Category Archives: The Gender Gap

Someone’s in the Kitchen with Rachel

Tonight Matt and I are taking a cooking class. My husband’s  not much one for cooking—though he makes a mean smoothie and should probably patent his granola concoctions—but we got a gift certificate for our wedding and this session is Italian food (Pasta with clam sauce! Cannolis!), so I was able to twist his arm.  These classes call for four chefs to a station, which means we’ll be paired with another couple. I’ve already warned Matt that we need to time our arrival perfectly—we don’t want to be too late because I want to scope out the couple we’re paired with, but we don’t want to be too early either, lest we be the scopees rather than scopers.

If we do end up spotting a really promising-looking couple, I’m a little scared my enthusiasm for the potential new friends might turn us into the Heffernans in this King of Queens clip—I, of course, being the Kevin James of our duo (if you’re reading this in an email or RSS feed you’ll have to click through to see this video… Do it! It’s worth it):

Yes, I would be the one all “Hi, I’m Rachel. You like to cook? I have a stove! Come over! We’ve got enough aprons for everyone!” Matt would be the one hiding. Inside the oven.

So as to save me from embarassment and divorce, let’s decide now what I should do. I’m thinking perhaps save the movie and Olive Garden invitations for another time. Start small, perhaps go business card again. I’ll do the number exchanging with the female half of the couple. Guys seem to think friendship advances are creepier than women do. Unless he’s a Red Sox fan, in which case he and Matt will be bonded for life. And we’ll all live happily ever after.

Got any advice for what I should say tonight to avoid turning into Kevin James? And what should he have done in this scene, anyway? Was there any way to make the move without prompting a restraining order? Please rescript this trip to Home Depot, or let me know if you have any brilliant ideas for tonight. I promise to keep you posted on the flip side.

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, Pickup Lines, The Gender Gap, The Search

Man vs. Friend: A Matchup for the Ages

A wonderful gentleman named Dave commented on my blog last week, looking for some answers. For the record, I don’t know Dave—I say he’s wonderful solely because he’s a male and he commented. There have been only a few such men, so I appreciate it. (Thanks to you too, Zach.) His question:

“For a few years, I dated a girl with four sisters, and I constantly felt that I was being interviewed by a sorority, or listening in on an all-female pajama party. Those sisters were in each others’ minds so much that it was as if there was no room for anyone else. … So here’s my question for all you female BFF-wannabes: Do you ever find that the guy in your life is feeling cast aside by the BFFs? Is that just a sign of the male’s natural immaturity and insecurity — or do you think your actions perhaps contribute to the problem? What about when the two [parties] — your guy and your BFFs — actually don’t like each other at all? How do you solve it?”

For some reason this question brings to mind My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I’m picturing Dave surrounded by hair-teased, smirking women shooting you’re-not-good-enough rays out their eyes. At which point he starts taking shots of ouzo.

I don’t have sisters, but I do have best friends who, when we all get together, have been known to act something like a mini-sorority or teenagers at a slumber party. And when there’s a lone man present in the pool of estrogen, I find myself wondering if he’s secretly plotting ways to throw himself off a cliff. But feeling cast aside? I’ve always figured men expect this behavior from women, that it comes with the territory. Especially from sisters. When it comes to one of their own, they’re like lions protecting their young.

Dave, if you felt shut out, you’re probably not the first guy who has. I bet the girl is well aware—and none too happy—about her sisters’ effect on the men in her life.

Are you immature and insecure? Not necessarily. Sisters and BFFs play a pretty vital role in a woman’s life, so if you feel like you’re being judged, you probably are. But if your girlfriend is bringing you in front of the tribunal, it’s probably because she thinks you can hack it. If you think you notice the scrutiny, know that she sees it times a thousand. And she’s the one who’ll hear about it later.

As for the BFFs and the man not liking each other? Eek. Nightmare. And the answer is I don’t know. Since Matt and I met in college and were in the same group of friends I haven’t encountered this problem. (Or, I have really really good friends who never let on they hated my boyfriend and vice versa.) I’d say, for both BFF and man, if you don’t like the opposing party but care about the mutual one, suck it up. Slap on your best fake smile and pretend.

What do you people think? Give Dave a little help, please.

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Filed under The Gender Gap

Queer Eye for the Straight Girl

This past Sunday, I was driving to meet a potential new BFF (I have a good feeling about this one!) and was listening to Ryan Seacrest interview Lady Gaga on his Casey Casem-esque radio countdown. I’m a little late to the Lady Gaga train, but now I’m fully on board. For a woman whose outfits are so out of this world, she seems surprisingly down to earth in interviews. I was particularly struck when she told Ryan that she attributes her fearlessness to her gay friends.

“My friendships with my gay friends, they are so pure because gay men, they don’t want anything from you except your love and friendship. I’ve had that my whole life and I really value it so much.”

I’ve actually been thinking about this quite a bit. I need a gay best friend. Or, as one woman I know says, a best gay. Gaga’s point is a good one: Friendships with gay men are unique. They don’t involve the competition or jealousy that can turn a true female friendship into a toxic one, and there’s not the sexual tension that makes supposedly platonic straight-male-female friendships anything but.

Will & Grace is perhaps my favorite sitcom (tied only with Friends, appropriately enough). I’ve always wanted what they had, or, really, what Jack and Karen had. I know plenty of gay men, of course. One of the most memorable nights of my life involved me, a gay guy, dancing my heart out in the middle of a sports bar, and a late-night/early-morning race to IHOP (thanks Jed!). But I’ve never had an intimate friendship with a gay man—not the kind Lady Gaga was referring to, and certainly not the stuff of Will and Grace. Gaga told Ryan she almost deleted a scene from a music video because she wasn’t happy with the way she looked. She kept it in, she says, because her gay friends told her she looked fearless. It takes a lot of trust in another person’s opinion, and an iron-clad belief that they have your best interests at heart, to release a video to the world in which you’re unhappy with your looks.

That’s not to say female friendships can’t have the same level of intimacy, but the gay BFF seems a special breed. And I want one. So the question is, what to do now? A co-worker friend offered to take me to showtunes night at a nearby gay bar. This is a win-win situation, as even if I don’t meet the gay man of my dreams, I might get to sing a ditty from A Chorus Line or The Sound of Music.

Do you agree that the female/gay-male relationship is a vital one? Does a gay man bring something to a friendship that a woman-to-woman BFFship lacks? Or is Lady Gaga just a looney toon who wears outfits made of Kermit puppets? Discuss.

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, The Gender Gap, The Search

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?

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Filed under The Gender Gap

Seinfeld’s Searching Too…

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.

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Filed under Everything I Know I Learned on TV, The Gender Gap