Category Archives: relationships

Women & Friendship

by cacophonies

(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?

Such a Nice Guy

by cacophonies

I was at a party the other night, imnotme’s older brother’s girlfriend’s 30th. BirthdayGirl throws many parties and is a fabulous host, and the party was a great time, as usual. There was one guest, however, that didn’t quite jive with the rest of us.

For a little background information, the crowd that typically gathers at BirthdayGirl’s trendy Uptown condo parties are mostly white, mid-to-late twenties and early thirties professionals, with careers in design, advertising, or copy writing. They’re generally fairly comfortable financially and most have bachelor’s degrees, some have continued further in the pursuit of higher education. In fact, if they weren’t all so friendly, welcoming and talkative, I’d feel terribly out of place with my broke-ass, in-and-out of college every couple years self. But alas, I manage not to.

Anyway, as you can imagine based on the nature of my blog and the people that you would assume that I would willingly spend time with, everyone in the group is pretty left-leaning and feminist-friendly. In contrast to this general ideal, though, imnotme’s younger brother brought a friend along with him to this recent bash. “Jake” is not from our neck of the woods (Minneapolis, MN) and hails from Minnetonka, a wealthy suburb of Minneapolis known for… well, rich, bigoted white people, and a fairly large lake.

Jake is known amongst people who meet him as a “nice guy.” Everyone agrees that he’s a bit boisterous, a little too in-your-face sometimes, but you certainly can’t speak ill of a guy who’ll bring over an eighth of kind bud and tell you to help yourself, as he goes into your kitchen and selects a beer to bring to you, beer that he brought over.

In his circles, he’s just a Nice Dude. In ours, we make sure we’re tentative when we agree. But it’s unanimous, right? Dude is just Nice.

The problem lies in the fact that, while he’s generous and overtly (to the point of seeming ingenuine) friendly to you and your friends, he defaults to the lowest common denominator when in a group of people; especially new people, as was the case when YoungerBro brought him to BirthdayGirl’s party.

Lowest common denominator conversations in parties where yuppie-ish, progressive white people are drinking beer and socializing with people they barely know tend to gravitate toward one of two things: sex or sexism. The sexism part, of course, is never hostile or necessarily malicious (or even conscious), but rather a grasp at a common thing that you can safely assume that everyone’s thought about. Differences between men and women, girlfriend/boyfriend problems, what makes guys dump girls and vice versa.

So back to the main point: Jake, he’s kind of a “big dude.” You can tell that the majority of his weight is made up of muscle mass, the deliberate, obsessive kind, where he makes it a point to be as muscular as possible just so he can be as “manly” as possible. Most people probably assume he was a football player in high school and college. He makes a remark to YoungerBro about how skinny he is. YoungerBro, never one to admit that he feels insecure or insulted, pauses briefly and haughtily agrees with him. Jake says, after realizing that his comment could have caused potential uneasiness, hurries to “Hey, it’s a good thing. It’s better than–” (he lowers his voice and even crouches down a bit) “–being fat.” He pauses for a minute as the only people who presumably heard him, imnotme and myself, give no response. YoungerBro also elicits no response. Jake briefly measures the pauses on his Gauge of Social Awkwardness, and quickly attempts to apologize for the remark by muttering half-apologetically, half arrogantly, “Man, that was real shallow of me to say, huh?”

Well, no shit. The thing is, not one outside on that patio was “fat.” Plenty of people were “skinny,” including a few guys, and no one had anything affirming to say in response to his assertion that being skinny is better than being fat. Imnotme and myself were the only ones that presumably heard him, but the fact that no one even bothered to affirm his assertion seemed to spark his Gauge. Perhaps it had something to do with the underlying implication that, in order to be compared to fat people in the way that Jake did it to YoungerBro, you’d have to be what he (and his peers) would deem to be too skinny. You know, for a dude. Dudes can be big, chicks can be skinny. Dudes don’t get (relevant) shit for being big, chicks don’t get (genuinely negative) shit for being skinny.

