December 14, 2011
Friendly warnings on September 7, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Okay, this is the last (hopefully) installment in the Jo R. Heavy Opera Company’s production of “I love you, Come here; I hate you, Go away,” otherwise known as the Ring Cycle of Numbing Depression and Futility.
Quick recap: I met him 7 years ago; I was attached when he was single, then he got married when my relationship broke up; he claims his marriage is dreadful, and he’s been “on the verge of divorce” for 5 years now (I’ve never bought this, since he’s still married and they’ve had 2 kids). He and I have flirted heavily ever since we met, but never had sex. Two years ago he moved to Chicago; he started writing to me shortly after, always with the flirtation thing going on. In February he told me his marriage was definitely *over*, and I had said, “I’m so sorry but YIPPEE — when can I visit?” He then lapsed into complete silence for 3 months, at the end of which I wrote you to ask what I should do.
You put my name on the Breakuplist — although there was never an “up” to be broken in this case — and I wrote to him and told him that since he wasn’t interested, we should scotch all erotic impluses. After this brief recess, our amiable “what I did today” newsy e-mails continued; after all, we’ve been friends for years.
Last week, though, after I mentioned that I’m booked to give conference papers in Florida and Ann Arbor this fall, he asked if he could come. I promptly whipped back that he could *not* come, since when I’d suggested the same sort of thing he’d run like a hare, and told him that it was rude and unkind, when he didn’t want to sleep with me, to pretend that he did. He apologized abjectly and declared that we should simply forget about flirting, since he “valued our friendship so highly.”
September 28, 2010
We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: straight men and women can be just friends. We know this, because they can even be Just Friends, the boy-girl production company behind this super-enterprise. (And because we are of the camp who liked Scully and Mulder best without the LIKElike.) But perhaps no one has said it so eloquently, or newsworthily, than Juliet Lapidos over at Slate (h/t @DahliaLithwick, @DJDistracted), BFF of Jeff, who believes that today, straight male-female platonicness is at once normal and revolutionary. She writes:
We were sure that we would never become romantic partners, that our relationship would always be placidly sexless. This has so far borne out: Excluding the summer when we first met and shared an awkward, pubescent kiss on Independence Day—and another, even more awkward moment on a trampoline shortly thereafter—there’s been no romance. Jeff and I have been friends for more than 14 years, without interruption. In our mid-twenties, we lived together for more than three years, during which period we’d watch movies late into the night and then go our separate ways, much like when we were kids. I find all this, at the personal level, unremarkable and unsurprising; the skepticism of outsiders strikes me as funny and narrow-minded. Yet from a historical perspective, my blasé attitude is all wrong: We are remarkable, in a way, and our relationship is not only surprising but radical.
Yes, radical. Consider the social history here, the dorm-room demographics: (more…)
, Dahlia Lithwick
, Juliet Lapidos
, just friends
, summer camp
, When Harry Met Sally
September 16, 2010
We have all, at some point, watched a close friend vanish into the hurl-dorable vortex that is love. I know I have! And, of course, many of us have entered that vortex ourselves. One that may include (for instance) repairing one’s beloved’s only flaw — “You’ve never seen Buffy?!” — with an intensive marathon that also, necessarily, includes Angel. Then she/he is all, “You’ve never seen The Wire?!” and poof, you emerge months later into the sun, glassy-eyed, watching your back for vamps, and wondering where all your friends went.
Well, Buffy or no Buffy, the friend attrition that comes with love is definitely a thing, according to new research at Oxford University. In fact, they counted:
Oxford University researchers asked people about their inner core of friendships and how this number changed when romance entered the equation.
They found the core, which numbers about five people, dropped by two as a new lover came to dominate daily life.
“People who are in romantic relationships — instead of having the typical five [individuals] on average, they only have four in that circle,” explained Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at Oxford.
“And bearing in mind that one of those is the new person that’s come into your life, it means you’ve had to give up two others.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way, does it? On the one hand, you know, your friends don’t come on your honeymoon: even grudging single friends should allow their newly smitten compadres and compadrinas a grace period. It’s a thrilling, fizzy, heady time, and we need to give them that, just as we’d want them to “let” us have ours. On the other, folks, even if you find that special someone who “gives you everything” and “meets all your needs,” well, they don’t. They may be wonderful in every way — even a wonderful friend to you — but they’re not a full-on swap-in substitute for friend-friends. The bestest love relationships are those that enhance your lives and sense of connection to people and the world, and those in which you each have space and time to nurture your own, separate, friendships. So once you stop seeing those early-in-love stars, make sure you keep seeing your friends.
