Last week, I came across this Washington Post article entitled "Boy Friend: Between Those Two Words, A Guy Can Get Crushed" (click to read article). It was almost too painful to read. It's about how devastating male/female platonic relationships can be to a man's psyche. I have always attributed my having made it through my teenage years and young adulthood relatively unscathed to two factors: My close relationships with my parents and having close, platonic relationships with "guy friends".
When I was doing research for my book, I interviewed dozens of successful women from all walks of life to determine what sorts of experiences and behaviors might have influenced their lives for the better. Without fail, each savvy woman I interviewed credited loyal guy friends among those whose influence kept them out of trouble. Not only did their guy friends provide "safe" male companionship (odd concept, I know), but these women felt that getting to know and understand men without the romantic entanglements of a dating relationship helped them in their careers in male-dominated environments and helped them know how to deal more effectively on the homefront with husbands and boyfriends.
So here are my questions...
*Should men and women not form close, platonic friendships with one another?
*Or is this idea of men being too fragile just bunk?
*And if a "crush" is truly behind most male/female friendships, then how's a girl/woman to know the truth if the guy never tells her?
I think that men AND women who have had close opposite-sex friends are stronger than they would have been without them. I wouldn't have wanted to give up my guy friends for all the world, and I doubt that they would trade me back, either. Yet, I also wouldn't want to have hurt my guy friends all of those years when we were just "hanging out".
My best friend of more than 20 years just got engaged last week. It frightens me to think that our little world of love, respect and friendship might be coming to an end. Our friendship has survived college, careers, moves all over the country, and even my marriage (I made it clear to my then-fiance', now husband of 11 years that my best guy friend was part of the package). The day the WTC fell, my guy friend was the first person I called. And when the hurricane struck near his home last week, I was on pins and needles for two days until I got through to him.
Yet, two years ago when I asked him why he thought we had become friends in the first place, I was shocked to hear that he "had wanted it to be more". After 18+ years and NUMEROUS missed opportunities to have crossed that threshold, that was news to me! He had never led me to believe that he wanted anything more than just a good ol' guy to hang around with who just HAPPENED to be a girl.
So, should I be asking forgiveness from all of the guys I have befriended for enjoying the "male bonding time" I had with them? Should I regret having been there as a friend for them when they needed a "girl's opinion", or a "low-maintenance date" to a formal or business event? Or should I, as I have for 30 years, count my blessings every day that I had the loyal companionship of fabulous guy friends who taught this girlie-girl to shimmy down the column and sneak out of the house in 11th grade; never failed to remember to pick up a few Mtn. Dew's for me when they got the keg (I have never liked the look of beer); always made sure that someone in their fraternity invited me to their parties, even when I had a boyfriend at a different house; took me skiing "with the guys", knowing that I would never leave the bunny slopes; and made me dozens of "party tapes" to listen to on my roadtrips back home to see them after I left them for life in DC?
I love my girlfriends, don't get me wrong. But they would agree with me that lives without our guy friends would have been less full, less enlightened and a whole lot less interesting.