Sometimes I get an email that releases my inner cynic and I have to remind myself afterwards that (A) men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life and (B) lots of women have dear, platonic friends who are men. Even I have a few, collected gradually over 20 years.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I just found your blog the other day and have been reading through it almost obsessively. Thank you for doing what you do. Already it's helped me!
Perhaps you have already answered this kind of question, and in that case feel free to refer me to where ever you did, or copy and paste; I won't be offended.
I am a social person, and actually am moving in a few weeks from [big city on the west coast of the USA] to Virginia, so I will be needing to make friends, both male and female. I am wondering how to properly make friends with men without losing the feminine touch of 'receptivity' as it were.
I have on SO many occasions honestly tried to make platonic friends with males strictly, honestly, and completely for the sake of having another friend (see, I like having guy friends because then I can hang out with ppl who are much more laid back than the average girl, and so I have someone to watch football with and who will kill spiders. What woman doesn't?) However, the potential-platonic-male-friend reads my pursual of friendship as a manipulative desire to have his babies and wash his dentures when we're older. And then he runs.
Completely - from ever talking to me again if he can help it, when he doesn't even know if my APPARENT attention might be welcome, before he gets to know me, before he knows that I just want basic friendship....and [once was] is even rude enough to walk away mid conversation.
There is about a milisecond when I think I might have accidentally flirted with the potential-platonic-male-friend, but I certainly am NOT a flirt, actually, I'm terribly cautious about not flirting - touching thier arm, giggling, too much smiley eye contact are things I just don't do unless I really like a (already my friend for a while) guy, and even then I have to consciously muster the strength and creativity to do so. My already platonic guy friends (whom I have asked) ardently say that I'm not a Flirt. So why do these new men think I am?
Is there a proper amount of "sitting back" for women to do in strictly platonic relationships? I really want to be pursued in a romantic relationship one day, and I really don't want to be the chaser - but for heavens sake do I have to do that when the friendship is just starting out? When I'm not even interested in them romantically because I don't know them? How could they possibly think that I want to marry them when we met five seconds ago, or a month ago, even? How am I supposed to maintain known platonic friendships with guys without making them feel that I yearn for them desperately? Is pursual in itself flirting?
I realize too that this is something men deal with often, and even in my own experience I have thought that a "just wanna be friends" guy is actually trying to have MY babies:) However, I'm still nice to him and don't drive him away, and then we end up being the platonic friends that he wanted in the first place.
Men are so cryptic. Please help me!
Thanks so much,
Friends with Men
Dear Friends with Men,
I just got your message, and I will ponder it at length. But my first response is that men don't really know how to do the female friendship thing. In general, men are not interested in making platonic woman friends once they leave college. Occasionally they make friends with women colleagues, but that is because they are thrown together every day and at work men are forced to interact with women as if they were guys.
It is a million times easier to make friends with women, and even that is hard after college, unless you can find women who have very recently moved town, too.
Hopefully more later in the morning after I have slept on it. But I am afraid the heart of the matter is that post-college American men in general aren't that interested in platonic women friends, and they will almost always take friendly overtures as sexual interest. Yes, that is certainly depressing.
Grace and peace,
I am sorry to say that, after pondering the issue at length, I completely forgot about this email. And the only advice I have to add to it is that my reader might want to consider a controlled environment in which men will be more-or-less forced to speak to her. Her workplace should provide this, but if that proves inadequate, there is night school. I taught writing classes for three years, and it was always awesome to see when a classroom of random strangers turned into a group. Community gelled.
When you have an authority figure like a teacher calling the shots, men simply cannot assume you are talking to them because you want them. I bet Little Theatre would work too, as there would be a director and a stage manager. (My ex-thespian husband, whose platonic female friends are mostly over 50, adds that it really helps if there's an age gap, though.)
I cannot adequately underscore how different life is after high school or undergraduate university. My guess is that women who have many platonic men friends collected them before they graduated, or share or shared the same workplace, or met them through AA or other Twelve Step groups. In many, many cases, the question of whether they were ever going to be a couple was settled so long ago, the women have forgotten there ever was one.
Meanwhile, I beg you girls--I beg you on my knees--to stop thinking that men are just like women. Unless they are priests or monks and/or have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," young women are to them first and foremost potential mates. This is completely natural, and nothing to cry about. Once you are married, or pregnant, or over 37 or so, you will not find this as much of a problem, if problem you think it.
My guess is that it is much, much easier to be platonic friends with twenty-something guys when you are my age, e.g. too old (or almost too old) to be sexually interesting to twenty-something guys. Again: age gap. And since Nature, like Auntie Seraphic, has a double standard, the best age gap for platonic friendship is when the woman is way older than the man. Many a sixty year old man has gone googly for a twenty-something girl. Only very rarely does a twenty-something boy go googly for a grandma.
Finally, women-who-prefer-the-company-of-men, I wish that you would stop thinking that men are so much better than women. Yes, I realize that women can be absolute bitches. I know that. But the simple fact of the matter--and it is a great tragedy, and probably a result of the Fall--is that women want to hang out with men more than men want to hang out with women. Have some dignity.
P.S. Lots of women watch football, even American football.