Just Friends?

Friends My yoga teacher is on another spiritual plane. He lives in a world where men and women can be just friends. He’s getting married next month, but he often talks about his very good female friends. This does not compute with me, as I have not had a real male friend since I was a teenager, and even then, some of them later confessed they just liked me because I didn’t wear a bra.

Not sure if it is just me or if this male/female friendship thing is a universal law from which only yogis are exempt.

I am not talking about “friends” who are my girlfriend’s husbands or lovers. I am not talking about the great gay guy I love talking to when I see him once a year at a friend’s party. I am not talking about Facebook friends.

My definition of a male friend is an actual guy who I feel safe calling up to go out to lunch or shopping or a movie. And nobody would hit on anybody, the idea would not even occur to us. No wives or significant others would feel threatened during the course of this friendship, either.

I thought I had it, a real male friend, a couple of times. But then somebody (and it wasn’t always him) would blow it. Take G for example. I wasn’t even thirty when I met him, introduced by our mutual therapist. We vowed over wine that we would just hang out and be friends. This lasted through one coffee date and about halfway through a singles dance, when we suddenly discovered we liked each other better than any of the other singles there. It ended in unfriendly tears a few months later.

Then there was my pal D. I’d liked this guy forever and had always wanted more, but through the years he kept telling me we were better as friends. Then I married Al and D married some lucky woman and we parted ways. Until about the time I turned forty and she divorced him. He gave me a call. We went to the movies. I felt safe with him because he’d always shut down my romantic overtures in the past. But then he held my hand during the movie. I let that go. After all, he was newly divorced. Perhaps he just needed the human touch. Turns out, he wanted more than a touch. Too bad that by the time he finally wanted me, I was committed heart and soul to somebody else.

I truly believed that by the time I hit fifty, I was ready for real friendship with a man. F was perfect. He was a writer (like me). He was happily married (like me). He loved yoga and meditation (like me). He occasionally liked to get away from his daily life to write. That’s how we met. At a writer’s conference hundreds of miles from both of our homes. After the conference, we started emailing. We saw each other again at another conference the next year. This time the spouses were involved. We all liked each other. It felt like a real friendship.

Then the test. We’d meet for a week at the same conference where we’d first encountered each other three years before. Nobody else in our loose-knit writer’s group would be there. No spouses, either. Just the two of us. I was totally up for it. We planned bike rides and dinners out and lots of writing time. I drove the five hours and checked into our agreed upon hotel. He called my room and asked if I wanted to get a drink. I said sure and met him.

Which is when he said “I’ve already decided. We are not having an affair.”

He said it like he was fending off some advance he hoped I’d make. He said it like it was a real possibility, like he wanted me to talk him out of it. If he really was the friend I’d believed him to be, I would have laughed and told him that the two of us in bed had never crossed my mind. It hadn’t. He wasn’t my type. My husband, now, he’s exactly my type.

But I didn’t laugh, in fact I stayed uncharacteristically silent. I brooded sadly on the fact that an affair had even crossed his mind. It changed something, like a line being drawn in the friendship sand. I felt awkward all week. When I got home, I wasn’t surprised when our emails lost their spark and eventually diminished into nothingness, because I’d finally figured out that, for me at least, close male friends are not a part of my destiny. Luckily I have an abundance of the female kind.

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