Just One of the Guys

I spent the weekend with friends. The old kind, friends I’ve known since college with whom I can sit around in my sweats debating whether Barack has cheated on Michelle (God, I hope not) and why I can’t get on board with Idol, and in the same breath discuss career plans and hopes for the future. Here’s the one thing: These friends are men.

Matt (the husband) and I went to college together and I spent a healthy chunk of my senior year in his apartment, so his buddies are mine, too. Three of those friends hailed to the Windy City this weekend for their fantasy baseball draft. (There is a truly amazing force at work with fantasy sports leagues, one that propels grown men to buy plane tickets from Los Angeles or New York City or Scranton to sit in a hotel room and draft an imaginary team while overdosing on chicken wings. That can’t have been fantasy’s intended purpose, but the leagues are like a built-in bonding mechanism for men. I’m clearly jealous.) One friend stayed with us for the weekend, the other two I saw over dinner and drinks. It was easy in that familiar I-don’t-have-to-be-on-right-now-to-see-if-we-are-a-perfect-match kind of way.

When I first told people I was going to take my BFF quest from “one will show up eventually” to “I’m going to go out and find one now,” somebody asked me if I’d thought about men.

“Oh, gay men? For sure. I definitely want a gay best friend.”

“Not necessarily,” she said. “Gay or straight, just, have you thought about befriending men.”

I told her that it seemed odd to try to befriend a straight guy. I’ve been informed by plenty—and memorized enough Will & Grace to know—that the gay best friend is perhaps the best companion. But trying to turn a heterosexual man into my new BFF seemed like a dicey endeavor. If a straight guy were to be my best friend, shouldn’t it be Matt? He’s not the jealous type (to the point where I’ve heard myself say ‘aren’t you just a little jealous?’), but if he were out of town and I spent a Friday night drinking wine and catching up on Survivor with another testosterone-filled body, wouldn’t that be weird?

It wouldn’t be an issue if it were one of these long-standing college friends. I’ve spent countless nights with them, relishing in my acceptance as just one of the guys. In fact, on Saturday night I was the only female at dinner with eleven men, a fact not lost on the waitress who let out an aren’t-you-brave chuckle when I arrived. But could I make a new BFF, tomorrow, who was a straight guy? Wouldn’t that be opening myself up to some sort of drama or confusion down the road? Or do I sound like a nervous middle school girl?

It brings us back to the question that’s as old as time, or at least as old as When Harry Met Sally. Can men and women be friends? Can two heterosexual adults, otherwise engaged or not, have a meaningful, platonic BFFship? I’m on the fence. You?


Filed under The Gender Gap

18 responses to “Just One of the Guys

  1. Sue

    I used to have male best friend. Until he got a serious girlfriend (now wife) She did not like the idea of another girl knowing all about her boyfriend and she ended up shutting me out and ultimately made him choose between me and her …..it wasn’t nice. After the dust settled, my boyfriend (now husband) finally told me he had not liked the relationship either, except he never said anything at the time.

    We are all now married with kids and if we run into each other we are polite, but that’s that.

  2. My husband would say no…straight men cannot be platonic friends with a woman…I used to not believe him. I’ve had a male friend since my freshman year in high school. We’ve been friends for 25ish years. This past Thanksgiving I was visiting my family and dropped by his house to visit for a while. He had been drinking a little, and in front of a group of mutual friends including his wife, he said that eventually his wife would figure out that he had been in love with me all these years and divorce him. It got very quiet.

  3. -alison

    I love this post and I love the replies.

  4. my best friend is a straight guy. we’ll call him H. he’s someone i briefly dated in college but stayed friends with. over the last 10 years years there have certainly been “can we really just be friends” moments but ultimately we know we’re always there for each other. what does my husband think? well he certainly appreciates that this guy lives out of state 🙂 he’s okay with my talking to him but at the same time sometimes i worry that he’s not…though he’s never said anything… but honestly at this moment few of my girlfriends live in chicago anymore and the ones that do have very different lives. meanwhile i just had my first baby, feel more isolated than ever, but H is there for me. even when i’m complaining about cracked nipples and other things that he’ll never deal with as a boy he humors me and vice versa. somehow it just works. but honestly if we lived in the same state and actually *gasp* saw each other? i’m not sure hubby would be so understanding…

  5. I found your blog through a comment at my friend Katie’s site, and I love your writing and your BFF experiment! Very cool.

