Time for lie number four from “It’s a Wonderful Lie: 26 Truths About Life in Your Twenties.” Check out the other installments under The Self-Help Files! And, good news: this is the next-to-last lie in this series! One more chapter to go and then I can move on to the next self-help book. My list of options is growing, so I’m not sure what it will be yet (although I have started reading “Last One Down the Aisle Wins”), but hopefully it’ll be a good one!
The fourth chapter / lie is:
“I’ll have satisfying relationships, great sex, and fabulous friends.”
I’ve gotta admit, when I read the title of this one, I was a little frightened. I fixated on that middle part and thought, “Well, that’ll be nice and awkward on the blog.” But this chapter is about much more than sex, and hence, I will avoid that awkward topic altogether.
Relationships! Friendships! Yay!
OK, so it’s no secret to most in my life that I am chronically single. It’s partially by choice, partially by circumstances beyond my control. But mostly it’s for lack of effort and my choice to live in a fairytale land in my head, I think. So the essays in this chapter about great relationships are more in the realm of “what if” and possibilities for the future rather than a testament to my past. And I’m OK with that right now. Or at least that’s what I tell myself to get to sleep at night.
Just kidding. 🙂
The friendship thing, though…that’s something I’ve got heaps of experience with. And something I have, in the past two years or so, come to appreciate in a whole new way. My life without solid friendships I can count on would not be very worthwhile. I’ve got a handful (maybe, to borrow a phrase from a fast food joint, a “handsful”) of girlfriends I know I can call or text or email when I’m in need and know that they will drop what they’re doing and help me. And I feel pretty privileged to have that in my life. In that group, there are three friends from my pre-college life. Four or so from college. And a couple from my post-college life. And I’m so lucky to have them all.
But one area in which it seems I’ve always been deficient is the male friend department, which is why the essay called “The F Word” hit close to home for me. It’s about Caprice and her journey through the world of friendship with males, and her numerous non-boyfriend boyfriends over the years. “The F Word” in this case being “friend,” and referring to having to put men in the “friend” zone rather than the boyfriend zone. It starts with the quote from When Harry Met Sally about how men and women cannot be friends.
This has always seemed silly to me, but in reflecting on my history of friendships, I’m thinking it might be pretty true. I had male friends growing up. It was pretty natural. I liked being outdoors, I liked sports. I had some neighborhood playmates that were boys. But that was definitely before the big H hit: hormones. Before I saw boys as BOYS, they were just other kids. They were there to play catch with and there to laugh at. Then the hormones kicked in and suddenly, as I was watching my sister date a new guy every week, it was like a switch was flipped: “OMG, they’re BOYS. Are they cute? Do they like me? Will they check yes or no?!”
Begin screwed up friendships with guys. For the rest of my life.
Middle school. Not a single guy friend comes to mind. Well, there were guys I was friendly WITH. But that was solely for the purpose of making them “like” me and asking me to be their girlfriend, which meant we would write notes and hold hands in the hall and maybe…MAYBE go on a date…and then break up after a week. It worked once. For a couple weeks. I think I told him I loved him after one “date.” Clearly. We “broke up” when he “cheated” on me. We’ve seen each other a handful of times since eighth grade and avoid eye contact at all times. Reallllllly healthy activity there.
In high school, I definitely had my fair share of guy friends. Freshman year, I hung out with a large group of guys. Only I wasn’t one of the girls they would actually call or think of inviting anywhere unless one of the other girls invited me. So I was the friend-of-a-friend. And yes, I wanted to date one of the guys. And no, it didn’t happen. And yes, the friendships with that group ended after freshman year.
There were some other guy friends through the four “best years of my life” (hahaha), but they didn’t last long. The ones who did turned out to be gay. And the ones who didn’t…well, yeah, they turned out to be the subjects of my “teenage dream,” to borrow a phrase from Katy Perry.
College came and I was so excited. Thanks to my pre-college week-long community service program, I had a group of 12 new friends built in before classes even began! Yes! And half of them were guys! Even better! (Too bad that half of THOSE were ones I found immeasurably attractive and pictured dating.) Know how long those friendships lasted? A couple months. Max. Then we all found our own friends and forgot about “the best week of our lives.”
Junior year, for me, was The Year of Having Guys As Friends. (Really eloquent name, don’t you think?) It started fall semester when I got pretty close with one of the guys who lived in my apartment building. We hung out all the time, talked about everything. And then I ruined that by telling him I liked him as more than a friend. (See how I do that? I’m a genius.)
Then in Australia spring semester, I had a ton of guy friends. I really, really did. The problem was…I wanted to date all of them at some point. All of them. I even told some of them that. (I think I have a problem.) BUT, once I got past my hormones, I developed real friendships with them. Three years later (HOLY CRAP), I’m still good friends with two of them, and last year they proved the strength of our friendship when my grandmother passed away and they listened to me cry and made me laugh and then took me out to forget about it.
At the age of 23, I’m still doing some of the same things. I’m assessing males who come into my life based on whether they would make good boyfriends. But I think I’m learning how to be friends with them without any of those thoughts (at least most of the time). I want to be able to have friendships with guys. To hang out, talk about life, watch a football game, make jokes without any of the undertones of “Well, is he thinking about me like that? Does he say that to all the girls? Wait, what does that smile mean?” And I think I’m getting better at it.
I may be shooting myself in the foot by putting this out there, but I find it so interesting the way I’ve gone about my “friendships” with men, even before they were actually “men.” And that other women have this same problem.
In a world where we’re conditioned to think about the “happily ever after,” where we’re often frowned upon for *GASP* being single at 23, where we’re asked at holidays “Soooo, are you seeing anyone?” and where taking your guy friend to a wedding leads to questions from long-lost family members about the status of your “relationship” (via Facebook, no less), it’s no wonder we’re evaluating our guy pals in this way. After all, doesn’t your best guy friend fall in love with you before the credits roll? Thank you to every chick flick ever made for that lovely piece of disillusionment.
When did the lines get so blurry? And when do they clear up? Maybe they don’t. But I’m going to work on trying to develop or maintain those friendships independent of those thoughts of “love.” I am going to embrace “The F Word.”
Then again, maybe my brain is already pre-programmed to do that and it’s beyond my control. I guess we’ll find out.