1. one attached to another by affection or esteem; an acquaintance
2. a favored companion
3. one that is not hostile
I’ve been mulling over friendship for the past few weeks, obsessing over a series of fractured friendships from the past few years. There are people that pass through my life like lightning – blindingly bright, sharply succinct, and glaringly gone. I question if they ever existed. Others have stuck with me, playing larger and larger roles in the story that is my life. Even if our paths diverge, even if we don’t speak for long stretches of time we manage to meet again at narrow cross way of two crooked roads. I find it almost impossible to predict what kind of friend a person will be, whether they will be lost in a silver flash, or the type made from unbreakable, glittering sediments.
I’ve decided to use this post to explore the intersection of friendship and romance. Whenever I’m feeling stuck in my thoughts I know exactly what to do: write. It’s my antidote to confusion. It gives my wounds a chance to air out, and resets my emotional reserves…most of the time.
I wanted to weave the three tales I’m about to tell into some sort of meaningful tapestry whose threads traveled full circle and ended as cleanly as a classic Balenciaga: perceptually seamless, impeccabbly draped, impossibly complicated in it’s simplicity, an object of pure genius. I’m not sure I’ve achieved what I set out to do. This has been one of the most challenging posts for me to write, no question. Usually I can find an emotion to hang with while I’m writing these posts and it guides my words and the progression of ideas, but this subject has brought up so many conflicting and confusing emotions that I don’t know which one to stick with. I’ve felt love as intensely as fear while contemplating the purpose and meaning of friendship as it commingles with love and sex. I find “friend” a murky term, one that skims surfaces and clouds depths. In casual dating purgatory, a netherworld I’ve personally been slinking around in for some time now, everyone’s a friend.
As a rule, I’m always attracted to my friends, be them male or female. That is why I hang out with them, because there is an attraction – a desire to be around them. I have experienced some of the deepest and long lasting love with men who I consider friends. My favorite so far was a guy who I loved, as a friend, way before we kissed, dated or had sex. I knew I would love being around him as partner because I loved being around him as a friend. I valued our relationship so much that I questioned whether or not we should take it further, but we did. And even though we’re not together anymore, he is still one of my favorite people. He is the only partner I’ve had that I could cry around and be laughing with minutes later. I could let my guard down completely with him. He’s such a beautiful human being, and the wonderful thing was he didn’t have to do or say anything to me to prove that me. I knew it from the moment I realized we were friends.
What comes next are my feelings about three recent episodes with male friends. I’ve stopped trying to figure out what they all the all mean and instead am trying to focus on the surface details, and my feelings.
Part 1: Just Friends?
I wrote about a friend who I wanted to be more than a friend, who wanted me to be less than a lover. I wrote and read, and edited, and wrote some more and then I deleted. Everything. I tried again, and still wasn’t happy. So I’ve decided to post the highlights, a bulleted list of significant events and accompanying emotions.
¨ Girl meets boy.
¨ Girl and boy become friends over rummy beverages.
¨ Girl listens to boy’s love problems.
¨ Boy gives girl gift.
¨ Girl and boy play well together.
¨ Girl realizes she likes boy (gets that fluttery feeling when she hears his name).
¨ Girl tells boy.
¨ Boy tells girl he just wants to be friends.
¨ Girl feels deflated, but tries to move on.
¨ Girl and boy have a sleep over (no touching).
¨ Girl is confused, feels emotionally naked. Would prefer being actually naked.
¨ Girl tries to maintain friendship.
¨ Girl’s ego gets tired of listening to boy talk about other girls after feeling rejected romantically.
¨ Girl lets boy cry in her arms one night.
¨ Girl feels emotionally battered.
¨ Girl attempts to create distance to ease the confusion.
¨ Boy still wants to be friends.
¨ Girl tries to accept what friendship means to boy. Girl realizes she needs to figure out what friendship means to her.
¨ Girl is scared by boy’s affect on her.
¨ Girl still feels confused.
¨ Girl takes space, girl gives herself time.
Part 2: The Massagynist
I met Kris on OK Cupid many months ago. When I talk about him to my girlfriends I call him The Black Frat Boy. He spoke with a noticeable flair, one specific to certain regions of southern California. A direct result of sun exposure, keggers, and brohams. I once asked him what his favorite article of clothing was. “Chinos,” he replied.
Our first date was pleasant. We went for Thai food in North Beach, a place where the plates were modestly priced and the beer and football viewers flowed freely. He explained why he chose the place, “I figure if the date goes bad at least I’m somewhere I like.”
