Saturday, April 09, 2005

Let's Be Friends

(or Always A Bridesmaid...)

I love having friends who are women. Aside from just being a heck of a lot more fun to look at that my guy friends, there's a more explicit shared intimacy and openness that comes from an absence of automatic competition that same sex friendships have. And there's the inevitable remarkably different perspective that a girl has upon the same set of facts or observations that provide a different way of looking at a situation from any that a guy could come up with.

But this different perspective is a double-edged sword, which can spring back and slice you to the bone just when you're not looking.

What guy hasn't heard those dread words, "Let's be friends."
(This usually follows some variation of "You're a great guy, but...", or "You're such a sweet man...", or the most horrid of all, "I do like you, but not in that way...").

In my experience, there's quite a wide range of subtlety in phrasing here. At the upper end of the "friendship plateau" you hear "You're one of my best friends" (or the more qualified "best guy friends"). From here, you're only headed downward, with "You're a good friend", "I'd like to stay just friends", "Let's just be friends", "You can hang out with me and my friends (as long as you keep buying the drinks)", down to "I don't find you completely repulsive, and can tolerate your presence for brief periods of time. Just don't touch me or stand too close, okay?"

At the upper end, the woman really means what she says - she likes you and wants to maintain a friendship. And that's great - these friendships are wonderful, within the constraints of that relationship.

But what is left unsaid, and is as glaring as the big pile of crap dropped from the elephant in the room, is the dread "I just don't find you sexually attractive."

Why is this so awful? I think it's because people are hard wired to crave some sexual connection, whether or not they intend to follow through to the messy (but oh so fun) conclusion of that connection. Continuing with my evolutionary biology theme (my obsession of the week - ain't OCD grand?), it appears clear why this should be so.

Those who are found sexually attractive manage to breed the next generation of squaling infants, who in turn grow and perform their own dance of natural selection. Those who are *not* found sexually attractive tend not to procreate, so this characteristic tends to die out in a population pretty rapidly.

Is stands to reason than as the majority of the population is at some distribution of sexual attraction, competition for the mate begins, and you end up with millions more years of refinement and variation on this theme, resulting some day in a society where everyone is either having sex, thinking about sex, or writing about sex. (Guess which one of these tendencies doesn't carry on to later generations very well?)

And that is the crux of it. Everyone wants to be found attractive, because said desire is a deeply bred, necessary genetic characteristic of being born in the first place. And when a woman says "let's be friends", she is really saying "Look pal, I only have so many eggs here, and I'm not wasting any of them on you, okay?"

Which still hurts, no matter how commonplace it gets.

Most of my life, I've been that "great guy, such a good friend". And I do enjoy my female friends, and I'm glad I have them.

But every now and then, it would be nice to hear "I want you. I must have you. Now."
I can't help it - I'm just drawn that way.

(I'll hold off till another post to explain why I think guys need this kind of positive reinforcement from someone other than their current wife/girlfriend/significant other - the inevitable resulting debate over whether humans are naturally monogamous would have to emerge, and it would take another thousand words just to wade through why men and women see this so differently...)

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