I had a conversation with a Single friend yesterday that went something like this:
"I'm just not ready to date again."
"I totally understand that."
"But I have been having a great time going out with my dance partner."
"And I did go to a film with the charming optometrist."
"I think you're dating."
"Going out with men is dating. One man + one woman + outing = dating."
"Oh no," said my friend. She was sad. "But I'm just having fun. I don't want it to be serious."
"It doesn't have to be serious," I said. "But it's definitely dating. I hope you don't think you're going out with single men as friends. Searching Single men and Searching Single women can't be friends."
"That makes me feel sad," said my friend.
This was all over instant message, if you are wondering why we sound so stilted.
"Okay," I said. "I make an exception for priests, monks, gay men, way-too-young men and way-too-old men, and also the husbands of your friends, to a certain extent. With all other friendship-worthy men, there is a likelihood of vroom-vroom sexual attraction getting in the way. And although it can complicate things, this is good for the species."
One of the thing that bothers me about modern life is that young women hang out with lovely, kindly men who love them, but say "Oh, but we're just friends, it's nothing serious" but then date immoral scumbags and say, "It's serious." I mean, it's the other way around. Good man = serious; scumbag = not serious.
It took me over 30 years to get to the headspace where I found goodness sexually attractive. Unfortunately I was surrounded by male religious at the time. But, in general, the sooner a woman gets to good = sexy, the better.
"Is this optometrist divorced?" I asked.
"I don't know. He could even be married."
"Would it be flirtatious if I asked him?"
"No, it would be normal."
Another modern problem is that we pretend some bedrock things are social constructs and then elevate social constructs to bedrock things. Dating is a social construct. Men and women finding each other sexy is bedrock. New immigrants to the USA, the UK, and Canada are right to suspect our concept of "dating" and think it just an excuse for men to spend unsupervised time with women they find attractive. Camille Paglia is very funny about it in Vamps and Tramps.
I am anticipating outcries from women who have great male buddies and wonder if I don't have close male buddies of my own. And I have to say, sure I do, and every last one of them is a hottie. I have had a small or large crush of short or long duration on each and every one of them. They are stars. But I'm married, and just like a priest with female buddies, I keep them at a friendly distance.
When people read the crankier parts of my book, they will assume I don't like men, but the opposite is true. I love men. The older I get, the more I love them, which will become embarrassing when I am eighty and deaf. ("Tricia, who is that immensely TOOTHSOME young man?")
But I mostly like them to look at or flirt with, which proves that I am not a man's woman. I would never, ever say "Frankly, I prefer the company of men." Too much company of men, unless my husband or brothers, can be a snore. I need my Girl Time. Oh dear, this has become about me again.
Anyway, unless it is true what they say about chemicals in the plastic baby bottles, human nature is still the same, and when a man of ordinary sexuality wants to go somewhere fun (and I mean fun, not an excuse to cry on her shoulder) with a woman by themselves, it is not because he likes her as a friend but because he thinks she's hot. And why not? It's flattering. You don't have to do with, or feel about, him anything you don't want to do with, or feel about, him, ever. If you want to go to the film, go. If you don't want to kiss him, don't.
My unsolicited advice for the day is to call men by their correct names:
Boring guy. He is not even "just a friend." He is an acquaintance. It is okay not to think of him as a friend. Not everybody can be your friend. You are not a bad person if you don't think of men who bore the socks off you as your friends.
Great Single (not vowed, ordinary-sexualitied) guy your age you love being around. He might not be "just a friend". He is a potential romance--unless, of course, for some reason he thinks of you as "just one of the boys".
HOWEVER, girls, if there is a guy you like so much you wish he were a woman, this guy is NOT dating potential. A guy who makes you feel like a louse because you won't date him is a bad friend. Tell him. And if he doesn't quit, he's not even your friend anymore. He's a jerk.