Men and women have different friendship needs. This is not new information. The way psychologists explain it, men engage in side-to-side relationships—watching sports, playing video games—while women crave the face-to-face kind. According to these rules, my search—the hunt for a nearby BFF with whom I can share the minute details of my day-to-day and call every five minutes because I remembered just one more thing, but also someone I can cry to over french fries when I’m having a bad day and don’t even know why—is very female-centric. If I take the psychologists’ word for it, and I do, approaching friend-making as I might dating—Is this outfit ok? Should I call the next day? Did I drink one glass of Pinot too many and share embarrassing details of my crush on Jeff Probst?—is super girly.
A few nights ago I was having trouble sleeping (insomnia is a recent development I’m none too thrilled about), so I turned on an old Seinfeld episode. It was the one where Jerry meets Keith Hernandez (lets go Mets!). I’m lying down, half-asleep, when I hear this exchange:
Jerry: It’s been three days and he hasn’t called.
Elaine: Maybe you should call him
Jerry: I can’t…I cant.
Elaine: Why not?
Jerry: I don’t know. I just feel he should call me.
Elaine: What’s the difference?
Jerry: You don’t understand, Elaine. I don’t want to be overanxious. If he wants to see me, he has my number. He should call.
I pop out of bed. This is me! The scene continues with the typical Seinfeldian banter, until Elaine finally tells Jerry that “he’s a GUY!” This making-friends-as-dating shtick continues throughout the episode—Jerry worries if his shirt looks ok and delivers a spot-on monologue about making friends in your 30s—and suddenly it occurs to me that maybe what I’m doing isn’t as girly as I thought.
A more recent pop culture example of man-dating is I Love You, Man. Paul Rudd’s character, who’s never had a male BFF, is getting married and goes on the hunt for a best man. He eventually makes a great choice, as I would befriend anyone played by Jason Segel, aka Marshall Erikson.
So here’s the question: Is the need for a BFF, and the difficulty of finding The One, actually gender-neutral? Or do TV and movies spotlight bromances because the fact that they’re womanly makes them funnier? I’d venture to guess that more men have found themselves in my shoes than would like to admit. The relationships may be side-to-side, but that still takes two. Larry David wrote that Seinfeld episode, after all, and I’d bet he has plenty of trouble.