    I used to be avidly in the camp of “men and women can absolutely be platonic friends.” I still believe this to an extent (if you live in separate cities/states, for example, or are more text-and-email buds than “let’s hang out three times a week” friends), but I’ve also learned the hard way that even if YOU aren’t reading more into the friendship, it’s likely the other person is. And that’s awkward. I’ve never met anyone who successfully balanced a truly meaningful friendship with the opposite sex, complication-free.

    And I’ll admit: this fact totally depresses me.

  6. I haven’t been by for a bit…just read a few of your posts. They are so right-on. I can’t wait to go check out the other blogger who was writing about you. And, I loved your “up in the air” story. As for this post, I found that my very few guy friends I had, dropped off when I met my hubby. One is still a good friend. We are friends with him and his wife. They live in Chicago now….we have to been to visit them several times. Each time, I come back wondering when they are moving back. We have so much fun with them. There is no weirdness at all. Maybe because the 4 of us are friends.
    – Cougs @ http://www.cougar-tales.blogspot.com

  7. I am torn about the M/F best friend thing. I think 90% of the time one or both of them is consciously or not in love with the other. But there is that rare 10% of cases where it is a true platonic friendship. I wouldn’t call him my one and only BFF, but I have a very, very, very good male friend who I met in graduate school after I was married and he was still single. We were two very similar people in a sea of weirdos and we clicked.

  8. Jennifer H.

    I have had male BFF’s before and though I had a crush on them at some point, after being friends for awhile I realized that we weren’t dating because I couldn’t see them as anything more then a friend. Their idiosyncrasies would drive me to the nut house if we were more. My wedding consisted of two of those men as my Bridesmaids. One I am not friends with (for other reasons) the other we are still good friends. He and my husband get along great and we joke about the crush I had on him. (it was in HS and EVERYONE knew about it, I was not subtle about it back then!) It can be done with the right combo, but you have to see as the friendship develops how it is going to be.

  9. Katie G

    At this point in my life I don’t think it’s possible to have a platonic relationship with a straight male best friend. In my experience there’s always been some kind of tension, even if we tried our best to ignore it. I have a boyfriend and even that didn’t make the thoughts go away. The male who was my best friend for 3 years speaks to me rarely and vice versa. We’ve met up in the past, but there’s always a nagging feeling that’s making it difficult to be true best friends.

  10. Janet

    i love jill’s post

  11. When I was single, I had a lot of male friends. No funny business. No romantical interests on either side. Pure friends. Once I got married, things shifted. I still have most of those same friends. But, I don’t sit up late chatting with them on a Wednesday night. I don’t meet them out alone for drinks on a Saturday night. And I definitely don’t crash on their couches. Now, the thought of befriending a guy (who isn’t attached to another guy or girl) seems slightly weird. But, I can’t place my finger on why.

    I think the answer to that question largely falls on the individuals involved. She. He. Significant others. When He and She met. And the expectations and roles within that mix. I’m not saying it can’t work. I just think circumstance plays a large role in the answer.

  12. Laura

    My 30th birthday was me with 5 guy friends from college (4 straight, one gay) plus a couple significant others. They all drove in from MI to Chicago for me. But like Rachel, they’re college friends. I don’t know if I could make a straight guy BFF, but I want guy friends again that are local. I’ve tried to have my long-distance gay BFF try to be my ambassador in Boystown to find me a local gay BFF, but so far, nope. 😦

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  16. cynharris75

    I know this is an old post, but I have just been reading your blogs and I wanted to start from the beginning. I had a ton of male friends before I got married. Some had been former love interests that just dissolved into friends and some were genuine friends. When I got married that all changed, my husband is not comfortable with my being friends with other men and I have found that I’m not comfortable with him being friends with other women. My mother once told me that the only male friend I would need after I married is my husband, and I think she was right. Just my two cents! Can’t wait to get caught up on all of your blogs.

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