Guy Friends: Now and Then
When you’re young, I mean really young, as in you are encouraged to take nap time during class, making guy friends is simple. You say hi and ask to borrow a crayon. That’s it. However this, as we all know, doesn’t last very long because soon enough, the cootie outbreak hits, making it impossible to talk to let alone share a crayon with a boy. Afterwards boys eventually get rid of their cooties, yet nothing is ever the same, mainly because you start liking them.
From a very young age, I realized there are several categories of boys, those I like as friends, those who I like-like, and those who like me. To be fair, the third one was hypothetical. No boy had a crush on me in grade school. They all liked Megan. She had blond hair. I wanted blond hair. Consequently, whether I liked it or not, every boy in my class was my friend, even my soul mate, Anthony.
Then in sixth grade I moved across the country to California, where I met Ben, one of the only other Asian kids in my class. Every day at recess Ben and I would play basketball. It didn’t take long for rumors to start. Ben likes you! Do you like Ben? I didn’t; I was obsessed with Daniel, Ben’s best friend. It was my first ever love triangle. Okay, it was more like the constellation Orion’s Belt, three connected dots, because Daniel didn’t like me. He had a crush on Summer, another blond. Yet, knowing Ben like-liked me changed things. He was the first guy who ever wanted to be more than just my friend. For the first time in my life I realized the categories could merge and change.
By the time I was 14, I had discovered the secret to making guy friends, growing a pair of breasts. While I certainly welcomed the attention, it did complicate matters. Suddenly, every guy was not only a “friend,” but also a potential love connection. Consequently, I came to understand the word guy friend, as someone I may or may not want to date in the future. Even though I knew which were which, my boyfriends did not. There’s a reason why jealousy becomes such a huge factor in young relationships, mainly, the gross misusage of the word friend. Because some friends really are just friends and others are question marks, guys who under the right circumstances could be the one, but for now can only be a friend.
“You got what I need, but you say he’s just a friend” -Biz Markie
I met my question mark when I was a junior in college. For years, I’d swear he was just a friend. It’s what I wanted to believe and so it’s what I told everyone, including my boyfriend. For some reason, no matter how many problems he created in my relationship I just couldn’t walk away. There was something there, something worth holding onto.
Rather than risk making my boyfriend jealous, I’d meet up with my friend in secret assuring myself, coffee isn’t cheating. Physically speaking it isn’t; however as I would soon find out, emotional cheating is. It didn’t take long for my boyfriend to discover what was going on, at which point the relationship was over. Though to be fair, it had been over for months.
Afterwards, I didn’t dare contact my so-called friend. It would only lead to one thing, dating. I think I wanted to prove a point to myself. He was just a friend; you know the kind you avoid because you want to rip his clothes off. Nor was he shy about his feelings now that I was single. There’s something sexy about a man who knows what he wants. “I’m never going to be your friend, Ali. I’m always going to want more.” Of course I caved!
What I didn’t know then, is that dating a “friend” is both the best and worst decision one can ever make. You share so many likes, dislikes, and friends. By the time you get together, you’re most likely already in love, with someone who could very well be “the one”. Dating the guy of your dreams is what makes you stop placing guy friends in the reserve pile. And for the first time in a long time, you can say he’s just a friend and mean it. That is until one of you changes, life takes you in different directions, or some other unexpected event, happens. When it happened to me, I was devastated. I hadn’t only lost a boyfriend; I had lost a best friend.
The same wasn’t true for him. He never wanted to be my friend, before or even during the relationship. So why did I expect to become one after the fact? He always wanted more and in a way I did too. He was my confidant and all I ever wanted was to be his. However, you can’t make yourself anyone’s anything.
I once read, “if two lovers can remain friends, either they never were in love or they still are.” In retrospect, we never were friends. Our friendship was always a one-way street. To this day, I can say we are not. We are two ex-lovers who care deeply about one another.
Heartbroken and lost, during my early twenties I discovered a new type of guy friend, the surrogate boyfriend. Like many guys before him, there was a connection, but for some reason or other, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to cross that line. Nevertheless, in the absence of a significant other, we’d do everything an average couple would. We’d dress up for Halloween; go to the movies, brunch, or make dinner. We’d even double date with our friends, which was a little weird… for our friends. Because no matter what everyone else said, we knew what we were. Just friends. Neither of us was ready for a relationship, and even if we were, did we really want to gamble losing a good friend? Why risk a 2-year relationship on a lifetime of friendship? Past failed relationships had taught us that a great friend doesn’t necessarily always translate into a great partner or vice a versa. And sometimes you don’t need to go down a path to know where it leads.
Still, I’d get jealous any time he’d meet someone. It was petty, but I knew his happiness would mean the end of our non-relationship. Who would I go on double dates with then? His girlfriend certainly wouldn’t want me tagging along. Any girl would be lucky to have him; I knew it was only a matter of time before he’d meet someone. When he did, our friendship changed. We saw each other less, which was fine, because I managed to meet someone else, a new surrogate boyfriend. Still, I’ll always remember him as my first.
Now an adult in a long-term committed relationship, I’ve found that making guy friends, platonic ones, is near impossible. Asking someone out for coffee isn’t so simple. There are rules. Rules like, you can’t have coffee or hang out alone with a guy who’s in a relationship even if both of you are in a relationship. These rules aren’t necessarily written anywhere. Rather they’re engrained in us after watching movies like When Harry Met Sally, the Bible of male-female relationships. They’re engrained in us every time we had to argue with our significant other over the nature of our friendship with Mr. X. Although we know this time is different, somehow we can’t manage to escape the mistrust from previous relationships. Consequently, most of the guys I socialize with are the significant others of mutual friends.
They’re nice, but they aren’t my friends. They’re OUR friends. That’s right; I’ve become a WE in a group of friends that consists of mostly married couples. Sure sometimes just the girls or guys will meet up, but individually, I am not friends with any of the guys. Just as well, I have enough guy friends, guys who I’ve walked the line with or have previously dated. While my partner suspects many of these guys were once more than friends, he doesn’t ask. He knows they are my past and he my present and future.
It’s a bit more complicated than that, but age has made me feel more at ease with living with gray area. In it lies all of my failed relationships, true friendships, and growth as an individual. I’m not sure how these relationships will continue to change over time but I imagine when I’m 80, making friends with the opposite sex will finally come full circle. Things which were once grey, will become simple once more. All I’ll have to do is say hello.
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