Kris was a curious guy, he asked me tons of questions, and when I would finish answering he would excitedly say, “Now it’s your turn. Ask me whatever you want!” I was a bit intimidated by his forceful method of ice breaking, but I figured it had something to do with years of attending frat mixers. He was good company, we were never at a loss for conversation.
I liked him because he was a great communicator and was always open and honest about his experiences. He was also incredibly positive. He had just quit his job to follow his dream of becoming a massage therapist. I definitely took advantage of this on one occasion. It was the day before his Shiatsu exam, and he asked if he could practice on me. I was thrilled to be getting a free massage from a professional in training, but was less thrilled when I felt several drops of his sweat fall on me. Turns out massage is highly aerobic and he forgot to wear his sweatband. Blech.
He would text me frequently late into the night. I even fell asleep with my phone in my hand a few times. Since I spend most nights at home – writing or sewing – I didn’t mind the distraction. We talked about all kinds of things, psychology, new age health practices, and hobbies to name a few. Our most frequent topic of conversation was sex. It wasn’t sexual though. It was like talking to a friend about sex. He would ask me about sexual experiences I’d had – what I liked, what I wanted to try – but it wasn’t dirty talk. It was more like regular talk, just it was about sex. I actually appreciated him asking me about these things cause it gave me a chance to take stock of my sexual experiences and wishes.
We went on two more dates, and on our third, I decided that I couldn’t go further. I based this primarily on the way he kissed. I remember not liking it at all. Kris and I shared a smooch by the Bart station after a night of dancing at Bruno’s and it made me feel creepy. His tongue was hard, pointy, and forceful – like a spear. Call me shallow, but I have learned that it is better not to try and change people. If he likes kissing with a hard, pointy, cut-into-my-mouth-like-a-knife tongue, then so be it. I suppose the proper response should have been to tell him right then and there that I didn’t like his style, instead I said goodnight and went on my merry way.
A few weeks later, after returning from a trip to DC, Kris texted me to see if I wanted to go out again. I told him that I wasn’t interested anymore, and was honest to him about not liking our oral interaction. I was nervous about being so blunt, but he seemed to take it very well. He told me that we should still hang out, and that he was willing to be friends.
We didn’t have any contact for several weeks, and then one day I got a text from him. He told me he was chilling in Dolores Park, so I met him there and we hung out and talked for several hours. I learned a lot more about my new friend that day. The awesome part about degrading a relationship to the friend zone is that the other person automatically starts to show you other sides of themselves. For some reason we try to hide parts of ourselves with our lovers, parts that we would never hide around our friends. This is another reason I always want to be friends with people I date.
We somehow got on the conversation of picking up women and Kris started telling me some assumptions he had about male-female interactions. One of the more disturbing beliefs he expressed was, “If a girl gives you her number, she’s down to bang.” Or worse, “If a girl invites you in her room, she’s down to bang.” I wouldn’t have been surprised if his next words had been, “If a girl looks at you, she’s down to bang.” I told him that he thinking was a little stupid. He chucked it off. Maybe he was joking…
On more than one occasion he mentioned a book called The Game. I had to do a little research to find out what it was really about, cause all Kris said was that it was something he and his buddies had read about picking up women, and that the advice in it only works on a “certain kind of girl.”
From Amazon reviewer Alex Roslin:
Are you just another AFC (“average frustrated chump”) trying to meet an HB (“hot babe”)? How would you like to “full-close” with a Penthouse Pet of the Year? The answers, my friend, are in Neil Strauss’s entertaining book The Game. Strauss was a self-described chick repellant–complete with large, bumpy nose, small, beady eyes, glasses, balding head, and, worst of all, painful shyness around women. He felt like “half a man.” That is, until a book editor asked him to investigate the community of pickup artists. Strauss’s life was transformed. He spent two years bedding some fine chiquitas and studying with some of the North America’s most suave gents–including the best of them all, the God of the pickup “community,” a man named Mystery.
Mystery is an aspiring Toronto magician who charges $2,250 for a weekend pickup workshop. He is not much to look at: a cross between a vampire and a computer geek. But by using high-powered marketing techniques he’s turned seduction into an effortless craft–even inventing his own vocabulary. His technique sounds like a car salesman’s tip sheet: his main rule is FMAC–find, meet, attract, close. He employs the “three-second rule”–always approach a woman within three seconds of first seeing her in order to avoid getting shy. Other tricks: Intrigue a beautiful woman by pretending to be unaffected by her charm; also, never hit on a woman right away. Start with a disarming, innocent remark, like “Do you think magic spells work?” or “Oh my god, did you see those two girls fighting outside?” And finally, the most important characteristic of the pickup artist–smile.
