Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Men's Friendships

From my womanly perspective: most men relate to each other primarily extra-emotionally (outside their emotions). You rarely see men sit down and parse through their feelings together. Men are act-ors- they DO things. They play sports, discuss literature, make music...

portait of William Bulter Yeats, John Singer Sargent

"My male friendships are usually formed on shared interests and projects: be it pursuing women, work, music, the faith, whatever... I am usually not intimate with my male friends. That said, in a secular-ish society, one of the most revealing and intimate things you can do with someone is pray, and whenever I've prayed with my male friends, it's been a little bit uncomfortable and pretty powerful. Male friendships also tend to have a significant undercurrent of competition, envy, and resentment. Even if God had not created women, men would find something to fight over. In Helen's absence, any minor insult could have launched the thousand ships." -a baller male friend of mine

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Hook Up Buddy

"The hooking-up phenomena has been traced back to the 1960s and the 1970s, when male and female students were thrown together in apartment-style dormitories..."- Brenda Wilson, in NPR's recent article on the hook up culture.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's At the Moulin Rouge: La Goulue and Her Sister

I'd like to give an honorable mention to the "hook-up buddy" before launching on ambiguity. The hook-up buddy is a friend, acquaintance, ex-lover, or stranger with whom one enjoys a no-strings-attached sexual encounter. Think... Sex and the City. In fact, read some wikipedia on it, and discover that this show "expressed true adult comedy and sex in an up-front way." Oh so now that you're an adult, you're mature enough to enjoy casual sex? As opposed to before, when your emotions were hard to control?

My problem with hook ups is this: in hooking up, you engage with a person on an intimate level that does not reflect any intention of commitment. You're expressing something with your body that you deliberately withhold with your intentions. Hook ups aren't about meeting persons. They are about meeting bodies. They are a mutual agreement to have a good time. Can anyone say dualism?

If you're a woman, you're also shooting your emotional stability in the foot. A mere twenty second hug releases oxytocin, a bonding & trust hormone, in a woman's body. The morning after a hookup, a woman is chemically changed- she has been emotionally glued to her hook up buddy in some way. Sure, she can convince herself that it's no big deal. Hookups are transient happiness, however, and probably aren't worth the lasting emotional baggage.

...And a brief word of thanks to co-education. Co-ed dorms: making physical intimacy without corresponding commitment an easy possibility, every day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Confidant

Winslow Homer's Boy and Girl at the Hillside

The confidant is a particularly wonderful resource for a woman (no sarcasm). He can be a best friend from high school chemistry, a next-door neighbor from childhood (with whom you used to run wild on golf courses), an ex-boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend's best friend... In some instances, a woman only calls upon her confidant during times of emotional burden, extreme confusion regarding the opposite sex, or exciting news. In other instances, he is the keeper of all her secrets and hopes.

Good confidants are gems of insight, and deserve their own day right up next to Father's day and Valentine's. I do worry, however, that the confidant relationship has gone awry. There is a fine balance between trusting a guy friend with concerns, and treating him as one would a fellow girl.

Of course, this begs the questions
1) How do women relate to other women? In what way is this different from men relating to men? In our ambiguous society, is this even a legitimate question?
2) If each sex does, in fact, have its own self-relational standards, is cross over bad?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Unrequited Lover

Take the "friendship" of a man and woman who have no professed attachment to each other, made bittersweet by the hidden love of one for the other-

Rockwell's Losing the Game

... Bluntly, this is bad.

1) Emotional input is not equal. Being romantically (but secretly!) interested in another human being consumes a lot of energy. This can lead to exhaustion, exasperation/feelings of neglect, and confusion on part of the "lovee." (a better word?)

2) Disproportionate attachment, where one friend needs the friend more. A note on word choice- a feeling of deep "need" is generally more characteristic of the connection between lovers than that between friends.

3) This friendship can lead to the "stolen single-ness syndrome." Imagine the message sent by a friend-couple that arrives at a party... most persons will assume they're an actual couple unless they bother asking around. If a girl is busy hanging out with her best guy friend (who she secretly adores), it's possible she'll miss out on the guy who might actually be interested.

Friday, June 5, 2009


After a three month pause, I've decided to begin thinking again...

I recently read a WSJ article on rising infidelity in newly-married couples. In 1991, 13% of men and 11% of women under 30 reported cheating on their spouse. In 2006, the numbers rose to 19% and 13%, respectively. What's behind the rise? We can't blame co-education- that happened gradually, and years before. However, the author notes,
"It is very common, for instance, for 20-somethings to form close, long-lasting friendships with members of the opposite sex." (reaction- A non-romantic friendship across sexes can pose a threat to a romantic relationship?!)

The co-ed college scene offers plenty of opportunities for non-romantic friendships, especially with the disappearance of traditional dating (to be defined/ defended later). I'd like to spend a few posts investigating the nature of these non-romantic relationships.

Raphael's Plato's Academy