You hear it a lot of times from a lot of places; that men and women can’t truly be friends. Much like with many things, if enough people hear it enough times, it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. You especially see or hear of it in any topic regarding dating or the lack thereof; the dreaded “friend zone”. Straight men especially seem to abhor such a term, using it as if they were diagnosing a form of cancer at times. Since I have a limited amount of past experiences with women to recollect, that means this blog will run out of material in a few months if I don’t also use it to address related topics, such as this, and how I feel about them personally.
I mentioned some of my feelings about this back in July in the “Dating vs. Hooking Up” installment, but it’s a topic worth addressing directly. While I will admit that it can be challenging to “just be friends” with a woman that I am attracted to (same as I imagine it is difficult for women to be pals with someone they fancy), I have also been in fully platonic friendships with women in the past and present. In fact, for me that seems to be the ideal path of romance, which my mind processes as normal. You meet someone, you become friends, and then if there is sufficient chemistry or things in common, such as desire, it leads to something more.
A part of it could be due to being raised by an assertive single mother. Another could be absorbing too much morality from comic books and 1980’s cartoons. It could also be due to the fact that I literally cannot imagine a woman being purely attracted to me physically without being impaired to a significant degree due to alcohol or drugs (which for me is a turn off, as I don’t like taking advantage of people). No woman has ever been physically attracted to me as a youth and now that I am getting older it is something that I can’t fathom. To date the only members of the opposite sex who ever commented positively about my physical appearance have been elderly nursing home residents or middle aged housewives in unsatisfying marriages who were not my type at all (even if I were to even entertain the idea of a romance with a woman I knew to be married, which I would not). I’ve received no end of negative comments about my physical looks from girls and women my age throughout my life, or simply have received “The Look of Ick” (which I already defined). The media likely play a role in this as countless films, cartoons, and so forth introduce the idea that men are attracted by physical looks but women are expected to “look deeper” or are usually presented as the characters more attracted to other traits. In truth of course, what attracts people is unique to them. Therefore, in terms of romance I always figured that my only chance would be to appeal to her personality with my own, somehow. I am a loyal friend, and people seem to remember me after befriending me, even if it’s been years since we’ve seen each other – even when I may have forgotten that particular person myself.
A lot of men, especially men who share my particular shame of being a virgin, sometimes look down on or belittle friendships with women. To them it can seem like a tease. I can understand that and appreciate that, and will admit to times when I did feel that way for brief intervals. However, for most of my life I have not only been content to be friends with a woman, but often feel it has advantages. Chief among them a sense of ease with being more open, honest, and vulnerable with them – especially if it is platonic or if any chance of romance has been abandoned. Also due to media presentation, it isn’t accepted for men to be vulnerable with each other unless it is in the middle of a sporting event or a military adventure, at least without being horribly drunk. For me this is no exception; in previous posts I have said many times how I dislike feeling emotions. I have hated to cry and on the rare occasions when I have, I have done everything in my power to not do so in public, or in the presence of someone I know. To me it is weakness, another reminder of how I do not fit the ideal of an attractive man. Intellectually I may know that is a bit absurd, but emotionally and spiritually that is how I feel. I also do not talk with my male friends about my insecurities or baggage very often. When I do, it is only in brief intervals. I recall one moment when I mentioned my absentee father at a gathering and one of my friends mentioned something to the effect of, “Wow, you never talk about your father.” Men to a degree are in competition with each other or have a sense of it here, even when they’re friends and even if it makes no sense.
My best example and experience with this is in regards to a friend I’ll call Heidi. I met her online around 2001 and we have met personally at least twice since. We bonded due to our shared interests (comic books, mostly) and that has evolved into a deeper friendship. From the beginning, it has been a platonic friendship. I have never been interested in her romantically and vice versa. And that is totally cool, and she is honestly one of the best friends I have ever had. I have told her everything, been as emotionally honest with her as I have ever been with anyone. I tell her things I don’t even tell my mother. While she has other, closer friends, she is also the same way with me, never being shy about telling me something which is bothering her. We talk online every day, even if it may not be much at times because we’ve been friends so long. At heart she is dear and sweet (even if she dislikes those aspects sometimes since it’s often taken advantage of), but we’ve been friends long enough that she isn’t afraid of angering me if she tells me something negative. I literally cannot picture my life without her as a friend. As much of a hopeless malcontent that I am, I would be even worse without her.
I have been friends at various points for various lengths of time with other women, too. I met one in a high school “comic book club” (which in practice was more of an anime appreciation club) who I kept in contact with through the middle of college, even going to parties at her house a few times for Halloween or her birthday. She wasn’t my type and occasionally I did have to defend her to my friends on rare occasions when one of them called her “ugly” in a private conversation. I have even been friends with women who I mentioned (under false names) in previous installments who I was attracted to, such as Sybil, Sonia (who will get her own post someday), Marsha, and Jackie. Facebook makes it easier to reestablish contact, and any I have fallen out of touch with were due to life’s nature of moving about; I’ve lost touch with male friends on occasion, too. I try to avoid feelings of bitterness at least in regards to only being friends with someone I fancy. I would never reveal any of my previous feelings for any of them, especially since most are married or otherwise engaged now. I don’t consider it being “used” for emotional support, but that could also be because in the end, I don’t mind helping people out. I feel more “human” when I have a female friend, like a part of me belongs on this planet.
It is unfortunate that I have never been able to inspire anything deeper with a woman. I am glad that I have never been attractive to a woman who I didn’t fancy, because I would hate to break someone else’s heart or reject someone, since I know how much that can hurt. However, “going along” with a relationship with someone I don’t genuinely like would merely be using them, and no matter how desperate I may have been at times, that was a line I vowed not to cross. There is a difference between “being open minded” or “using” people you assume are “beneath you”. I will admit some lamentation that I have never inspired feelings beyond friendship to any woman I did fancy or get to know for any length of time. Yet that lamentation doesn’t lead me to treat them poorly or want to see any ill befall them. The positive traits I have make me a memorable enough fellow that I am fine with hanging out with or chatting with on occasion, it seems. But in terms of being that guy who is “hot” or encourages fantasies or desires of sexual escapades, that’s a nut I have never cracked, nor have the tools to do so. The friends that I have had that were women have rarely even wanted to give me the obligatory hug and/or peck on the cheek that they give out to other friends (men and women) that they have. Usually the ones that do are merely acquaintances (i.e. the girlfriend or wife or fiance of a pal). It is through this experience that I have learned that what I am seems to be more unique than merely being a “creeper” or something monstrous. I don’t directly repulse every woman I meet, but none of the women I meet or have known would ever even entertain the notion of anything romantic or physical. I’d compare myself to some sort of anthropomorphic mascot or children’s character in that regard, but there’s always someone who is attracted to that sort of thing somewhere (“Oh Alf, your fur is so sexy!”). I apparently possess an “anti-hormone” which may as well be a super power; the ability to eliminate all presence of female sexual desire within a certain radius. Even the most “free spirited” women I have met (i.e. the ones who sleep around as often as guys do or wish they could) may as well have been akin to nuns around me.
Befriending someone of the opposite sex is more than possible, though. Those who claim it can’t be done honestly have some growing up to do, and some impulses to control. And very likely may not be able to sustain many longtime, worthwhile relationships. After all, most of the relationships we have in life are not sexual.