I used to have it all figured out. I assumed everyone who came my way was full of goodwill, however you defined yourself and gender identity. I believed that it didn’t matter your sexuality, gender identity, or sex: you could be just friends if both parties were on the same page.
Now I’m not so sure.
I’m the girl with a plethora of dude-bro friends.* Growing up playing sports instead of going to dance class, cutting my own hair short so I resembled a little boy, and refusing to let go of my umbros, I identified more with boys than with girls. As I grew up, I continued to feel more comfortable with the opposite sex, opting to read comic books instead of gossiping at the mall. Then there was the whole crying thing-- why were girls my age always doing that? This expression of emotion continues to elude me.
*In actuality, none of my guy friends are bros. Mostly they hate sports and spend their freetime writing poetry.
I assume this has led to me where I am now: having meaningful relationships with folks from all gender identities. But recently a long held assumption of mine was shattered. I always assumed platonic intentions with newly introduced heterosexual men in my life. Wow! A new friend, I thought sincerely. I always enjoy meeting someone new who’s down to earth and has a good sense of humor. I found this in … let’s call him Frank. I found this in Frank. He had a cool job, was hilarious, and loved drinking craft beer. He knew the best bars in Boston to find said craft beer.
While I made it clear I wasn’t looking for anything romantic, talking openly like friends do, I assumed we established just that: a friendship.
We continued to hang out casually, going to events, or doing trivia with a group of our friends. All the while, I talked openly about the person I was dating, while asking him about his endeavors with the ladies of Boston. He talked candidly about his wild dates and his ultimate search for compatibility.
Then one day, he drunkenly ripped our friendship from seam to seam and anxiously watched my expression as the pieces fluttered to the ground. He told me he had feelings for me, and had the whole time.
At first I was surprised. Then embarrassed because I’m already awkward enough in certain social situations. Then I became angry. We were supposed to be on the same page! I was excited to make a new friend and felt slightly duped by Frank since he had unspoken intentions differing from mine.
Needless to say, Frank stopped talking to me. Or I suppose we stopped talking to one another. In retrospect, I guess I should have seen it coming, as all my friends did. The anger has obviously subsidied, and our “friendship” remains safely in the digital world of Facebook and Twitter, with the occasional ‘like’ here or comment there.
But one question remains to which I return time and time again: Can heterosexual men and women truly be friends?
(To be clear, I know there are many sexually oriented experiences and identities, but I’m speaking solely from my own: a heterosexual woman.)
Friendship and romance have always been blurred. I believe even with completely platonic friendships with both men and women, you’re still attracted to that person in some way: whether it be their humor, intelligence, or lifestyle. You choose your friends for those qualities. It doesn’t mean that you want to sleep with them or ever would. I mean, maybe you do. If we’re going to speak strictly to heterosexual men and women who are friends, then where does one draw the line?
Do we all secretly want to sleep with each other if given the chance and proper timing? Or would we ruin a good thing by doing so?
When speaking to one of my closest hetero female friends on the subject, who also has many male friends, she made it clear that when it comes to hetero men and women as friends, women tend to have the final say regarding crossing that line.
“Biologically speaking, Women are pickier. Men are not. Hence, why some men will fuck anything.”
Is my friend on to something? There’s clearly not a succinct way to answer that question. However, I look to the men I’m actually friends with, and have been for years for answers. What’s different with them? The common thread amongst them all is either time, or the fact that they are the partners of my very best female friends. It appears there is a window of opportunity that exists when a man and woman meet, that closes eventually after time and getting to know one another within the context of a friendship.
This would explain why the vernal friendship between Frank and I didn’t pan out as expected.
Do we all still secretly hold out hope for the ideal “When Harry Met Sally” scenario if we aren’t already in a meaningful relationship?
Whatever happens, make your intentions clear for all friends and lovers. You wouldn’t want to end up leading someone on, dating the wrong person, or worse, ruining a truly great friendship. My go-to answer to all problems?