January 8, 2010
Can men and women be friends? Ah, a question for the ages: one that men and women have wrestled with and debated until TOTALLY JUMPING EACH OTHER’S BONES. I kid. In fact, I have always been a firm believer that those of opposing genders should have no issue getting beyond those barriers — people are people, after all. Why should gender have such a big impact on who we hold near and dear?
Well, yeah, OK, I guess isn’t always that simple. Erin Scottberg at Lemondrop doesn’t think so either. Yes, she says, it is perfectly normal and possible for men and women to maintain friendships. But as we orbit around the sun, each year adds an extra challenge to bringing new opposite-sex friends into the mix.
According to Erin, there are two basic guy-friend categories. The seriously dear pal who you’re Just Not Into (otherwise known as Boy BFF, or BBFF), and the seriously dear pal whom you’ve hooked up with but it’s so not a thing. (No, really.) But!
“Now that I’m older,” she writes, “it seems that — unless the men in your life have been grandfathered into your post-college world — these two categories no longer exist. From a guy’s point of view, every stranger is either a potential screw … or nothing. But the thing is, as a single lady, when I meet a guy who I think is cool, but I’m not physically attracted to, I want to be his Just Friend.
I’ve discussed this with friends and think maybe my recent platonic dry spell comes down to geography. People who live their adult lives near where they grew up or attended college have plenty of friends, male and female, and are set with their circle. They don’t need anyone new. As one friend said, “When a guy tells me he wants to be just friends, I think ‘You’re in your late 20s. Don’t you already have enough?’” But when you’re new to a city, the answer to that question is usually, “No.”
Or maybe it’s just that as we get older, relationships get more serious, and, sadly, a good friend of the opposite sex is almost always a threat — while your high school BBFF’s girlfriend may realize you’ve “been around forever,” the girlfriends of newer BBFFs might not be so understanding.
I have been in both situations. I have two very close male companions (we eloquently describe ourselves as “The Holy Trinity”). I’ve known them since the ripe old age of eleven and have been close as could be with them ever since. One I dated briefly in my youth in that “aw it’s so cute they just kissed” sort of way, but we always fell into that category of being ‘Just Friends’. The other has since gotten married and as a side note, his wife and I get along swimmingly. Gender has never been a barrier here.
In fact, I’d have to say that a vast majority of my friends are men. Some I have know for what seems like forever and some I met just a short while ago. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but sometimes it REALLY works. Ya see, the boy who I was “best friends” with turned out to be the love of my life. Does it prove the “When Harry Met Sally” theory? Not really. If that were the case I’d probably be a bigamist.
As a woman working in the video game industry about 95% of my coworkers are men. I’m sure one or two may have had more than friendly feelings for me, she says modestly, but for the most part gender has never had a role in how we communicate. I think most friendships are rooted in common ground, and if you can relate to this person (male or female), everything else becomes less of an issue. Does it become more challenging? Yeah. But then again, everything gets harder as we get older standing up, seeing small print, etc.). I think making new friends as we get older is complicated enough on its own without throwing male and female parts into the mix.
Can we be friends? Well, I hope so. It’s lovely to meet you.
August 18, 2009
The opposite of sex on February 23, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
Do you think it’s possible for someone in a serious/committed relationship to be close friends with someone of the opposite sex? Based on my own personal feelings and experience, I don’t think so. I argued a lot with my girlfriend of almost three years about this, yet she always assured me that the guys she hung out with were “just friends.” Well, I put up with it, until she finally cheated on me with one of them. Do you think it’s too much to ask of a girlfriend to not have guy friends? Personally, I don’t think it’s possible for a guy and a girl to be “just friends.” I mean, all of my relationships have started out as a friendship first…
– The Man
June 22, 2009
I often take a friend breakup harder than I do a lover breakup. Because we’re not supposed to break up with our friends. Boy- and girlfriends are practically designed to come and go, while friendship is so meaningful and precious that it makes us utter little sweet nothings like “A friend is forever” or “Friends till the end.” Nobody’s ever said “Boyfriend till the end.” Just doesn’t sound right.