After two years, Strauss ends up becoming almost as successful as Mystery, but he comes to an important realization. His techniques were actually off-putting to the woman he ended up falling in love with. And they never prepared him for actually having a relationship. After a while, he ran out of one-liners and had to have a real conversation. Still, The Game is a great read that may help some AFCs come out of their shells.
Other things I found out: He wants a woman to choke him out with her thighs while he’s going down on her; one partner that he had started beating him up, slapping him and accusing him of stealing something during sex, and he loved it; his ultimate fantasy was to be in a threesome with two women, but he was sure he wouldn’t get that opportunity till he was good and married, and then he’d really have some things to think about. He had yet to be around two girls who were drunk enough to try it out. I told him that I was pretty sure there were plenty of girls out there that would be willing to have a threesome with him while perfectly sober. “We live in the American capital of non-traditional relationships,” I told him. He didn’t want to believe that.
A few weeks later, Kris called me and asked if I’d like to meet him and a few of his besties at The Make Out Room (coincidence?). His bros were totally giving me the wingman treatment. “You know Kris is the most awesome guy ever.” “Yeah, he’s nice,” I responded.
Kris hovered over me all night, asking if I wanted to dance, looking at me and bobbing his head, not picking up that I wasn’t planning on having another go with the javelin between his jaws. He eventually left the club and immediately texted, “Whats up with me and u?” I told him that I hadn’t changed my mind, that I didn’t want to hook up with him, and that I would no longer be initiating communication with him, that he had to set the boundaries of the relationship. I liked the attention from him, but I realized that I was stringing him along. I told this to him, the same as I’m typing it now. I had no problem talking with him still, but I understood (because of part 1, as explained above) how confusing it can be to keep in contact with someone who’s fantasy doesn’t match yours.
He wrote me several days later and said that he wasn’t mad at me (which I figured was his way of saying that his feelings had been hurt), and that he didn’t want to put any boundaries on our relationship.
I sent a text out on New Years Eve wishing my friends well.
Me: Happy new year!!! I hope you celebrate in style!
K: Hey you, Happy New Year to you as well, piece of advice, Have Fun in Life!
Me: I didn’t ask for any advice, but thank you anyway.
I got pissed that he was offering me advice unsolicited. Found it a little condescending. Who did he think he was, telling me how to live my life? Of course I was going to have fun, it was New Years Eve!
I met up with two very special people that night and had an amazing New Year’s Celebration. It included several tiny vials of edible glitter, champagne, expensive bourbon, a live mash up band, and a nice make out session with an Indian guy (or two, can’t remember) who told me aside from the hair that I looked like women from his country. If my memory serves, one of them was betrothed. Arranged marriage being what it is, it was cool for us to make out.
I woke to my phone’s alarm early new years day. Dreary and bleary-eyed, I noticed that I had several missed text messages from the night before. The were from an increasingly inebriated Kris:
Hey Leslie i have always found you wY attractive, I don’t want you to think that I only want to nang
Bang you But I just like you for who you are
Your way attractive
Your way hot, lets meet up
Let me pleAse u
Dtf? (I had to ask some friends what this meant. Down to fuck, in case you were wondering.)
Your way sexy
Lets do it
Make me work for it
I’m not going to lie but I find you way attractive, just give me a chance to please u
And finally, at 2:24am
I find you way attractive.
I texted Kris the next day and asked if he’d had a good night. He informed me that it was “epic,” and he apologized if he said anything inappropriate.
K: Even though we’re friends, I still find you way attractive.
Part 3: No Expectations
I woke up MLK Day to find myself in the arms of a most unlikely candidate. A person I’ve been acquainted with for most of my early adulthood – someone that I hadn’t seen in several years. We’d been in touch here and there, but I really had no idea that seeing him, seeing someone who knew me from a different time and place would make me feel all warm inside. I’d forgotten how it feels to be with someone and not feel anxious about the little things, like whether a person is who they say they are. I didn’t feel the need to put up any defenses. It was the first time I’ve felt completely relaxed around a man in years. To be completely honest I still feel a bit twitterpated.
He’d sent me a message on Facebook a few months earlier letting me know that he might be in the city soon and I responded in-kind, not really thinking I would see him.
Living in a city has changed my expectations of human interaction. The city is exciting. There are millions of events going on simultaneously. Plans change in an instant. People vanish into thin air. I’ve learned to not take things personally. I try to appreciate my friends when we do manage to arrange something, because I know that on any given night those friends that followed through probably had a lot of other offers. Living in a city has taught me to expect nothing and enjoy everything.
