Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Borders We Build

Kate started it!…A question that has been lingering in my mind…and yours ( I bet) so boldly pronounced by a gorgeous bloggy lady…A question whose answers are as provocatively varied and interesting as the question itself…

”can men and women be just…you know….just friends…platonic?”

I’m referring to somebody you innocently meet for coffee…chat with in person….Somebody whose candid reaction is without doubt totally true.

I don’t want to give a definite yes – no answer here …because I don’t know as well. The only male friend I meet for coffee is me’ Hubz BUT… believe me, our friendship is a zillion miles from platonic!

Sooo…I’m talking here about friends I don’t have to marry…I mean …friends you just have fun with…..I mean ( drats… I’m not sounding right!... ) people who don’t wear lipstick that you can just genuinely laugh with and talk to and understand and appreciate and maybe just sit down comfortably beside with, the way you would a lady friend.

And yes, speaking of lady friend, the husband of a lady friend of mine once sat down beside me. I was the preschool teacher of his daughter and so naturally, I had to give him a report on his daughter’s progress in my class. He was the last parent to arrive, so I allowed him to candidly talk along, him telling me about the antics of his children and me liltingly laughing .

I don’t know at what point it transpired but…I suddenly felt consciously uneasy …aware that we were alone in the classroom and the building was practically bereft of people. I fairly think it was when he subtly inched closer and started to "share" how he and Sheila were having ummm problems….It felt different, no longer friendly, no longer light…he wasn’t saying anything wrong… was a look he had…it was the tone of his voice……A feeling…an undercurrent of pins creepily crawled through the back of my spine…

I somehow managed to politely disengage myself from this friendly tit for tat’… telling him it was late and I really had to be going. He was slightly embarrassed I could tell…but….I guess it served him right. Then and there I decided…really… aren’t capable of friendship…..real honest to goodness friendship with someone of the opposite sex. They always go overboard…...always…why? Is it a cultural machismo thing?

But perspectives can change… so now, I simply don’t know. I read some of the male bloggies, and I see how deeply profound, sensitive and caring men’s insights can be…a lot of them do inspire me…..

How regretful it is however, that in reality, friendships can often be so……… gender bordered.

In my world at least…I don’t know in yours….

Just thinking anyway…


butterflygirl said...

I have to go with a "no" for the most part. Men think with their penis.

Mayden's Voyage said...

Oh dear...
It's those hormones Prism! I can be friends with a man as long he doesn't smell too good! LOL! If he smells yummy--sigh! He has to go!
Seriously. A dear friend of mine, a woman I love very much and has been a mentor to me, has an equally wonderful husband. She and I connect on one level, but he and I connect on another. There have been several times when she has urged him to call me to discuss a certain book or topic--mostly because she knows I have a different (or more informed) opinion on the subject. It always honors me when he and I talk, because he values what I say. However...we both love his wife too much to EVER be anything other than just friends.
I think men and women can be friends, and in some cases very good friends, if their focus is never on each other...but always looking forward. The same is true of my girlfriends...we are standing side by side and looking at life, not standing face to face and looking at each other.
When you start looking a guy friend in the eyes, and he smells out! LOL! :)

Mr. Althouse said...

I agree with you. I don't know either. It should be abundantly apparent clear that I am male - and for the sake of clarification and classification - I am an unattached, non-committed, heterosexual, single-father and very "available" (whatever that means) 43 year-old male. I am not "on the hunt" nor am I a committed single. My options are wide open.

I have a number of platonic female friends. I have also lost many of those friends over the years for a variety of reasons. It would be less than perfectly honest to say that my motives were always pure. That is to say that I have been the gentleman in your classroom in the past and that could have been the cause of the failed friendship. It is difficult to know all of the varrious and sundry reasons a relationship - any relationship - may go south. I am simply acknowledging that this may have been a factor in the past.

It is different today. Perhaps it is the wisdom that is facilitated by experience. Maybe it is the result of placing more value on the substantive than the superficial. Perhaps I am not as hormonally driven... I don't know. Communication is important, but all relationships (romantic or otherwise) have to have two willing participants. This is no place for egocentricity. Besides, I am not willing to sacrifice a perfectly good platonic relationship for one that may succeed as more unless she is too.