So I take a little let-myself-off-the-hook comfort in this recent study showing that most friendships come with an expiration date, too. In fact, sociologists found that the seven-year-itch phenomenon applies just as much to our platonic relationships as it does our sexual ones.
During that stretch of time, as one summary put it, “personal network sizes remained stable, but many members of the network were new. Only 30 percent of the original ‘helper’ friends and discussion partners had the same position in a subject’s network seven years later, and only 48 percent were still part of the social network.”
Perhaps we were readier to acknowledge that friendships evolve (or don’t!) as we do — and that some have a natural shelf-life — we’d be better able to take their ends in stride?
March 11, 2009
And by “good time,” they mean hiking, eco-activism, trading nerdy theories about “Lost.” Yes, Ryan Blitstein and his girlfriend/wingman have each other — and Facebook and MeetUp and CraigsList — but they also have solitary jobs in a relatively new city (Chicago), and, as Blitstein writes in a nice essay at Salon.com, they are also having a hard time making friends.
“My Facebook profile is bursting at the seams with hundreds of acquaintances, colleagues and contacts, many within walking distance. But I can count on one hand the number I’d even take out for a drink. So much for the brave new world of social networking,” Blitstein writes. “Until recently, I thought of myself as different, especially when it came to maintaining friendships with other men. I am not afraid to ask a guy out on a so-called man-date. I don’t need to use SportsCenter or an action movie or an indie rock show to overpower the supposed latent homoeroticism that some men attribute to one-on-one male socializing. I’m as comfortable talking about relationships with another dude as I am arguing about politics. But it seems the older I get, the harder it is to find new people to engage in these conversations.”
And: “There is a vast gulf between vaguely keeping in touch with someone and actually sharing, experiencing, exploring and all the other things you give and get and take from a close friendship. I find it increasingly difficult to cross over that gulf with those I’m meeting now. It’s a poignant thing to be a full-grown human and realize you’re deficient in something that seems so effortless for children.”
Blitstein’s essay is not an obvious broadside against the “alienation” of “technology,” yadda yadda. (I’d argue that the “connectedness” fostered by Facebook, while often superficial in one sense, still does the job of affirming one’s role in one’s own life story. High school! Camp! That crappy post-college internship! OMG! Hi hi hi!) But judging by many of the letters written in response, Blitstein and his girlfriend are not, so to speak, alone — and I think there is something new and modern, if not high-tech, about that. When we married much younger, skipping the seeking-our-fortunes/-selves segment of our twenties, we kept our high school and college friends because we’d graduated with them, like, last year. Now, like our phones, we’re mobile. There are more phases in our lives, more places to put down — and pull up — stakes. Makes sense to me.
What about you? Has making friends gotten harder for you as you get older? Might that also make it harder to make more-thans, too, given that “through friends” can be a romantic goldmine?
January 7, 2009
Tonz of fun from January 19, 1998…
Dear Breakup Girl,
My ex-girlfriend is driving me CrAzY!!! We only went out for two months over this past summer and it was really hard on her when we broke up. It wasn’t easy for me either, but it was tonz harder for her. The reason we broke up is that our friendship seemed to be disappearing, and neither of us wanted that to happen, so we agreed to just be friends.
Well, since we still really liked each other, it wasn’t that easy. She took me to the first Girl’s Choice dance of the year and we had lots of fun, but it led to a major problem. As I already said, we both still liked each other lotz, and we ended up kissing a few times through out the nite.
February 18, 2008
The first BG Maxim appeared on December 5, 1997…
Dear Breakup Girl,
What does it mean when a guy says “We’ve been friends for so long and I don’t want to not be your friend if we break up after we’ve been going out”? Is that just a decoy, or could it be the truth?
Sorry, pumpkin, it’s the truth. Sounds to me like he likes you, but he doesn’t LIIIIKE you.
AN IMPORTANT BREAKUP GIRL MAXIM: When someone says they don’t want to go out with you — for whatever “reason” — take their word for it.
Serious business from December 5, 1997:
Dear Breakup Girl,
I jokingly told a girl that I would go with her to our school’s formal winter ball. She thought I was being serious and now she wants to go with me. How should I tell her no, in a way that we will still have the same friendship as before?
There are three things you never joke about: (1) carrying a bomb in your suitcase, (2) famine, and (3) taking someone to a winter formal.