When I was fourteen or fifteen, my father told me at breakfast one Saturday morning:
“Men and women can’t be friends. That’s just the way it is.”
I don’t remember what prompted this black-and-white statement, but I DO remember getting angry.
“Catherine, one will always want more than the other,” he went on, his voice softening a little.
I probably said “I’ll show you!”, or something else really mature, and proceeded to call one of my guy friends to play hacky sack or get pizza.
Since then, I’ve been pretty determined that my father was wrong. I’ve had a number of friendships with guys, and even though only a few have rivaled my female friendships in terms of emotional intimacy, these men have been just as dear to me. Friendships with guys look different, but, I thought, that’s just because we do different things together. Only on very rare occasions do we talk about our feelings – most of the time we play wiffle ball, touch football, a raucous game of foosball, or drink a beer by a bonfire.
I’ve watched my guy friends date, new girlfriends circulating in and out, me trying to keep my distance long enough to determine if this one’s gonna stick. Weddings are coming up, the girlfriends (now fiancees) are just as dear to me as their guys, and I’m so excited to be part of their lives.
But my father’s words keep echoing in my mind. Men and women can’t be friends. There’s still something about this that doesn’t feel quite right. A little part of me wonders: Am I missing out on a beautiful, romantic love because I’m investing too much in my platonic relationships? Am I giving too much emotionally without expecting more?
Should I really stifle one kind of love in hopes of finding another kind? That doesn’t seem right, either. Friendship love, according to C. S. Lewis, is often even stronger than that of the romantic persuasion. To say otherwise would undermine all the female friendships I’ve enjoyed and grown from for so many years.
I don’t feel like I’m any closer to an answer. Most of my guy friends will never read this, and if some do, they’ll probably be the ones who’ll understand. Maybe these friendships will truly be able to transcend whatever silliness goes along with most male-female friendships, and this caring will teach me how to better care for someone down the road.
That’s what I hope, at least. Or, to quote my father again (he’s getting a lot of airtime these days):
“Maybe you’re over-thinking it.”