One more glaring, obnoxious example of ridiculous expectations that men and women are faced with, perpetuated by someone that everyone thinks is such a goddamn Nice Fucking Dude.

There were other examples of the ways that Jake occasionally stuck out like a sore thumb at this party, but I can no longer remember them all. The point remains, though, that someone may be extra nice to you, and a real asshat to everyone else, and in Jake’s case, it likely has everything to do with where he grew up, and his privileged background. It’s really easy to grow up white, rich, and sheltered. It’s really easy to quickly pass judgment on the people you see every day who don’t look exactly like you. It’s really easy to assume that because someone isn’t like you, that they are somehow defective, unreasonable, or lazy. It’s really easy to be known as a Nice Dude when you don’t even notice what a dick you are otherwise. It’s so easily forgivable, right?

It’s hard to be in a situation like that, for me personally, and listen to people like him, voice booming, about things like how being “too” skinny is better than being fat. It’s hard for me to stay quiet, but it’s even harder for me to say something confrontational or to correct his arrogance. At least there’s a bright side. The bright side is that, 5 years ago, if I were to have gone to a similar party and a Jake showed up and started running his mouth, 90% of the other partygoers would have joined in. My social circles haven’t changed much– they include different individual people, but the ideologies shared in the various groups remained the same– so it’s not necessarily that I just started hanging around better people. Maybe we’re all just growing up, realizing that things aren’t as black and white as we thought they were before, and now, 90% of the people at the party will, at the very minimum, cringe.

I don’t think that Jake is not a nice guy; I will willingly allow him that label, but I will not feel comfortable allowing him the grace of being ignorant when it’s avoidable. Maybe that is the distinction; if a person is aware of their ignorance or arrogance, then they have enough sense to change their ways, and only pride or stubbornness is standing in their way. That is a choice, and therefore, in my mind, unforgivable. If one has the mental capacity to consider whether or not they are in the right or wrong about an opinion or statement that they made, then one has the sense to be a progressive and respectable individual. If they are not a progressive and respectable individual upon realizing that they have the choice, then in my mind, they are no longer eligible for my social forgiveness or good graces. That does, of course, mean that I am declaring that I have the “right answers”; otherwise, how would I even be capable of making a decision about this person’s societal worth? The problem is that I am perpetually annoyed by people or groups that declare, or at least believe, that what they think, feel, believe, etc., is superior to other ideologies, so naturally, I do not want to be one of those people.

I’m not sure that I believe that people can change who they are and what they believe in a matter of minutes, or based on a class or a conversation with someone who holds a different perspective than theirs’… but, I do believe that people can change their minds and I believe that anytime someone changes their mind, it’s probably a good idea.

NPR Rocks This Week

by cacophonies

I have the luxury of a desk job where I’m able to listen to my mp3 player/FM tuner while working. I alternate between radio and mp3s, depending on my mood, but I always try to catch two NPR broadcasts: MidMorning (of the MPR variety), and Talk of the Nation, which are my favorite programs.

Monday on Talk of the Nation, athlete Steve McNair’s murder at the hand of his girlfriend sparked a discussion about The Violence We Ignore; men as victims of domestic violence. It was a great discussion that I hope you’ll listen to.

In other NPR news, Monday, July 20 was the 40th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon. NPR staff reporting on the anniversary continually referred to the event as the day that the “first person” walked on the moon. Hooray for non-gendered language being deliberately used to remember an event in human history!

A Question for Men

by cacophonies

This is really meant to be more light-hearted than anything, mostly because I doubt that any of the men reading this post would fall into the category of people that I’m really addressing, but:

Men, adolescent males, etc., what, exactly, are you thinking to yourself when you whistle at a girl and say something to the effect of, “hey baby, lookin’ good!”?

After work today, I went on a short errand to pick up some beer and smokes for myself and imnotme. What happened in that 20-minute span of time was this:

I walked into the convenience store, walked up to the counter, where the young-ish male working behind the counter greeted me by name (he always does; he remembered from my card, or ID, I guess) and lamented about how I never come in anymore. This interaction, in and of itself, is not necessarily problematic. It’s more innocently flirtatious than the others, but still irritating when it happens… every single time… that I go into this store without imnotme. When he’s with me, dude says nothing.

