Friday, December 16, 2011

That's just the way it is?

I watched When Harry Met Sally, probably because Katie told me to or something, and I remember thinking it was okay, but the central theme was a little to stressful for me to consider, so I told myself I'd revisit it at some much later date. Now that I'm older I feel (unjustifiably :P) it's like it's safer to talk about, or something. So it's time to tackle the age old question, one I've previously read about on a few of my friends blogs and now have a little opinion of my own to contribute. Yeah. 

Can boys and girls be friends?

Duh. I'm going to offer a tentative yes. 

I think of it this way: friendship teaches you how to interact with people. How to love people, how to resolve conflict with people, how to work well with people. And I think similarly, friendship with members of the opposite gender teaches you a lot about how to love, have conflict with, and work with people of that gender. Which is kind of something that's useful to know before going into marriage! 

I mean, as much as I am a proponent of treating people like people and not like gender identity scripts, the fact remains that there are some differences, especially when it comes to friendships and communicating. (What I'm about to regurgitate can be cited from Ronald Adler's interpersonal communication textbook Looking Out, Looking In.) Women are more relationally-oriented, whereas men are more action- and activity-oriented. With women, it's about what's said while men are into how much time has been spent. Women look for quality, men trend toward quantity. Women listen with "minimal encouragers" and are more likely to offer an empathetic response, whereas men generally listen more stoically and are more likely to offer advice and solutions. 

But don't let all this destroy the real similarities that exist! (My textbooks says, instead of men being from Mars and women being from Venus, it's more accurate to say men are from North Dakota and women are from South Dakota. So.) I mean, both men and women talk about the same amount per day. (But men talk more about sports, the news, and activities, while women talk more about relationships and other people! I digress . . .) Anyway, learning how to deal with these differences is an important skill whether you're going to get married or not, so why not take advantage of this convenient awesome thing that's friendship? Amirite?!

Okay. So that's about what my thought process was. But then, one of my coworkers showed me the video below at work this past week.

Well, I'm a girl. So apparently I just don't know anything. Thoughts?

But, okay, I think there's an important caveat here. The biggest difference between the people in that video and the people I know is faith. In Christian "culture", the emphasis on guarding your heart and brotherly/sisterly unity makes it a lot safer to interact on a platonic level, because theoretically all that stuff is less of a distraction. Jesus came to set relationships right, and maybe that also means unifying the genders. Yeah, that's right, I like to think Jesus makes it possible for girls and guys to be friends! I would argue that you see more successful, appropriately modeled platonic cross-gender friendships in the church than anywhere else. (Not proven, but it's a nice speculation, eh?) In a world with Jesus, rather than men and women always trying to domineer and manipulate each other, we are instead beginning to learn from each other.

(Hm, still too rosy-glassed?)

Do I think I have quality platonic relationships with boys because I'm naive, or because I actually do? Well, when all else fails, my default defense is that the exception proves the rule. (That's basically what I've applied to all of my abnormal world experiences ever.) I feel like this is one of those things where asking the question is more important than the answer, because it forces you to reflect on the way you behave. Are you honoring the friendships you have? Are you protecting yourself, and them? Loving people is so challenging, and multifaceted, and complicated. Doing it right is not easy! And so it's worth it to ask, "What am I doing here? What is this supposed to be? Is this okay?" Forcing yourself to reflect on your friendships is the first step to being a better friend. 

My mom was all, "You can be friends with boys. Until they get married. Or you do." And that sounds okay to me.

P.S. I really hate disclaimers, and being excessively meta, but I feel compelled to reassure my guy friends that I didn't put them under a microscope.  That's all.


Michael said...

That's a nice disclaimer :P

That video kind of makes me annoyed, because I feel like I don't think that way at all like those guys do, it feels like a bad sample. But yeah, maybe that's because I'm in a Christian community.

I like your thoughts about this - that makes a lot of sense. In Christ we love other people first as our neighbors, so we then come to love them as people - and for themselves, not for us.

What your mum says is something I think of now and then, like . . . I don't know how okay it'd be to be friends with you, or any of my other girl friends, after I got married (or they got married) - however, I feel like it would be okay, even then really awesome, if my wife was friends with you, too. Also, if it wasn't okay after I got married, wouldn't that kind of call into question whether it ever was?

Nicole said...

I saw this video and had many of the same thoughts. Good points, my friend!