(as I’m talking mostly from personal experience, this post is pretty hetero-centric)
Throughout my adult life thus far, the women I meet tend to fall into two categories: those who are primarily friends with men, and those with whom I share absolutely nothing in common.
It seems to be a trend among women that I encounter these days. Women are primarily friends with guys, and the women who aren’t don’t even register on my social radar. This tends to happen because I am also one of those women, the one who historically tends to only consider men as prospective friends.
In my general observation and experience, the cycle goes like this:
Girl meets boy, they become close friends, she sees him as only a friend, and he secretly pines for more. She bitches about her current boyfriend to her boy-BFF, he listens and lets her cry on his shoulder. She can tell that he wants more than friendship, but is comforted by the fact that he says nothing, because she knows that if he did, she’d have to end the friendship. Ultimately, her relationship with her boyfriend dissolves, and she and boy-BFF start dating. She acclimates to his circle of friends, mostly guys, and hangs out with them and becomes, as she sees it, a solid member of their group. She meets some new guy from work, school, wherever, he becomes new boy-BFF. Her relationship with former boy-BFF dissolves, and as a result, so do her “friendships” with the guys in his social circle. Having no other friends to speak of, save for a couple stragglers from her childhood other school years that she still maintains periodic contact with, she quickly finds herself spending all of her time with boy-BFF and his friends. She and boy-BFF start dating.
The cycle repeats.
This usually begins with a slow severing of old ties with former girl-BFFs, and swearing off other women as close friends because of the alleged cattiness or back-stabbing tendencies of other women (of course, they’re different than those other women).
This, clearly, is not healthy. The men that this proverbial woman is finding herself in “friendships” with are also good friends with primarily other men. Most do not tend to have many girl-BFFs and stick with their core group of “guy friends” that they’ve known since they were 12. Not too many guys tend to hang around solely women.
In my personal experience, I have felt hurt countless times by friendships with men that I thought were strong and real dissolve because the guy confessed that he’d always been interested in me romantically, or because we started dating. It felt like there was no real friendship to speak of, that I was being fooled, like he was only hanging out with me and feigning this close bond because he wanted to be in a romantic relationship with me, not because he really valued me as a friend and person overall. I’m sure the guy was just as hurt, thinking I was just leading them on or something. I swore them off as friends, but quickly realized that I had no idea how to be friends with anyone other than guys that I suspected might have a crush on me.
imnotme and I were talking on the porch earlier tonight and the topic of friendship came up. It was mentioned because I no longer have an expansive social circle as I did in my single days, and it’s been affecting my mood lately. I’ve cut ties with many of those people, whether intentionally or circumstantially, and while I call a lot of people my “friends,” I’m no longer the social butterfly that I used to be. Most of my friends came directly as a result of starting a relationship with imnotme. My friends are the people he hangs out with, nearly all of whom are other men.
I love his friends; don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the hearty debates over beer and chain-smoking on our glorious 3-season porch, I love the rational yet sensitive way that they all interact with one another and discuss their girlfriends or children or jobs. I like how they seem to be fond of me, as well.
The thing is, though, they’re not so much my friends as they are imnotme’s. Obviously, right? I’ll call them “friends,” but I’m not likely to call up imnotme’s best friend to hang out when I’m bored if imnotme isn’t there, too. That’s pretty much the difference that I see. It’s not a big one, but it’s enough.
I mentioned that, while I like all of his friends a great deal, sometimes hanging out exclusively with groups of males can be… well, exhausting. I like hanging out with them because they’re nice, fun, and intelligent people, but I needed to relate to someone on a more basic level. Where I didn’t have to defend my emotional reactions to something or argue about why something is sexist or fucked up, where I could actually discuss whether or not I should cut my hair in whatever style without the response being silence and looks of utter confusion.
Now I’m making a concerted effort to make friends with women. I have female friends, a precious few of them, and I manage to leech off of those ones when I can to get to know more. Most of my female friends are stricken with the same affliction, though, and are also friends with mostly males. I guess we’re the only chicks one another can stand to be around. In the process, though, I have managed to meet and hang out with many intelligent, passionate women with a lot to say and who have taught me a great deal. I’ve also managed to be at a loss for how to interact with them. I’m so used to being around guys that I feel like I can’t read women’s signals, or their hints or cues. I find myself grudgingly accepting some stereotypes as true and unable to be completely ignored because, even if those behaviors are socialized and not innate, it is most certainly not acceptable for me to attempt to convert other women to my way of life or view of the world as it is. I used to find the whole idea of close friendships with females who call each other “sister” and love each other and hug a lot to be sickeningly unrealistic and fake; now I crave this kind of interaction and just want a real, genuine friendship with a like-minded woman. It feels like too much to ask, and I envy the women who’ve maintained strong ties with other women.
Try as I might, I can’t quite figure out why this would happen more often to women than men. Is it as simple as being a product of a society that tries to pit women against each other and create competition? For one, I’m not even sure I understand that theory. But what other reason could there be? Is it the extra attention women want? I would hate to generalize like that. Why wouldn’t men seek out the same attention, if it were that important?
Why do you think that is? What is the difference? Do you see the same thing in your social circles?