I leave with my cigarettes, and I head next door to the liquor store, where the group of 20-something men in an idling car whistle at me. I keep looking down, knowing from experience that eye contact only invites more obnoxious comments, propositions, or whistles. The guy who left the car to go inside looks at me, and I can’t tell if it’s a glare, or somehow “appreciative.” It wasn’t a casual glance. I go inside and I buy my beer.

I leave without incident, drive home, and park in the garage. I walk through the backyard to get to my porch. Next door, a group of maybe 5 20- or 30-something men who live there and hang out there are talking and joking. When I get to the middle of my yard, conversation comes to a halt. I’m not exaggerating; the deadening silence was noticeable and incredibly awkward. I walk faster to get to my door, looking down. One guy says, “hey baby girl…” I glance up and wave with my free hand, not saying anything. He continues, “with your fiiiine self…”

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little bit at that, because it kind of seems completely fucking ludicrous for anyone to think that someone talking like that to a perfect stranger will yield anything but uncomfortable responses and quick exits.

My point, and question, is this:

Why do (some) men do this? I know this is not a universal trait that men share; please don’t read this and think I’m accusing anyone male of being guilty of this annoying and uncomfortable habit. It’s only a certain breed of weird men that do it. But I also know that, for the men who do this, it’s not because they actually think that the woman is necessarily super attractive, or because they actually want to “get with” her.

I don’t know any woman who has ever answered any such advance positively and formed a relationship, or hell, even a one-night-stand with the guy. Do men actually think that this is an effective way to meet women? I can’t possibly say that I think that to be the case. So what is it, then? If it’s not legitimate attraction, then the next motivation in line has got to be intimidation. Objectification. Etc. Most males who engage in this behavior can tell how uncomfortable it often makes the woman, and I think that eggs them on. Rarely, if ever, do I see women behave toward men in the same manner.

I challenge you to actually find a woman who is consistently appreciative of this kind of behavior. I cannot speak for all women, but it does not make me feel flattered. I know that they say the same thing to every other woman that crosses their path, unless they say something outright mean, instead. What, exactly, is with this behavior?

Anyone have any light to shed on this?

Dating While (Apparently) Transphobic

by cacophonies

Note: I tried to avoid jargon as much as possible for anyone new to transgender issues, but sometimes it is just easier. For anyone unsure, cis means non-trans; one’s gender identity and physical sex “match” what is found on one’s birth certificate. Trans is used here to encompass anyone whose gender identity does not match the sex that the person was assigned at birth.

Feministe has just introduced their summer guest bloggers, one of whom is Queen Emily of Questioning Transphobia. Queen Emily laid down some ground rules about the types of comments she would and would not allow, since blogs about trans issues on larger feminist blogs tend to get frequently derailed with 101-style questions about anything trans-related.

Naturally, the post lead to some ridiculous comments that directly contradicted the rules listed on her introductory post.

…One derail, however, got a few snotty replies, and got me thinking.

Commenter Melancholia asked:

Is it transphobic if a cis person will not date a trans?

The answers were pretty much the same across the board:

GallingGalla: “is it self-defense if a trans person will not date a cis person who asks questions like this?”

Kristin: “Yes, you dumbass, it’s transphobic.”

little light: “No on account of we have gross cooties. Perfectly understandable and stuff!”

gudbuytjane: “Oh, and not dating someone because they were a trans woman (which is usually the issue, now) is not only transphobic, it’s kinda foolish, because a lot of us are pretty damn hot.”

There were more, of course. All of them agreed that, yes, deciding not to date someone because they’re trans is transphobic.

The odd thing is that commenter abbyjean, who’s in agreement with the theories above, makes sure to educate the commentariat on the definition of transphobia from a pretty straightforward about.com article, which is: “Transphobia is an irrational fear of, and/or hostility towards, people who are transgender or who otherwise transgress traditional gender norms.”

