Women’s magazines have investigated the minds of men to death, hoping to discover what we think, what we tell the other fellas about them… but generally, as a society, we don’t assume that men care all that much about what women are thinking. Of course, it was 25 years ago that Prince — the master of seduction — penned “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” one of the sexiest slow jams ever written about what it would be like to get inside a woman’s head (assuming, of course, that such knowledge would provide entry to other, more intimate spaces).
If I was your girlfriend / would you remember / to tell me all the things you forgot / when I was your man?
The slippery slope of friendship as portrayed in films
The thing is, we — the attentive males of the species, I mean — have infiltrated the house of love before. Maybe not to the point of usurping the place held by the stereotypical gay best friend (as seen in movies like My Best Friend’s Wedding or The Object of My Affection), who can talk about — and even touch — women’s body parts without any shame or relationship repercussions. Movies tend to see the male-female dynamic as a disastrously slippery slope, and it’s always seemingly on the verge of plunging into a sexual abyss. It seems odd to call this a romantic notion, but that is, in effect, how the situation is inevitably portrayed. We just can’t seem to keep our eager hands and tender body parts off-limits.
But why are we never concerned about our same-sex friendships? Maybe it has something to do with how we define friendship.
If I was your best friend / would you let me / take care of you / and do all the things that only a best friend can
In reality, befriending females feels natural to many men
In my thirties, I moved to Cincinnati, a city notorious for its insularity. Lifelong Cincinnati residents introduce themselves to one another based on the region where they were raised (Eastside or Westside) or where they went to school, and tend to judge others according to their local affiliations. It’s a tough nut to crack for an outsider.
Yet within no time, I found myself in the company of a pair of attractive women who were my peers in terms of age… and both were in declining marriages. We three met regularly at a local coffee shop, trained for road races and hung out socially together, always without their husbands. They shared their stories with me and brought me into their families. I helped them move out of their marital homes, set up new ones, and became the “cool” uncle to their kids.
They were among the first to hear about the Match.com date that would eventually become my wife, and when we talk, the three of us really share what’s on our minds and in our hearts. They are among the people I consider to be my friends.
Why are these platonic connections still taboo on TV?
Television culture fails to grasp that platonic level of connection. Male-female friendships as seen on today’s TV sitcoms trend towards shows like My Boys or The New Girl, where hip girls pal around with their male buddies, acting just like one of the guys. We are years past the time when Friends ruled the ratings, with its gaggle of guys and girls running around the big-city playground together. That’s always been the problem for me. We are presented with groups of young men and women whose adult bodies are caught in a state of arrested development and left confused as to why they can’t be friends. Where are our mature role models? Somehow, we’ve never been able to approximate the dynamic of sisterhood found in shows like Sex and the City (which I’m not sure should be the standard for adult interaction, anyway), and even Lena Dunham’s new HBO series, Girls, seems content to traffic in more of the struggles of young ladies on the verge.
If I was your one and only friend / would you run to me / if somebody hurt you / even if that somebody was me
Partners are friends, too… or ought to be
Some of my more intimate friendships with women have come as a result of breakups. You see, I am close with many of my exes. A degree of intimacy already exists in those broken and re-forged bonds between us; it’s the kind of connection where there’s a certain safety and comfort in knowing that we can go to that other person and seek out honest advice. I can talk to them like I would a male friend. The best example of this, though, is my wife…which is just as it should be.
Would you let me wash your hair / or could I make you breakfast sometime / or could we just hang out / go to a movie and cry together
That Prince, the eternal lover, he sure knew the recipe for a best (girl) friend.
“The Truth About Platonic Friendships” was initially published on the Match.com site Happen Magazine