Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Just Friends...?

One of the hardest things about dating someone is trying to get an idea of the web of their friendships. While you may meet the best friends if you make it through the preliminary rounds of courtship, and while you may be taken to places, parties, or events where you meet some of the outer circle, the "good for a fun time" friends, you'll never get to meet everyone, or neatly sort out all the knots of confusion into neat, tidy little bundles of friendship strings. What can be hardest yet is qualifying the relationship the guy you're seeing has with his girl friends-- as a woman, you always have to there something else there? What is the best way to ask if there's something more going on between him and his female friend he seems to be very close with? IS there even an easy way to ask anyone this without sounding like a total freak of nature?

Recently, I've been driving myself borderline insane trying to figure out the answer to this question. While I may currently be in a relationship, and monogamous, and everything seems to be going well, that question that shouldn't be asked seems to keep rising its ugly green head and begging to be asked: You've been talking a lot about a certain person recently; is there something I should know about? I'm fragile from the answer to this question being answered incorrectly in the past, and I need more reassurance and feedback on it than the average, well-adjusted woman does because of it. I get that I may just be A Little Crazy about it. But at the heart of the matter lies an even deeper-seated question: Can men and women Just Be Friends?

My friend Robin doesn't think so. Robin and I spent 4 months studying abroad in Italy together, and hence got very close. Robin, coincidentally, has been the guy most despised by every man I've been in a relationship with since. When I got back from Italy, my current flame questioned me up and down about Robin, then snubbed him at a party later on when he showed up to say "hi" to me. Very early on in seeing each other, the guy I'm currently seeing asked for the 4-1-1 on Robin, himself. Poor, misinterpreted Robin is a believer in Ladder Theory, himself-- the theory taken from "When Harry Met Sally" that a man and a woman are incapable of being platonic friends without one desiring something more.

Maybe I should be appeased by the fact that the guy I'm currently seeing thinks that Ladder Theory is complete bullshit, and that he has many perfectly functional friendships with women that are purely platonic...from his side, at least, he admitted, one morning when we went downtown and I asked him about it as we waited for our breakfast sandwiches by the beverage coolers. Or maybe I shouldn't listen to that at all, as not five minutes later, a girl appeared, and they hugged, exchanged pleasantries as all around were introduced, and after she and her friends left, he turned to me, slightly pink, and said, "Well, that was kind of funny. She's had a crush on me for over two years, but I just don't find her attractive at all." Hmmmm. So, CAN a man and a woman just be friends, or is all my round-and-round, hamster-wheel worrying actually energy spent on something worthwhile to ponder?

I try to temper myself by reminding myself that I am an undeniable Guy's Girl-- I always have more platonic male friends than female-- and that at one time, one of my closest guy friends, if not my CLOSEST guy friend, admitted he found me attractive and tried taking me out for dinner before we both decided it was maybe a little too awkward. But nothing EVER happened, or ever even ALMOST happened, and he and my other guy friends would ask me to come over and just hang because, sometimes, guys just like to have a girl friend around. I get this. I know this. I am usually That Girl that my guys call to come over when they feel the need to have a double-X chromosome make up in the room to balance out all the testosterone. The Older Brother/Younger Sister/Best Friends relationship dynamics are now firmly in place. There's no question anymore about the fact that I'm just a chill girl. Nothing makes me happier than to have a beer in hand, sitting on someone's couch, watching a movie and shooting the shit in a sweater and jeans. But am I always perceived as such, especially when I'm dressed in heels and a sweater-dress, or am I always like that? No. And when I found myself dressing (relatively) up and re-applying my make-up one night after I invited my best guy friend out to eat dinner with me, I realized that if I am doing it, maybe I should cut other girls doing it a break, even if the thought of another woman whom I'm still ambiguous about her intentions out at lunch with the guy I'm seeing makes me a little queasy.

I've been benign about this thus far, but I've been relaxed about this in the past and it's come back to bite me in the ass, so I'd just like to be clear about what's going on. Maybe I need to know that I'm not the only one really sticking my pale neck out there, trying this thing on for real.