(emphasis mine)

It really depends on how you look at it. If I find out that my prospective partner’s genatalia is quite a bit different that I had imagined it would be, and that part of their body was important to me (say, if I had a desire for biological children with my significant other), then I do not see the problem with no longer being interested in pursuing a romantic relationship. With that particular example, the same decision would be justified with two cis people.

I get it, I see how people who believe that this is transphobic are waiting for me to remark specifically on the way that trans women’s or men’s genitals are different, waiting for me to slip up and say something that insinuates that I assume that all trans men have vaginas, and that all trans women have penises, therefore disregarding their gender and giving them an identity that I choose for them. I’m not going to, because I know that that’s simply not the case. But to call a cisgender person transphobic for choosing not to be romantically involved with someone because they are trans is problematic on a number of levels:

It’s not about transphobia. It’s about sexual orientation.

I’m a heterosexual female, so I should therefore have the right to tell a woman that I don’t want to date her. I also have the right to desire biological children, which means that it cannot possibly be wrong for me to deny someone the privilege of being in a romantic relationship with me if they do not share that desire, or are unable to contribute to that desire.

Julia Serano wrote in “Love Rant,” a chapter in “Whipping Girl,” that she and a (presumably cis) male friend of hers had a discussion about how she would feel if her partner were to tell her that they were trans.

…he seemed surprised when I replied that I would not be bothered one bit. And it’s not that I would merely ‘tolerate’ a relationship with a trans woman. On the contrary, I would consider it an honor.”

Notice how Serano defaults to discussing trans women in her examples. She openly admits her sexual preference and orientation, but simultaneously demands that the rest of us forget our own.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. She has an admiration for what trans women go through, and she can certainly identify with trans women. She goes on to describe other details about her personal attraction to people. She, personally, would not be bothered if her partner were to inform her that they were going to transition to the opposite sex.

There’s nothing to worry about until she goes on, another page further, when her friend asks Julia (who identifies as a lesbian), “Well, what if you found out that the trans woman you were attracted to still had a penis?” Julia laughed, she says, and then told him:

I laughed and replied that I am attracted to people, not to dismembered body parts. And I would be a selfish, ignorant, and unsatisfying lover if I believed that my partner’s genitals existed primarily for my pleasure rather than her own.

She raises a decent enough point if you’re considering a couple that’s been together for a long time and one partner, unexpectedly to the other, comes out as trans, and all works out well, but her problem is that she can’t stop telling people who and what they should be attracted to, and why, and how. She is a millimeter away from telling homosexual people that everything they are fighting for is worthless and all in vain, because sexual orientation doesn’t exist.

Excluding examples of people who are freaked out by their prospective partner being trans, or people who think trans people are “gross,” “unnatural,” or any number of other things, I can think of a lot of examples where a person would decide not to date a trans person because they are trans:

Heterosexual cis woman whose (to her knowledge) heterosexual cis male husband informs her that he is trans, and will be transitioning to female. Her trans partner may or may not identify as a lesbian, or bisexual. This isn’t relevant. The cis woman is heterosexual; being with another woman is not in her sexual nature. This is not transphobic. This is telling the cis woman that she has no right to have a sexual preference, or orientation.

Or, the cis lesbian woman whose presumed female partner comes out as trans. Is she supposed to stop caring about how she’s attracted to females, and accept that she’s now with a male, which is in direct opposition to her natural inclination toward woman as romantic and/or sexual partners? Is that fair?

Or the cis person who finds out that a prospective partner is trans, and the cis person had a strong desire for biological children with their partner in the future. This is no longer (in most cases) possible with a trans partner. Is it now wrong for him or her to end the romantic partnership with the trans person in order to pursue their own goals or desires?

Find all the logical flaws in this post that you want, but to make it personal: I just can’t find a way to justify how it is appropriate to tell me that I am selfish and ignorant for liking the fact that my significant other has a penis, and not liking it so much if he decided to change that.