Friday, November 19, 2010

One of the Boys

Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I'm saying is — and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form — is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That's not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don't.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: No you don't.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: You only think you do.
Sally: You say I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I'm saying is they all want to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry: No, you pretty much want to nail 'em too.
Sally: What if they don't want to have sex with you?
Harry: Doesn't matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally: Well, I guess we're not going to be friends then.
Harry: Guess not.
Sally: That's too bad. You were the only person that I knew in New York.

I have a lot of guy friends. I just had lunch with one of them today. He loves his wife. He buys her little gifts all the time. He talks about her as if she is still on the pedestal -- you know -- she's still pretty amazing to him. They've been married a long time and have essentially adult kids. Most of my guy friends are married. I believe this is a semi-subconscious, yet deliberate, choice for me at this point in my life to avoid single men. My married guy friends are comfortable and safe and they are not likely to break my heart. I flirt with them gently (not all of them, but some, and some more than others) and then I get to go home and I don't have to "check in."  (Yes, women feel they have to check in too). No expectations.

But based on 39 years experience with friendships with men (26 years if you take away the pre-puberty years)  I do believe the above dialogue, from an easily identifiable movie, is pretty much true. I've never been "just" friends with a guy and had it last. Sometimes those friendships faded away because the guy would get a girlfriend who didn't really appreciate our friendship. Sometimes it was because I ended up in a relationship with someone outside the friendship circle. Sometimes it was because one of us really did have romantic hopes beyond friendship, while the other did not. Sometimes it was just because whatever need was being met by the friendship at its peak of intensity, was no longer needed. And sometimes it was because we were both really interested in one another and we crossed the line and then one of us panicked and a really good friendship got really F&%ked up. 

I like being friends with men. They are loyal. They are straight and honest. And they are not easily insulted. [Generally.] My first memorable opposite sex friendship was in high school with a guy I'll call Andrew. Andrew would never have been described as the best looking guy in school but he was not shy and he was aggressive, and he never had trouble finding girlfriends. I just wasn't one of them. Nor did I want to be.

The interesting thing about Andrew is that he started talking to me at our mutual workplace because he had a crush on my friend, and that worked out well because I had a crush on his cousin. Andrew and I could say anything to each other and we told each other a lot of really personal stuff. He cried on my shoulder about the girls he liked who rejected him. I cried on his shoulder about his cousin who probably broke my heart a gazillion times. And I appreciated that Andrew could sometimes forget I was a girl.

Andrew "dated" my friend for a short time one summer. Then being the fickle teenaged boy that he was, he decided he liked a girl from his church so he went out with her instead. When that didn't work out, he went out with another girl in his class who had enough self esteem and security to see my friendship with Andrew for what it was and realize that I had NO interest in him and was not a threat.

And when that relationship ended after a couple years, Andrew went out with a girl who had been interested in him for a long time. But she despised me in that catty backstabbing female way -- likely because she was jealous of my friendship with Andrew and had been all along -- I see that now. But that pretty much spelled the end of my friendship with Andrew.

He married that girl, by the way. The last time I hung out with Andrew was shortly before his wedding. We hung out in his parent's basement, talking like we always did, watched a movie, listened to music. We walked around the neighbourhood until 5 in the morning when we ended up in Perkin's and he bought me breakfast. I believe, that was the last time I saw Andrew. It was never said out loud that it would be the last time we would see each other. We both just knew it. I didn't get invited to the wedding.

He said a lot of things that last night I spent with him that seemed regretful over the fact that he and I had never been more than friends. I brushed off what he said and didn't take him seriously. I think a lot of those words may have been born out of pre-wedding jitters. If I had $10 bucks for every guy who came up to me years after the peak point of our friendship and said they wished they had taken me to grad instead of who they took (You would have at least been FUN, one of them said one time) or, I should have gone out with you instead of her, I could probably go out and buy another bike.

Oh well, you didn't know it or do anything about it at the time, so it really doesn't matter.

I miss "Andrew." I feel very nostalgic about our high school friendship. A portion of my second novel is based on my friendship with "Andrew." I believe the first time I saw When Harry Met Sally was with Andrew, but my memory might be making that up.

I've grown up to be the woman who still prefers to be around men. I watch my daughter at swimming lessons 2-3 times a week. All the moms congregate a bench or two over and there is periodic uproarious laughter. I don't sit there and I don't want to. I don't get their jokes.

One of those Mom's tried to engage me in conversation early in the session. I hope I wasn't rude. I hope I was at least polite.  But I could tell almost immediately that she was one of THOSE women. A literal woman. There was nothing that she wanted to chit chat about that I found terribly interesting. Seeing me with several catch-up back issues of Bicycling one session, she even tried to talk to me about biking, but based on her stories, I knew she was the kind of rider that would squeal and complain if the pace was too fast and who would show up with full make-up on and try not to break a sweat. Not that there is anything wrong with this...... (at least she is riding) but she wasn't going to get me. Now she sits with another Mom who I know from past history has a similar estrogen-based ideology and I smile, because I'm glad they found each other.

I sit with 4 Dads, sometimes individually, sometimes together. We talk about real estate. We talk about triathlon and the "competitive edge." A couple of them, their kids do triathlon and that is why they are in a swim club. We talk about what is in the newspaper and about politics. We talk about teaching because a few of us teach. We talk about the expense of bike gear and the good deals we found and the frighteningly large running totals at the bottom of the computer screen at our respective bike shops of choice. The other night I had a full on bike geek session with one Dad who told me about his 29-inch carbon dual suspension mountain bike. Sweet! I knew what the price tag on that bike was before he even told me.

Despite the fact that I can be one of the boys, there are still times when I know I am not welcome. Sometimes I respect that and sometimes I ignore it. And I have gotten myself in trouble by doing the latter but generally only with men who look at me from the standpoint of Harry's philosophy. I like to think I'm one of the guys and perhaps I am a bit naive about the influence my touch of estrogen brings to the mix of their testosterone-fests because I always assume they exhibit their usual guy-ness in my presence. They probably don't. But I do recognize the look and the vibe from men when they suddenly see me for the girl I am and, against their will and order, I've just climbed the stairs up to the tree house club, poked my head in and said, "Hi boys, can I come in?" That look kinda breaks my heart.

So I climb back down and pretend to be interested in dresses, and hair salons, and recipes and feel miserable the whole time because I'm not interested. I tolerate fart jokes better than discussions of shoes and nail polish. I prefer to talk to men and I prefer to bike with men, although not all of them appreciate that I can keep up. And I never EVER complain if I get dropped. Although I work my ass off sometimes to ensure I don't. But I have been on rides where some of the guys wouldn't even talk to me until they recognized I wasn't going to be a wheel sucker and I was willing to work.

Cycling can be the pinnacle of boy's clubs. And yes, there I will be, right in the middle of the pack.


Anonymous said...

Do you ever write well!

Good read.

Kim said...

Thanks Greg... so do you.... hence why I am a fan.

Terri said...

Hmmm...I still think that, most of the time, guys and girls can be friends.

Kim said...

It was open for you to form your own opinion.... ;-)

Chelse said...

I think guys and girls can be friends as long as there is absolutely no physical attraction on either side. But I also don't have close guy friends because one year it was proven to me that they can't. On the whole, my optimistic side says "sure they can!" but when life begins to imitate philosopy, I'll let you know. This was great to read Kim. I loved it!

Lisa said...

Yup...I hear you. I wrote a similar type blog with my own take on this. I have had many close male friends through the years...the most recent though I've hooked up with.;0)

Kim said...

All inspired by you and Holli and other things I can't remember at the moment. Must give credit where credit is due.