Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Friendships with Reserve

Men and women can be friends, but men can't be women friends and women can't be men friends. Let us be clear on this.

I have had some interesting correspondence about the following situations:

1. The man has a crush on a girl. He tells another girl all about it. He gets over his crush on the first girl. He develops a crush on the second girl. The second girl doesn't take him at all seriously.

2. The girl has a crush on a man. She tells another man all about it. She gets over her crush on the first man. She develops a crush on the second man. The second man doesn't seem to be interested anymore.

We could chalk this up as a tragedy of bad timing, or we could posit that there is something unwise in telling members-of-the-opposite-sex friends about our crushes.

If there is one thing I have learned about men, it is that they are not girls. And if they are attracted to girls, they do not appreciate being treated as if they were girls. Sometimes they resist this quite vigorously. But sometimes they do not because, being attracted to girls, they will cut girls a lot of slack. But, in general, they don't like being made to feel like the palace eunuch. Their semi-conscious resentment could be expressed in the parlance of the neighbourhood of my youth as "What am I? Chopped liver?"

Male friends who identify as gay do not seem to mind as much, but even then you really must understand that they are not "just some of the girls" even if they say they are. They are men, with male sexuality, and whereas their advice might be have an internal logic as far as men who identify as gay are concerned, it might make absolutely no sense for women, particularly chaste ones. Whenever men who identify as gay give me or tell me about relationship advice they have given other women ("And I told her, Darrleeng, you should take a lover"), my hair stands on end.

I like my guy friends so much, I don't treat them as if they were girls who might enjoy talking about girl stuff, e.g. my feelings. Possibly I slip occasionally, and bore them senseless, for which I apologize.

There's a fine line between treating all nice young Single men as if they were just Husband Potentials/Impossibilities and treating them as if they were girls. I call it Friendship with Reserve. It's respectful, it's kind, and, if this applies to your state of life, it keeps the options open.


Sarah said...

Friendship is messy. I listen attentively to what my male friends want to talk about: sports, Amy MacDonald and sometimes, yes, their feelings... and in turn they are very sweet when I need to bore them with my feelings.

As a girl, you just have to know what to expect from men-- you can't always expect something very helpful from all of them. I tried talking to my very best male friend recently, and left feeling deflated because he had given me the truth rather than the soothing "there, theres" I had hoped for.

His advice wasn't bad, though. So it's not like I said, "Okay, I'm never going to talk about anything emotional with him ever again." I just need to keep in mind what kind of response I'll get so I don't have different expectations.

Or, another time, I had begun to cry over something relatively trivial, and a male friend who happened to see me started chuckling. "Don't LAUGH at me!" I cried. He wasn't unsympathetic, but he just... well, he just didn't understand. ;)

As you've said before, Seraphic, men and women are just different. But I don't think that means we can't talk to each other about certain things. We just have to know what to expect and not blame them if they don't meet those expectations.

Of course, as far as crushes are concerned, I talk to very few people-- girls included-- about them anyway.

Magdalen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magdalen said...

I find talking to non-christian men for long periods of time exhausting, as I've spent most of my life conversing only with women and family members. With Christian men I can talk about theology and the church, but as my primary topics of conversation are mediaeval history and literature (my major), hair, makeup, shopping, boys, any funny/interesting things that happened to me or my friends in the time since I've last spoken to the person, and the church, I have very little to talk about to with men who aren't in my programme, alas. I've been working on this.

Urszula said...

I have plenty of male friends, and I think this advice rings true. I also second Sarah's comment. Listening to what men say and the kind of advice they give - even if you don't agree with it, it certainly gives you a great insight into how their male minds work. Knowledge that you can hopefully put to good use in other interactions ;)

I have usually not spoken to my male friends about any crushes I would have, not because I didn't want to frighten them off, simply because I didn't think they would be too helpful.

The one friend who has been like a brother to me is the person I may open up to more. Because of differing priorities/religions/temperaments we would never be a good couple. But as my adopted 'brother' when I was far away from home, he helped me through tough situations (involving other men as well) many a time, and I can't help but be grateful for his friendship.

Jen D said...

Is the new swashbuckler protector a friend of yours? He's adorable!

n.panchancha said...

Oh gosh. I suppose I've never felt inclined to talk about crushes with male friends, so perhaps I'm lucky there. And I think that if a male friend were to tell me about his crush on another woman, unless he were pleading for help/tips in pursuing her, I wouldn't really know how to react... Maybe an, "Oh... congratulations?" I feel like I would assume he was asking for advice, and if that wasn't the case, it would be a bit awkward: kind of like the implicit message was, "I'm really NOT interested in YOU" (which is silly, but... I mean, it is a strategy some people use to get interested parties to stop pursuing them).

And yes, I would have a hard-ish time taking a guy seriously if he started pining after me some time afterward - I might assume he was somewhat crush-addicted, or just liked some drama in his life. These might all be TOTALLY UNFAIR assumptions, but, I think, they may lend support to what S. is recommending here.

This is going to sound very judgmental (and perhaps it is; mea culpa), but when women feel the need to share all their feelings with (non-husband) men... it just strikes me that they must be bored out of their minds and looking for emotional drama. I'm pretty sure this is an inappropriate level of emotional intimacy, on the one hand (though I've got a little beef [veal?] with emotional chastity spiels, I admit), and on the other hand, it probably doesn't improve the way that particular man thinks of you - more like "needy little sister" than "respectable adult woman." Is this unfair?

Seraphic said...

Yes, this week's Swashbuckling Protector is indeed a Single friend of mine!

Mustard Seed said...

I found this advice very helpful. Seraphic's description of "friendship that catches fire" a few weeks ago has stuck in my head as the ideal situation for the start of a romantic relationship. It just seems like the right and proper order of things, and for someone who chronically gets ahead of herself in all areas of life, that is valuable. Also, the idea of simply making new friends sounds way easier and more fun than the stress of consciously trying to snag a husband. :)