Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Girls and Boy Friends

(Below is a written dialogue between myself and blogger/friend, Bryn Clark...he's a he, in case there's any confusion. Check out his blog when you get a moment!) 

I asked a boy to get ice cream. 
What felt like a harmless gesture was immediately misconstrued...
'What? Is ice cream the new coffee...? I'm confused.' 

I laughed. It was funny. A little wit in response to all my blabbing about the complicated nature of the male/female relationship. I deserved it. 

But the thing is, I want to be friends with guys. Friends. I want to care about them as people, first and foremost, before I ever worry about them in a context that may be deeper and more intimate than that. 

I realize it's tricky. I realize it's risky. I realize that sometimes I may also have ulterior motivations. Does this mean I should never pursue friendship with them, though? Is it okay for me to want to know guys on a deeper level, to want to ask them questions, to want to care about their lives and how they're doing...? And is it possible for me to do that without it being perceived as though I'm pursuing a romantic relationship with them? 

I think the question here shouldn't be about your intentions so much as how those intentions are perceived. Unfortunately, perceptions are subjective even though intentions aren't. That being said, there are "controls" that you can insert to ensure friendship is communicated as clearly as possible.

For instance, ask several guys out (okay, bad phrasing) to grab some ice cream. Not necessarily at the same time, but so that it's understood not to be an isolated event. No one will be suspicious if you are known for having good chats over ice cream; they'll just realize you like good chats and ice cream, even if it tends to be with a particular guy. But if you're not known for being someone that pursues those things on a regular basis, then there might be some raised eyebrows. "What, she asked Randall to get ice cream? But she never eats ice cream". Also, just a thought, try not to bat your eyelashes when you ask them.  

Another thing I would say is if you're going to grab ice cream as friends, then talk as friends. C.S. Lewis in his book Four Loves makes the statement that: "Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest." When I get ice cream with friends, I talk about life, sports, ice cream and any girls I got coffee with that week. If you want to pursue a friendship with a guy, then pursue a friendship. I've had excellent conversations with girls who initiated them and didn't think much of them because our conversations evolved around a mutual interest, a shared topic, a friendship. Of course, this isn't to say that these chats can't evolve into something more; everyone knows a lengthy conversations on mutual interests over snicker-doodle ice cream is the perfect spark for a luxuriously passionate (in a pure, abstinent, Christian kinda way, of course) relationship. 

On that note, consider this: you ask a guy to get ice cream (as friends)...  And say it goes super well, you sit, you talk, you have deep theological conversations that are as far as possible from whispering sweet nothings. If you walk away from that conversation and realize "Aw shewt. That was the type of conversation I wanna have when I'm ninety in a rocking chair" (meaning) "he's really cute and definitely don't just want to get to know him as a friend" then you're intentions may have changed but you can't assume his did. Don't be frustrated when the guy you asked out as a friend doesn't realize your intentions switched and then start pursuing you. We don't have radars for these things.  

Whatever you do, don't ask for coffee. I read somewhere once that was a bad idea, though I can't remember where...

Thoughts? Rebuttal? Further insight? 

So, to clarify/sum up what Bryn has just said (and add in a few of my own thoughts, of course)... 
  • If a girl is going to pursue friendships with males, don't make it exclusively one male and make sure it's something you regularly do (as to not give the impression that you're making special allowances for specific guys...unless you are and that's a whole other blog post...). 
  • While hanging out, talk about things you're both interested in/care about and not about the friendship/relationship (because, wouldn't that just be a DTR?). In other words, don't get caught up in all the 'what-if's of what the relationship could be, or the ways that you feel like your 'friend' isn't meeting all your expectations. After all...how many times do we ever have to have those conversations with our same-gendered friends. If you're really considering this guy just a friend, then treat him as such. Beyond deep conversations, be willing to just do things you both enjoy together. I heard/read somewhere (many times, places) that while women typically connect through conversation, men are much more likely to develop relationship through doing things alongside someone. In order to bridge the gap between the male/female differences, it might at times behoove us as females to be willing to do activities alongside men instead of expecting them to want to have deep heart-to-hearts over ice cream all the time.
  • There's a need to be honest with yourself about your motivations and expectations...and to not place them upon the other person. If you recognize that you're interested in the possibility of more, don't expect this guy to (a) catch on or (b) reciprocate. 
In the end it still feels like a risky move, with the chance of getting some labels attached to you as you befriend males. 
BUT, I think I'm okay with it. 
I'm entering a stage in life where while I can recognize the challenges of the male/female relationship, I'm not 100% convinced that creating millions of boundaries and 'shoulds' and 'shouldn'ts' are the way that we are instructed to co-exist. It's good to be aware, but I feel that there's an even greater importance in us females acknowledging that before a man is ever just a prospect for a future mate, that he matters infinitely more as another person. In other words, ladies... he's not just a means to your end goal, but he's very much a person with thoughts, feelings, struggles, weird quirks, passions, hopes, imperfections...(and I think you get the idea). 

He, as a person, matters and deserves to be treated like more than a guy who might ask you out on a date. 
I'm advocating for friendship. Friendship in spite of the awkwardness, the painfulness, the miscommunications that are sure to ensue... 

Because I think people matter. And I think that we are called to love... regardless of gender. 

I'm not sure If I'm supposed to tack on anything here at the end or not, mostly because I think you summed it up well. Objectification goes beyond pornography, lust and "thats what she said jokes"; it goes to the core of how we view each other and the perceptions we bring into every relationship. And yes, men have feelings. I promise. 

So girls don't be afraid to pursue friendships with guys. Guys, check yo' egos and realize she's not always that into you. Because I agree with Debbie 100%, people matter.

Also, I like ice cream. Jus' sayin. 

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