One of the greatest T.V. images of my childhood is Sam climbing up the ladder to Clarissa’s window to just hang out. They were best friends, and to my memory, that was it. I wonder if the two of them knew that they were gliding on the last frontier of when in our lives it is appropriate for girls and guys to just be friends. As I stand in my mid-twenties, I wonder, where have all the guy friends gone?
This isn’t going to be an article on the friendzone vs. the f%&*zone. I don’t want to focus on all those relationships that were actually based on one person pining after another in secrecy, disguising their lust as platonic interest.
What I want to know is why after college, or maybe after 30, but no probably after college, it is suddenly socially unacceptable for dudes and chicks to be friends?
Of course there are some exceptions to the rule. It is 100% fine for straight women and gay men to be pals who watch GIRLS together and complain about the way the stereotype of straight women and gay men is portrayed on the show while eating something delicious like chocolate covered popcorn. It also seems appropriate, although less talked about because our media is one-sided, for gay women and straight men to be pals. But for a dude who likes girls and a girl who likes guys to be friends: no bueno. And if you are going to do it, you will be considered “free-spirited”, an “artist/hippy” or some other idiotic term for an enlightened human who finds the confines of society to be lame as hell.
This makes me sad. Yes, very sad. It makes me sad that I can imagine myself at 50 driving up to my female college roommates’ homes for a “girls weekend” to talk about our kids, our jobs, our mother-in-laws, our accomplishments, our sorrows, but I can’t imagine sharing any of that with the dudes who I called my best friends in my early twenties. The young men who helped to shape me into the individual I am today, who sincerely encouraged my writing abilities, who listened to me cry about heartaches, who drove with me to early morning breakfasts on Sunday mornings to recall the events of the night before, who carried me into my room when I accidentally ate more than one pot brownie on Halloween because I thought they were just, you know, regular brownies, who taught me that my Dad wasn’t the only good guy out there. These young men, who had just as much of an influence on me as my female friends, and in some cases more, are becoming a faded memory, harder to hold onto, drifting into marriage proposals and careers that don’t have room for these kind of friendships.
Does this phenomenon have to do with female jealousy? Are we ladies so fierce in holding onto our dudes that we find it absolutely fine for them to hang with the guys, but completely unacceptable to spend too much time with their best female friend from college? Are we threatened by this intimacy? Does it bother us when our grandmothers’ ask “who’s that girl he’s hanging out with” because this kind of relationship to them is completely unheard of, especially coming from a generation when people got married right out of high school? Do we remember women calling the house for our fathers , always asking to speak with our mothers first as a social formality? Are we open to having these treasured women be a part of the wedding party, perhaps even standing on our man’s side of the altar, instead of regulating these close female pals of the groom to just another “guest” –sitting at a random table with a bunch of distant cousins while she watches her best friend get married? And yea, do movies like My Best Friend’s Wedding, 13 going on 30, and When Harry Met Sally, influence us in believing that their ain’t no way a guy and a girl can just be friends? P.S. These are some of the best movies ever made, so it’s no wonder they are SO CONVINCING!
And what about the dudes? Are they afraid if they remain friends with us they begin to take on a surrogate boyfriend role that could be damaging to our well being? Is this why some of them, taken or not, begin to act MADDDD SHADY when they turn 25, 26, 27— it’s hard to say for sure.
There certainly is a plethora of ancient and contemporary writing on this topic. I know there are several films, books, and television shows that try and explain the ins and outs of such relationships, but nonetheless, it doesn’t take away any of the sincere pain that is felt in having to distance yourself from friends because society says it is time.
Friendship, the idea of being platonically connected to another soul, is a strong force, but one, I suppose, that cannot contend with the rules of sex. As I step out of my twenties in the next few years, I can only hope that those male friends I had in college, in high school, in middle school, know how important they were to me; those dudes– who with me, tricked the bus driver into stopping for lemonade, danced in church steeples, drove at lightning speed to get ice cream before the joint closed up for the night– know the impact they have had on my life. And maybe, someday, when I am in adult daycare as an elderly person, and many spouses and family members have passed away in love, I’ll be able to rekindle some of these forbidden friendships without too much scrutiny from others. We might not be able to climb up ladders into one another’s room at that point, but at least we can hang at the arts and crafts table. Can’t wait!