Friday, September 9, 2016

Let's Be Friends. Best Friends.

Mood: Serious Case of Meh.
Listening to: Two Steps Behind - Def Leppard
I was daydreaming about a train trip today. Since Daddy G's family sold off their house, we have no reason to take a train trip. Hyderabad was close enough to not be inconvenient, but still require going overnight. I miss it sorely. Hyderabad is one of my favorite cities ever and I love travelling by overnight train. Something undeniably romantic about packing, making food, sharing it on the train, talking because of no cell reception, and falling asleep to the swaying car thinking about life. One of the few times I indulge in unashamed romanticism. Gah. I am SO turning into my mom.
I'm not going to go into the whole backstory of how or why I got to where I am in life (see Here if you're curious), but living in India has definitely changed many, many of my opinions on friendships, relationships, and social dynamics. Before anyone starts screaming about me being a bigot, or a racist, or anything silly like that, let me assure you that my observations do not come from a point of criticism nor superiority. I am deeply enamored with India. Like with a lover, I see it and accept it with the good, the bad, and the ugly. These are only my observations. They're obviously not meant to be all inclusive of everyone and every situation.
Friendship has been something that has been eating my brain for the last 5 years. More specifically, cross gender friendships. The kind that involve a boy and a girl and no romantic connection. Can men and women actually be platonic friends? Truly close, but non romantic, nonsexual friends.
I can just hear all the husbands and wives screaming a panicked NO NEVER, especially my own husband. My mother as well. I used to find this knee jerk reaction very short sighted, but I've changed my views some as of late. Unfortunately, both my mother and my husband are usually right. Very annoying when people are right most of the time.
I've had guy friends that end up totally and completely frustrated because they just weren't honest at first about what they wanted or saw friendship as a way to get to something else. However, I think this is more about Indian guys than anything else. It's kind of sad because it seems to be mainly a communication problem. Take a look at this article on Indian guys and dating and girls. It hits the nail on the head:
I had many platonic friends when I was younger, living in the United States. In fact, I never had guys trying to be non platonic, so this was all very startling for me when I moved to India. Sexual dynamics here are very, very different from where I'm from. There's a noticeable difference in the term friendship both from a cultural and an age perspective, one that took me aeons to grasp.When a girl is talking to a guy here, especially a younger guy, there's almost 0% chance that friendship actually means friends, even though the guy will swear up, down, and sideways that friends is what he wants.
In a place where connections and "foot in the door" is tantamount, getting someone to agree to being your friend is an important first step, especially when coming straight out and asking for a relationship or sex is taboo. In this vein, friendship isn't actually that. It's an opening for the guy to try for a closer relationship later, or worse, purposefully misinterpreting it as an invitation for a friends with benefits situation.
It's an extremely frustrating situation to be in for both parties. Unfortunately this is sometimes impossible to know ahead of time. Not everyone is clear about what they want, even if you are.
These will be the same guys that insist that they not only want to be, but already are your best friend despite not knowing anything about you. The kind where something is just not right. The kind that take liberty with their hands because friends hug. The kind that have tantrums when you don't agree to move any and all boundaries because you are friends. The kind where you realize that they either have no idea what real friendship is, or don't care.
Then there's this whole epidemic of being "friend-zoned" that guys whine so much about. This concept has done so much to invalidate friendships between guys and girls. It gives the idea that a guy is entitled to any girl wanting him romantically and that girls aren't worth being friends with. The whole assumption that if she's not romantically interested in you that you've wasted your time or behaved well for nothing is just selfish bullshit and shows a stunning lack of communication on the guy's part. This is douchebag territory.
I think this mentality shortchanges both guys are girls. Even if you're not romantically interested in each other, there's a lot men and women can learn from each other, especially if that person is blunt.
Husband insists that guys really have no interest in being friends with girls unless there is some ulterior motive involved and that all the friendships as above aren't really friendships.They're just people you know.  Unfortunately, after having quite a few "friendships" of this type, I'm inclined to agree with him. This is actually the most damaging point to the case for friendship for me. You can't circumvent biology, nor mentality on this count, and men and women are designed to be attracted to each other and form romantic connections.
