I just came back from a trip to New York City, where I got together with two friends of mine -- let's call them Frank and Red -- for a night of drinks, dinner, and conversation. It was a pretty typical "old college buddies" night, except that they were guys -- specifically, two men that I met when we all lived in the same dorm freshman year of college. We realized that we've been friends for 23 years now...
In talking with some of my girl friends, it seems that few of them have actual real-live, good old fashioned male friends; you know, the kind of person that you've known for a million years and with whom you can talk about anything.
I wonder why that happens. I think it has something to do with the suspicion of sexual attraction that seems to lurk around many male-female friendships -- not between the two friends, but as imputed by others. Many a good boy-girl relationship has been ruined by a jealous boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. If we assume that we are supposed to get our allocation of opposite sex-intimacy from our significant other (a flawed supposition but a common one), then perhaps our partner is left to wonder -- why does she need HIM when she has ME?
It could also have something to do with Harry's assertion in When Harry Met Sally, that all inter-gender friendships entail some degree of sexual attraction, and hence it's understandable that our significant others would feel threatened by our boy-girl "friendships," as they are really sexual in nature. Hmmm. Maybe my old friends are just potential relationships that I've back-burned for twenty-odd years, in case my marriage tanks??
For the record, I doubt it. I love Frank and Red, and in fact in college, I went on a few dates with Frank. I'm attracted to both of them -- they are smart, funny, yes, handsome, but most importantly, they are my friends, with all that entails. We've got lots of old stories and common experiences, we talk about our family and kids, we debate politics, we get drunk together, eat too much, and we have each other's backs. I know without a doubt that I could call either of them in the middle of the night and ask for help, and I would get it. Period. So, yes, I'm attracted to them -- but it's not sexual. It's the attraction I feel for any of the many wonderful people in my life whom I love and who love me back.
The conversation with Frank and Red covered the gambit from why the Democrats are so inept at garnering public support to vasectomies v. IUDs to how our aging parents are driving up crazy -- you know, pretty much the same things I cover with my girlfriends. I would hate to give up a friendship like that just because Frank and Red have different plumbing than I do.
I will admit, it can get a bit trickier with newer friends. There seems to be a mistrust of the friendly guy in the office or that woman in class who lets you borrow her notes and sits with you to have coffee: are they just trying to get laid? I generally take the companionable men I meet at face value. I'm happily married, so I'm not looking for a little action on the side. Thus, a friendly face is just that, regardless of whether it's on a man or a woman.
Usually I find you get what you give -- friendship and good conversation usually gets returned. And you know, I've even made some new friends lately -- does it really matter that they pee standing up?