“Who is this guy?” she inquired. “I’ve never heard you talk about him before.”
I paused for a moment, silently running through a list of men my friend and former college roommate would recognize. These days, I rarely mention those guys in conversation, and I speak to them even less.
No, you wouldn’t have heard of him, I thought. Boys don’t stay in my life long enough to register on the radar of far-away friends.
I won’t say that’s good or bad – in different instances, it’s probably some of both. But I’ve never retained terribly long-lasting friendships with guys.
Maybe that’s because I grew up surrounded by girls. (My daddy was the only man in our family of five until the sixth member arrived in 1992.) The boys in my middle and high school classes teased me for any reason they could find. My clothes were all wrong (true), my hair was out of control (also true) or my body wasn’t up to their standards for 14-year-old girls. (Why on earth are you commenting on a little girl’s figure?!)
Whatever the cause, my guy friends never stayed around too long. I didn’t mind until my second year of college. I was left bitter by the disappearing act a pair of guys pulled after one of them got a girlfriend (who is now his wife). I expected our friendships to change; we’d probably spent too much time together anyway. I didn’t anticipate their near-complete vanishing. In hindsight, I realize there was more involved than the girlfriend’s arrival. But at the time, I took it very personally.
Part of the problem – in both that and other situations – may have been the ladder theory in effect. (Don’t click that link if you’re easily offended. The social observations are interesting, but they’re shrouded in potentially offensive language and descriptions.) Essentially, that theory is constructed on the When Harry Met Sally idea that men and women can’t be friends. On one or both sides, attraction gets in the way.
I don’t know if I buy into that 100%. I know some guys who I’ve never been interested in, and I’m fairly certain they haven’t thought of me like that either. But I do find friendships with guys difficult to maintain for that reason. I don’t call them (except with rare exceptions) for fear they’ll think I’m after them. I try to squelch my flirtatious impulses (whether or not I’m truly interested in the boy) because I don’t want to be seen as chasing after him. (Pursue me!) I get nervous spending one-on-one time with them, even when we’re just friends.
That was the case this weekend as I went to catch up with a new-ish male friend. If he were a girl, I wouldn’t have given a second thought to calling him up while I was in his town. Because he is a he, I was jittery and prepared for awkwardness as I crept down a traffic-clogged interstate.
As we lunched at a nearby restaurant, I slowly admitted that my nerves were silly. The truths that he’s a guy and we hadn’t hung out in almost two months didn’t call for the self-centered babbling my awkwardness always provokes.
(I write all this knowing full well he’ll probably read it. That’s okay. It’s like a long-distance, slightly more comfortable exercise in being quasi-normal with the men in my life. Or something.)
Just because we’re different doesn’t mean girls have an exclusive run on worthwhile friendships. (I know some ladies would argue just the opposite!) But as I processed through these and other thoughts about friendship this weekend, I realized just how delicately any man who ever hopes to date me will have to approach me.
Ooh, here comes that self-centered babble again. 😉
Seriously – if I’m this hyper-weird with guy friends, how much more so do you think that applies to dating? It takes a lot of time and patience for a guy to get to know me. Alisa once explained it well to someone: “CJ lets you see what she wants you to see.”
That’s nothing to brag about, but it’s true. I think I’ve been making a bit of progress. At the beginning of the summer, I resolved to act myself. By the time I hung out with my friend Rob in his home state of Virginia, I discovered that he didn’t even know how inept (and often bitter) I feel around boys – and he is one! (I took that as evidence of God making some headway in my life.)
This confessional may even be evidence of such progress. I can put up a strong, devil-may-care front, but that confidence is sometimes (often?) masking insecurity.
I love having men in my life. Their perspective is different than mine – sometimes drastically so. Their interactions with me and others remind me that Jesus died for them, too. 🙂 I don’t know how long these particular guys will remain my friends. Whether it’s for months or for years, I can’t let that affect my opinion of their character or my own self-worth. That remains true whether applied to a fellow on my “friends” ladder or someone on my “dating” ladder.
I just need a reminder sometimes, that’s all.