All this being said, it's obviously not impossible for men and women to be friends, the world would have been a very different place. If two people are clear on what they want and need from a relationship, and they agree, it can be an amazing connection.
If two people are able to be mature and communicate, there's absolutely no reason they can't be friends.
I've had some great guy friends. I absolutely love guys. I love the stark variation in talk and behavior from girls. It's lots of fun. Harmless flirting and leg pulling is also tons of fun. The kind of guys you can just go have a beer and an interesting conversation with. The kind that you get along with their wife or girlfriend too, if they have one.
In spite of the noticeably larger section of this blog, I'm still not convinced that guys and girls can't be platonic friends. What I am convinced of though, is that it will be an uphill and frustrating battle to find people that are on the same page as you.
As a girl, finding a guy friend worth your time and friendship will have you going through lots of childish, backward, straight up lying through their teeth men. You will get frustrated. If you're especially patient, you'll explain yourself many times to him in the hope that he gets it and will grow up and either decide to be your friend or tell you he doesn't want to and leave. You will have many exasperated conversations as to why you don't just love him like he so obviously loves you after he has invariably told you he wants to be friends over and over yet finally one day confesses that he has fallen in love with you. You will end up blocking a lot of people that refuse to understand that you don't want romance also. You'll even feel bad about some of them because you will like him as a person, but he just doesn't care or respect what you want from the situation. You will occasionally be horrified at the backward, entitled thinking that some men have that you can't possibly know your own mind nor what you actually want. All of this is horseshit and not worth your time because he won't change his mind, nor his objective.
An absolute lack of sexual tension on both sides is the only way that this kind of friendship will work. The problem with this theory is that it's next to impossible. Guys tend to have WAY lower standards and a much higher incidence of thinking sexual thoughts. Girls also tend to use friendship to get close if they like a guy, hoping it develops into more. True close friendships also foster intimacy, which can very easily be misread as interest or develop into *gasp* feelings. These situations tend to crash and burn pretty badly when the frustration level of the person interested reaches a level they can't tolerate any more when the other person doesn't reciprocate.
  1. Know what friendship is. Actual friendship consists of people with shared experiences. People that care for each other and wouldn't dream of using a situation to their advantage. Friends do not intentionally push boundaries nor make you feel stupid or guilty for knowing what yours are and sticking to them.
  2. Be confident in your definition of trust. If you can't trust someone, you don't need to be friends. Trust takes time, is earned, and absolutely cannot be forced. If someone insists you trust them or tells you your definition of trust is wrong, they're not interested in what's good for you. Walk away. Friends are willing to wait for trust to develop when the other person is truly comfortable. Do not give trust carelessly. If someone says one thing but does another, or swears it will never happen flags.
  3. Do not compromise on respecting each other. Period.
  4. Be Honest. If one or both of you are firm on only having a friendship, do not expect the other person to be ok with more, even if that's what you want. If you want a romantic relationship, find your balls (guys or girls) and just say so. Don't say that you're ok with being friends and then later act like the hurt party when they act confused as hell when you're upset that they don't want something else.
  5. Do not expect a friendship if an attraction exists on either side. Not impossible, but a huge uphill battle.
  6. Do not accept obligations or shitty behavior just because you are friends. Friendship is not an excuse to monopolize someone nor take advantage of them. Giving a friend your time, help, or anything else is a gift, not an obligation.
  7. Accept that if your friend is in a relationship, you will have to respect that. You will never come first nor have the entirety of their attention. Don't be a homewrecker, just don't be that person. If you catch feelings for the person, be a grownup and tell them and then take a big step back.
  8. If you are absolutely firm on never being more than friends, never, ever move from that an inch. It's not at all fair to be confusing yet expect someone to just know what you mean. Know your limits flirting, do not engage in sexual conversation, do not give the opportunity for thought that you may be interested in more. Do not dress up for that person, invite them to typical date situations (movies, moonlit walks, etc).

What are your thoughts? Do you think it's possible or not? How has culture affected the way that you see friendships with someone of the opposite sex?