no one will ever reach perfection while clothed in a body of flesh, I believe it is a worthwhile endeavor to become the best version of yourself you could possibly be. It is far healthier to become a well-rounded person who is compatible with many different people, instead of a person who shuns growth under the guise of awaiting the “right person” to love all of her flaws. And life seems much fuller when you aren’t living like you’re waiting for someone, but embracing all that’s given to you in the present.

Despite that view, I find that I still believe in the idea of soul mates. And in that, I believe in the multiplicity of soul mates. At various points in my journey through life, I’ve come across a person who feels like a giant exhale, my lungs collapsing with the release of breath they weren’t aware they were holding. It’s the immediate knowing that this person will be important to you for a while. It’s the instant trust, the unspoken, “There you are. I didn’t know I’d been looking for you until you were right here in front of me.” 

I’ve found two of my soul mates already, lucky me. And they both – almost instantly – became two of my best friends. I don’t believe that soul mates are reserved solely for the romantic world. In believing in the multiplicity of soul mates, I believe that they can be lovers, or good friends, or siblings, or whatever else. They are the ones your heart instantly chooses with or without your consent. And they might only be in your life for a season, but the length of their stay does nothing to change the level of their importance to you.

I’m fascinated with the idea that I can be deeply known by not just one person, but a handful of precious souls in whose presence my heart slows its pace and swells with love. Maybe someday, one of my giant exhales will be with a beautiful soul encased in the body of a gloriously flawed man. Until then, I’m breathing easy in the company of my soul mates, and leaning into the discomfort that will make me a better person for the man I choose to love someday.

“We were never strangers. Our souls were well acquainted with each other far before our eyes became acquainted with one another.”