On Friday I got a text from him asking if I wanted to hang out over the weekend. We decided to meet for dinner Sunday night. These are the things I remember most about the time we spent:
1. His hug. It was welcoming and sincere with a touch of surrender. I don’t think people realize that there are those of us that trust in physical interactions more than words. There is nothing worse than a hug that someone doesn’t lean into. I consider it a worse offense than an insincere handshake.
2. I didn’t feel like I had to be or say or do anything.
We wandered around in circles while waiting for a spot in the restaurant I’d picked. We ended up drinking and eating somewhere completely different and he didn’t seem annoyed or bothered by this change of plans at all. I honestly didn’t care where we ate or what we did, being in his company just felt nice. I can’t even say that I could readily recall what we talked about, not that it wasn’t enjoyable or important. I was just not focused on that. I was more amazed that I could look someone in the eyes an not feel afraid or threatened or confused. I just felt peace.
3. We walked from the restaurant to my house, and he let me use his gloves. I found this a most endearing gesture.
The only other people that have offered me their clothing in recent memory have been my girlfrineds.
4. He seemed to share my affinity for post-coital affection. I’ve had to fight and bargain for this with some guys.
I was completely blown away that so many of the things I had tried so hard to make happen with other people happened naturally with him. Maybe it’s because I’m done trying. I really am. I just want to be those things. I have to be those things. I want to appreciate the small gestures. I want to share time with someone who’s not trying to impress me or get anything out of me. I want to be with someone who is simply excited to be around me, where the setting is an aside not a requirement.
You know how the world looks the day after you’ve shared something intimate with someone else? A little brighter, a little friendlier, a little less hectic. Sex helps me gain so much perspective. It gives me courage to take time with myself, to ask for what I want, and to be a little imperfect. I gives me space to try something again, to try something completely different, and to be myself. It’s just another form of expression.
I strolled into work over an hour late that morning with only the slightest feelings of guilt. Around lunchtime I decided that I was going to do something crazy. Call him and ask if he wanted to a hang out again. I was really nervous about doing this. My rejection card is pretty full right now. I did it anyway. And he said yes, and I cried. I cried while watching ice skaters in Union Square.
The second night we shared was even simpler than the first. My housemates were having a potluck/jam session, so we got a few beers and hung out in my room. We eventually settled to watch a movie, our bodies pressed together, fingers and toes entwined, kissing, playing, enjoying. It was exactly what I needed and it was so simple.
I didn’t have to be worried that he didn’t respect me.
He is one of these people that embodies freedom. He goes where he pleases, and does and says what he wants. That’s not to say he is inconsiderate. I found him the opposite. I am envious of how untethered he is to the perceptions of others and their judgements (I’m still waiting for the perfect opportunity to use his favorite phrase, “Go fuck yourself.” Something I would never think to say on my own.) I find him equal parts considerate and vulgar, it’s an amazing combination.
And the sex? Wholesome, satisfying, energetic, thoughtful, accommodating, and grounding. I know these are the most erotic of words, but that’s how the sex made me feel. I could always have more sex like that.
Isn’t a friend just a traveler that comes across your path to teach you something about yourself and inform your journey? Whether or not they stay in your life isn’t really the issue, it’s whether or not the lessons they taught you stay in your heart.
And so from these three friends I’ve learned the following:
Always be emotionally available for those in need, but don’t be someone’s emotional crutch.
If you know someone likes you, like, more than a friend, and you don’t feel the same way tell them as soon as possible, and be prepared to give them space. Lots of space. Chances are you both are a bit confused and if you’re meant to be friends, the 24K gold dust kind, then you’ll see each other again. It’s the friendliest solution I’ve found.
When you want to have sex with someone, tell them. Chances are you will be rejected, but maybe, just maybe one of those times someone will say yes. It might be amazing, and you might even cry tears of joy. I did.
Some song’s about friends:
I thought I’d found the man of my dreams.
Now it seems,
This is how the story ends:
He’s goin’ to turn me down and say,
Can’t we be Friends?
So whatcha think about that?
Now you know how I feel.
Say you can handle my love
Are you for real?
(Are you for real?)
I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try.
If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye
tonight i’ll dream while i’m in bed
when silly thoughts go through my head
about the bugs and alphabet
and when i wake tomorrow i’ll bet
that you and i will walk together again
cause i can tell that we
are going to be friends
A circle is round, it has no end
That’s how long I want to be your friend
I’ll never love you like her
Though we need to find the time
To just do this shit together
‘For it gets worse
I wanna touch you
But that just hurts
When will we get
the time to be
just just friends?
Love and Enjoy!