Why can’t we (just) be friends?

February 1, 2017 Blogs, Featured Slider, Grace Babb / Senior Writer Print Print
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After spending nineteen years in the world, I’ve found my place in various social circles, made plenty of acquaintances and called many people my friends.

When I think of those who make up my friend group, I think of the word “diverse.”

We’re all from different backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, and walks of life. But though we are all different, we share one major similarity. We’re all girls.

The male friends I’ve made have slowly trickled down the drain of forgotten friendships and texts left on “read.”

The only ones that have stuck are twenty years older, in a committed relationship, or gay.

Why is that? Why is it that, as a single woman, I can’t seem to interact with males my age without them wanting more?

It leaves me feeling devalued as a person; like I’m not worth knowing non-romantically.

When I ask “Why can’t we be friends?” the answer I always seem to get is: “Because I want more.”

More of what? More of my body? More of my time? More of my attention? What more can I not give without being obligated physical commitment?

When I love someone, I love them hard. I open myself to loving friendships as freely as I can. If there is mutual respect, admiration, and joy that comes from the friendship, I do what I can to ensure it is lasting.

Romantic love is much deeper and complex. Romantic relationships always seem to be clouded by the concern of who is going to get tired of the other first.

The lingering question: “When will we hurt each other?”

One of my favorite quotes on the worth of friendship in contrast to romance is from Hanya Yanagihara’s contemporary novel, A Little Life:

“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified,” Yanagihara wrote.

I can boast one close male friend at this time in my life. His friendship to me has had more positive effect on my life than all of my past romantic relationships combined. It has been a relationship full of joy and laughter, of mutual support. No fights or jealousy here. I long for more of this, for a balance of the masculine and feminine when it comes to those I call my friends.

Now, not every male friend I have made has wanted to sweep me up off my feet, put me on a horse, and ride off with him in the sunset. Not every casual pal I’ve had has asked for my hand in marriage.

Sometimes it’s a girlfriend who is anxious about my involvement with her beau, at other times it’s a simple lack in purpose for the direction of the relationship. Sometimes the effort comes to a mutual halt.

Too often I have lost a male friend when another girl came along to listen to his thoughts, leaving me wondering if my friendship even mattered at all. Was I just a good listener for his venting? Was my feedback all he sought? In those relationships, I became a free-of-charge therapist. A stand in girlfriend. A stand in mother. Just “friends”?

Not quite.

I would like to believe that people remain friends because they see the worth in one another. Sure, the flaws are all there too, but the worth remains. The “friend zone” is an entirely different narrative. A narrative based on putting time in with another just so you can get something out, a narrative filled with favors.

The “friend zone” is a popularized term used to describe the phenomena of a desirable girl rejecting a “nice” guy. Or as Ryan Reynolds in Just Friends puts it:

“The ‘friend zone’ is like the penalty box of dating, only you can never get out. Once a girl decides you’re her ‘friend,’ it’s game over. You’ve become a complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.”

Yeah, no. I don’t like that narrative. I won’t accept it. A girl doesn’t just decide that you’re a friend, immediately cutting off all ability for you to someday be seen as any sort of sexual entity. The ability was never there.

You were never going to be seen that way. Friendships aren’t decided, they grow. They develop. Relationships occasionally blossom, but not if both involved aren’t on the same page.

We know that’s true from observing how women who are “hopelessly in love” are portrayed in pop culture. The relationship hasn’t progressed, doesn’t progress, and won’t progress. It’s hopeless. Girls who like guys that don’t like them back are considered desperate. And usually, they’re portrayed as unattractive.

As user fozmeadows on Tumblr said, “If a girl has been told no, then she has only herself to blame for anything that happens next – but if a woman says no, then she must not really mean it.”

Nice guys have got it all. The pretty girl just doesn’t know it yet. She’s too busy being interested in the guys she actually likes. Such a b*tch, being all attracted to whomever she pleases!

Being a nice guy doesn’t make you an automatic romantic candidate. Neither does being an asshole, yet the same “nice” guys, so jaded from rejection, resort to abusive tactics like “negging,” which is defined as “a rhetorical strategy whereby a person makes a deliberate backhanded compliment or otherwise insulting remark to another person in order to undermine their confidence in a way that gains approval.”

Guys:

Don’t be that guy.

Be a nice guy, but not that nice guy.

Appreciate your friends, male or female, for their worth. Appreciate your female friends for who they are, not for all that they do for you. Appreciate the ability to see other perspectives, to experience the feminine.

If a girl doesn’t accept your romantic advances, respect that. If it hurts too bad to remain her friend, stay away. If you still admire her coolness sans reciprocated attraction, stick around and be a good friend. But if you can’t respect her decision, then you can’t really respect her…and no good friendship thrives without respect.

We owe you nothing.

Girls:

If your guy friend wants to be with you in more ways than your straight friend Sara does, he may not be your friend.

As peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh said, “A true friend will always listen to you patiently, assist you readily, stand with you boldly, advise you wisely, heal your wounds tenderly, and help you transform your pain effectively.”
You owe him nothing.

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