The bottom line is that my definition of the "great scheme of things" does not include a natural progression in that my relationships with women must end in conquest. It is a relief if nothing else. My answer to the original question posed by Kate and echoed in you remains unchanged: I don't know. Ask me when my desire for more than friendship outweighs any rational thought - today is not that day.


Aunty Belle said...

Lawdy! Left mah Front Porch to visit ya' LLV, and oh my!! Well, this heah is a TOPIC.

Some thangs I have noticed as a "mature" lady:

Women take the lead on this matter, since she can give the fella a definate clue as to her approachability for or against eros.

When she takes care not give any hint of a come on, he doan wanna risk his feelin's over an attempt when the signal was already clear.
(sometimes this is best done by ignorin' his first tentative moves)

The menfolk who ain't too worried about conquest as self-validation are then signaled that it is jes' fine, really is OK to be "friends only" with this lady since she ain't s'pectin' nor wantin' no "proof" of her own desirabilty or his prowess.

This heah situation is very liberatin'--frees he's and she's up so they can concentrate on other
interests they might have in common.

Now, they's always a fella who is not known fer takin' "no" as the answer to his preenin'...but most will, iffin' it is not a mixed message. And they's some fellas who jes' ain't gonna stand being 'round a woman who can withstand his charms. They's women like that too, though.

Whew!, I'se gotta git on back to mah Porch.
But fer married folks, a note of prudence: doan have any "jes' friends" wif the opposite sex when yer own honey an' you is not dancing in step so well. Human nature ain't changed much, and hurtin' hearts doan think with they heads.

SJ said...

I have always had LOTS of platonic relationships.

@butterflygirl, yes we do think with our penis but some of us know better than to follow a thought further than it should go.

Tikka Masala said...

I am thinking that you have hit the crux right on the essential head of the matter. A man is thinking with his linga, all the time he is thinking this way. There are beiing no exceptions to this.

disguised said...

I think it's definitely possible. I have male friends and acquaintances that I'm not attracted to in any way other than purely platonic (and I've never received any signal from them either). On the other hand, I also have female friends that I'm not attracted to in THAT way ;-). I think it's definitely possible. I like what Mr. Althouse said, that if you focus on something else than each other, it definitely works. I also agree with aunty belle with her words of wisdom--that human nature doesn't change, and if your own relationship is out of step, wel....

Lee said...

Oddly, most of my friends are women. But we don't put ourselves in 'dangerous' situations, either. A lot of phone and email contacts, the occasional dinners 'en masse'. What I can say is that going that next step stuffs a beautiful friendship. So to speak.

So, if the friendship is important...

Gary said...

I think it is very easy for me to have a platonic relationship with a woman. I have had one for many many years. But for some men I know it would be almost impossible. I think sometimes it is very hard for some women to know what a man is thinking unless she just comes right out and asks. If the man is honest he'll tell you. If he isn't you shouldn't be spending time with him anyway.

X. Dell said...

(1) Butterflygirl, we men actually think with our egos. Everyone would really be better off if we thought with our penises.

(2) Aunty Belle's position is pretty close to my own. Sometimes I wonder, if Freud was fundametally right in that all relationships have a sexual dynamic. In same-sex heterosexual friendships, I'd suspect that sexual attraction is quite unconscious (or perhaps ardently repressed). In opposite-sex friendships, that aspect of the dynamic is more likely to come out of the unconscious mind, and into the conscious.

In pre-Christian days, it was not unusual for heterosexual men and women to express some attraction to the positive traits of those of the same gender: e.g, the poems of Sappho and Catullus.

More conservative factions of Christianity still regard homosexuality--and by extension, everything that looks like homosexuality, but isn't-- as sinful. Hence, perhaps, a need to supress an otherwise natural tendency.

But mixed-gender friendships? That's a different story. Society doesn't frown on heterosexuality. It does, however, frown upon adultry or other forms of infidelity.

Our Judeo-Christian society bears marked differenes from that of the ancients. But, like the wise lady from Crackerville says, "Human nature ain't changed much."

Sue said...

