fine, let's be friends

Harry said it to Sally, and since my first romantic kiss in kindergarten, I understood it as a universal truth that would even make Nietzsche capitulate;simply put, straight men and women can'’t be friends. Unfortunately, the adage has been buried into the mighty obscurity of the female psyche as we unrealistically wish for utopic camaraderie with a man. We don't care to admit to ourselves that we cannot maintain a healthy platonic bond with the opposite sex, save for with those already involved. And even in these rare circumstances someone is repressively hoping for more. Inevitably, awkwardness or infidelities occur.

As the newly wedded in a gaggle of single girlfriends, my insights are at once scorned, appreciated and shrugged aside. Their tribulations have caused them to seek my advice in the wee hours of the night, much to my husband'’s chagrin, for counsel on the inner workings of the male brain. They often marvel at my astute insights, but really there is no mystery. I have a variety of friends and their love travails have run the gamut, from sexaholic to commitment phobic, bi-polar to paranoid delusional. Consequently, I earned my honorary Ph.D. in psychology from the school of crazy men and the not so sane women who want to change them. This brings me to my friends, the creme de la creme--intelligent, attractive and eccentric. The men they seek are commensurate in their ways which is part of the problem since the above traits are often equated with self-absorption. Women, at least have the nurturing instinct to temper our solipsism. But what keeps the men in line? Manipulation?

My sanguine artist friend had been in a two year relationship of such volatile proportions that one would think a friendship in the wake of a hurtful break up would not be an option. But buddies they remained. Though she never let him in on it, she decided to maintain a friendship with the guy in hopes that he would come around. Indeed, he did and within three weeks they regressed to their comfortably unfulfilled union. It finally ended without any pretenses, one chaotic year later. She could probably reel him in once again, but for her own good, she ran out of line.

Another close friend, the good doctor, met someone on the internet. After several emails and a few above average dates, the man determined that he'd rather maintain a friendship than take this to the next level. Furious and hurt, feeling mislead and dismayed she emailed the guy back a couple of days later stating she would be happy to be friends. Naturally, she secretly hopes that he will eventually fall victim to her psycho-sexual terrorism. Though they haven't progressed, they are communicating on a daily basis and continue to innocently see each other once a week. In this connection, some might invoke the celebratory "Mission Accomplished" slogan, surmising that she has won him over and soon they will be an official couple. I would venture to say that such pomp is dangerous and premature. The jury is still out on this one, I mean they haven't even kissed yet.

My brother was the most recent recipient of the "fine, let's be friends" entente. After a paltry two month fling with a woman embroiled in abandonment issues, he suggested being chums. Naively, he touted how she was surprisingly mature in accepting his proposal for friendship. I smirked in disbelief knowing what I know about women. For exactly one week they were friends with benefits, and then came on the pressure for a full fledged reconciliation. She wanted commitment, he did not. Predictably, the cad revealed that he broke up with his "amigo" again and yes, that I was correct in my diagnosis. But I do have a sneaking suspicion that they have returned to their old ways, as he hasn't replied to my email yet.

Come to think of it though, men can be savvy with the friendship M.O. as well. I have one gimlet-eyed gal pal, whose boyfriends have all remarkably been the result of friendships gone astray. In spite of her acuity, she unwittingly offers herself up as a bona fide girlfriend to those willing to endure her camaraderie. That sounds like a bad thing, but she is attractive, loyal and smart. She'’s a prize. Her downfall is that she is oblivious to their initial intentions, ingenuously, if not arrogantly, asserting that cross gender friendships can be fruitful in and of themselves. Alas, she finally saw the light when one particularly impetuous fellow prematurely intimated that their kinship evolve into a coupling. For the first time she was offered an ultimatum. She didn't appreciate the pressure and was forced to put and end to the innocence and quash any prospect of a heated affair. It's too bad, because had the guy been less hasty and not so aggressive about his desires, they might be in a relationship today.

Aside from all of the overwhelming abnegation that's going on here, I have to acknowledge that it's fun to be a part of the drama which ultimately brings me closer to my friends. Who knows, maybe Sally would have never befriended Harry if she weren't in denial about Harry's apothegm, and if that were the case, they would have never gotten married. So I guess Nietzsche was right, "What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil."

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