Someone starts dating someone. Their first step is to stalk the lover’s Facebook page, looking for anyone who is a bit too good looking or who comments a little too much or “likes” too many posts. The next step is to get a peek at their text conversations. Then the contact list in their phone. And on it goes.
In our society, men and women have sex. End of story. At least, that is what people seem to think.
But is it so hard to comprehend the existence of genuine platonic relationships? I hope not, because these relationships exist. I am proof.
Memory one: I was biking with a female friend. I taught her how to select the proper gear, how to shift and how to adjust her new pink helmet. It was windy and hot, but we pedaled 18 miles that day, often through clouds of gnats.
I’m a man who has never fit in with football watching guys. Sure, going to Super Bowl parties can be fun. Munching on BBQ chicken wings has its place. So does fist bumping, filling out brackets and building wooden things. But it has never been what I gravitated toward.
I prefer disappearing into the woods and hiking to one of my secret places. Sitting there, listening to the world around me crawl and call and crack and expand until the silence escalates to rival the much ballyhooed 12th Man of Seattle.
I’m most relaxed when I’m with my female friends. They are the ones who get me. When I talk about the blooms I saw or the bird I heard or the breeze I felt, they don’t just listen, they truly hear me.
They are the ones who check in on me when they know my heart is vulnerable. At the approach of painful anniversaries, they are the ones who reach out with a text or a call or a loving note. They don’t need to see my face, they know my heart. Like I said, they get me.
Memory two: I canoed sapphire waters with a female friend. She sat in front and I steered from the back. We saw heron hunting the shallows. We swam to the drop-off and double-dared each other to dive to the bottom. It rained on us a bit and we ate lunch on a pea sized island. At twilight, she kicked back and closed her eyes as I paddled us home.
There is a painful paradox lurking inside my man-woman friendships. These friendships rarely survive once my female friend or I enter a romantic relationship.
This is what happens: We become friends when we are both single. We get close. One of us meets that special someone. Then our relationship fades as our regular little chats and hanging out morph to infrequent nods, usually within the safety of the computer world.
Initially, this cycle frustrated, even angered me. I fought hard to stop the transformation of each relationship and felt guilty when I failed. I viewed this change as the death of our friendship, the end.
Only after years of reflection have I come to not only accept it but cherish it, to remember what is worth loving and let the rest fall away.
Memory three: I hiked a trail in a local state park, the Black Trail, with a female friend. I recalled how she laughed when I teased her about her obsession with sunscreen. How we chatted and shared freely in the presence of those trees. I smiled at the memory of her lessons concerning chaffing and poison ivy.
Today, I understand these platonic friendships are a beautiful part of life. They are the fruit of who I am. I no more question them than the apple tree questions her apples.
In my humble opinion, one gained from my own experience, the world needs more man-woman friendships.
To the women of the world, cultivate friendships with men. You will gain a unique insight, a fresh vision of life and love and relationships. We can be amazing friends.
To the men of the world, cultivate friendships with women. You will find strength and a safe place to land.
To both, it requires trust to allow these relationships. If you cultivate that trust, you will have made the world a more spectacular place, for all of us.
After all, my closest friends are women, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Author: John Geers
Editor: Emily Bartran