IMO I don't think so if each of the people involved are married (etc)because of jealousy of the spouse (no matter how secure a relationship may seem there's always room for jealousy)butif each of the party are single, then may be it can work but probably only if both people are upfront about their feelings being just platonic. That's one heck of a long sentence!! lol

BTW. Thanks for your lovely comments and for stopping by.

schaumi said...

In my younger years (20s) I've met men who whom I wouldn't have minded having a friendship. But as soon as they found out I had a steady mate, they lost interest. These guys were on the make....thinking with their penises...
I do have platonic friendships with a few men, mostly these friendships are couple based. We go out or visit each other as couples. My single male platonic friend is equally friends with me and my spouse.
If the occasion arose would I go ought and have a beer with these guys......yes, because it has happened and we know exactly where we stand. Do they think with their penises.....most definitely....they are guys after all... Would I mind if my spouse hung out with the women, my female friends.....nah...
they rib him mercilessly...

But like you, I have had a few subtle and not so subtle propositions before from men, who knew I was married......These guys are not cool......they are major dickwads..

Lady Lux said...

Drats! This is the nth time I'm posting...everything filters away!

ey' thanks for fluttering by!...I soooo know what you mean! ha!ha!...luv yoyr bloggy.


You made me feel "sane"...yah'....thanks for elling me all know...the hormones and stuff. BUt I do mean it girl...know men friends for one to talk to...or to look into the eyes or to "smell" for that matter...NOT that i would want to smell someone...BUT...then again...why wouldn't I want to right???..NO??? isn't???..he!he!he!he!he!..juuuuzzz kidding..nya!a!a!..besides..nobody around here worth sniffing!..

Mr. Althouse...MIke;

Well, what can I say???..Your deep honest commentary there really floored me...such brevity...such passion in the way you said that...

by the way, I'm of two..ummm teenagers...unAVAILABLE...

waiiitaminuuuute' don't happen to smell...(wha???...why you looking at me that way MAyden?..what did I say??...oh' all right..was just kidding!)...


sorry..haven't had breakfast coffee yet and my mind is a fog.


Oh' Aunty Bell...everything you said just poked me right through the heart. What a dear you are. I wish you really were here beside me lecturing me on a thing or two. I apprecialte your visit. Will be by your porch soon as I finish this dishes I need to wash.

I'll always remember what you said about "human nature"...them not changing and all that...I'll remember that O' yes!

Lady Lux said...


You seem to be like a real friend a real friend deserves...can tell that much from your pic. Thanks for the telling us that there are those who know better than to follow a thought.


You rock princess!..yah!


ey' welcome to me' bloggy here..You really think it's possible?...hmmm..I'm beginning to think so too...


yes...the friendship is important. I should always remember that.

You, sir, strike me as a complete gentleman who wouldn't do anything brash to rock a beautiful relationship. Inspiring.


an honest man?....yes...there are some...I have met some...but for the you's not worth spending time with them...

I think though that this thought goes with women friends as well.

Mid Life:

Another point take...yah'...jealousy...comes in different forms and said it so aptly.

Will drop by yur bloggy soon.

Having abeer with men friends...platonic would be cool..considering that everyone knows where everyone stands.

I always have a beer with the girls....wish I could have one right now...sigh!

Hey!..take it easy with all the moving of stuff and that!



right now...I'm sooo sleepy...zzzzzzzzz

Lee said...

Deceptive, aren't I?

Enemy of the Republic said...

I have many male friends and everything is fine. I don't deny that I have met men that attract me; if I am smart, I keep my distance because nothing good comes of it. What I don't like is the idea that I cannot befriend males or visa versa because there always exists the possibility of temptation. I know that isn't the case with me. If I am attracted to a man, then he really can't be a friend to me; it's too loaded. But when we can see each other as two people with common interests, no raging hormones, then friendship with men is as rewarding as with my own gender.

Lillie said...

I have several close male friends, some who have been (in the past) lovers, and some who never will be. Some who enjoy flirting because it makes them feel attractive without having to go further. Some who simply enjoy the company of women.
Isn't it that we make friends by being friends? Aren't you spending too much time thinking about his intentions (and his penis) when he might actually be human with some other qualities? When enjoying your different-ness could be a pleasure instead of a threat?
You've got me thinking here... Interesting post.