Every once in awhile my female friends will tell me about guys who they thought were just friends, only to find out the entire time they’d been waiting and plotting to make a move at the right moment. But of course there's no “right moment” because they were considered friends, not potential romantic interests. Once faced with rejection one of two things seems to happen. 1. the guy drops out of their lives completely or 2. the guy falls back for a time, only to try his luck again in a repeated cycle of pushing boundaries.
Intimacy is not a reward for friendship. I think back to myself in high school and how I had an unforgiving crush on this girl who didn't feel the same way. Instead of asking myself what made it so difficult for me to just be her friend, I kept asking myself why she didn’t want to have sex with me. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. That’s the thing though, intimacy, attraction, it’s not an equation. It’s not something that’s going to make sense to either party involved 100% of the time and it’s not always going to work out in your favor. No explanations necessary.
While I now know better, I’ve been thinking about the comparatively small amount of friends I have of the opposite sex. After some introspection I realized how rarely I meet a new woman and don’t immediately frame the interaction through attraction or a sexual context. It's almost unconscious. In fact, unless I’m put in a space where interaction will naturally happen, I don’t really even make an effort to talk to women I’m not attracted to. I don’t even actively seek out friendships with women, they just happen through familiarity or their effort.
This is odd considering the women in my life have made me a better man in ways most of my best guy friends couldn’t even grasp. They’ve opened my eyes to emotional difficulties and flawed ways of thinking that never would’ve been comfortably raised with my bros, even after years of closeness. In a previous article I wrote about the quality of support among women and how it’s on a completely different level. Between men, basic human qualities including compassion, caring, vulnerability, and sometimes love are directly and indirectly labeled feminine, unmanly, to be kept at arms length.
Masculinity is synonymous with strength and femininity with weakness, though that couldn’t be further from the truth given this paranoia is pretty weak but that's for another time. In a similar vein we’re hit with a ruthless sexualization of women which ensures that they are first viewed, even with no indications of interest, as potential sexual conquests rather than potential friends. This manifests within a sexist and homophobic culture in which we are all immersed from pretty much day one. Friendships are hardly ever intended, often born out of failed use as a stepping stone toward intimacy.
There’s much more to this but the point is that because the aforementioned qualities are largely rejected within masculinity, they’re not of much value within male friendships. On the other hand women seem to embrace these same qualities, resulting in much closer and more meaningful friendships rooted in openness and support. The definitions and expectations of friendship are just...different, worlds apart. The only context in which these qualities are presented as wholly acceptable for men to display are with mom or with a significant other. A woman who “brings the guard down” so to speak, but the guard is really just fear of being judged as feminine.
I really don’t think guys know the first thing about being friends with women, and I mean good friends. One on one friends. Outside of a group friends. It’s a shame honestly because other than the emotional expectations, the friendships are the same; you do things together, you talk about the opposite sex together, you crack jokes and support each other’s goals and accomplishments. It’s unfortunate that so many men can't look past the emotional investment, only associating that level of support with intimacy or femininity.
Of course things can be learned and I’m grateful to have both male and female friends who’ve created an environment where emotional openness is encouraged and acceptable, but the line is still distinct. If you do the right thing and learn to start viewing women as valuable additions to your life in any capacity rather than potential ass and start making friends intentionally rather than accidentally, we’d all be a little better for it. Emotional openness and health is the wave for 2018 and it's not a woman's job, friend or otherwise, to get us there.
There are a few documentaries on masculinity that I think everyone should watch; Tough Guise 1 & 2 and The Mask You Live In. If you’re unfamiliar with a lot of the concepts in this article, check those out and get with the times.