My friends have affectionately called me a man-eater, a not-so affectionate term.
Dear men. I’m in your debt. Since about the time I turned twelve, you’ve done wonders for my self-esteem with your compliments and interest. It’s been especially pleasant when your interest grows once you talk to me and get wind of my peculiar brain. Of course, you ought to bear in mind that as a fully-grown man, you shouldn’t be saying to a passing twelve-year-old on the street, “You’re going to be so hot when you grow up.”
Even as a twelve-year-old, the flattery I felt was a creeped-out sort, but I was innocent enough to believe I could handle you. Thankfully, you kept walking so I wasn’t given the opportunity to be wrong. In all probability, people like you contributed to me deciding that I didn’t want biological children. The world was too dangerous, and I could only wrap my mind around protecting an already-existing child from such a place. I know all about bad men and the horrible things they’ve done to people I care about, and I care about people of any age and gender who fall into the hands of bad men (or bad women). But this isn’t about bad men. For the most part, I’ve managed to slip and dodge those who suck at being a human being.
Instead, this is about those of you who, for over three decades, have made me feel like I must be great. Thank you. You see, often, telling someone they’re a certain way, even when it isn’t true, makes them strive for it. A huge part of me wanting to be good is thanks to the people who believe I am good. Women too, have made me feel like I might not be that bad, and to them, I’m equally grateful.
But mostly, it’s been men. You stick around even if we’ve never had sex, and while I always wonder how differently you would’ve reacted to me if I were a burn victim, the truth is, looks are a calling card and people need to be won over. Likely the deciding factors end up being charm, wit and such, and after a point, looks might become irrelevant. But we all know no one’s in a hurry to throw away looks.
Talent agents have been known to tell actresses that in order for them to be considered appealing, men should want to sleep with them, and women should want to be their best friend. I find this offensive not because of gender politics, but because I’ve always wanted both men and women to be my best friend.
Can men and women be friends?
Of course we can. Only guys who say, “Men and women can’t be friends” are incapable of being friends with women.
Being single, I find myself in a peculiar situation: I’m constantly looking not to be. But I’m picky beyond what others might consider reasonable. It’s perfectly reasonable to me, because teaming up in a relationship is a choice and not a necessity, since I’m not a person who easily feels lonely. But I do vastly enjoy having a consistent partner – in crime, and high and low times alike. So I go through a lot of you to find the one. (The irony isn’t lost on me that the couple of men in my life who could be the one are emotionally and/or circumstantially unavailable.) Judge me if it makes you feel better, but consider your own “methods of interview” and the brutal yeas and nays to which you subject women. Just remember Jason Alexander’s neurotic, balding character in Shallow Hal and the gorgeous girl he dumps because he doesn’t like her second toe…
This brings us to Tinder, the most honest, efficient dating yea or nay tool I’ve come across. You start with someone’s picture on your phone, accept or reject it, and done. The beauty of it is, the rejected party is never the wiser because the process is anonymous. The accepted party too, only realizes you picked them if they likewise picked you, at which point you can message each other. Of course, past this stage, it gets as messy as all other online dating – you meet some people in person, you like them, but not in that way, except they like you in exactly that way, and then you feel like an asshole. At least that is the sum of my experience.
Some of you found yourself taken enough with my Tinder picture to embark on a virtual obstacles course to reach me and effectively confound the Tinder system by asking me out to dinner anyway. I can’t say I don’t like the fact that you’re willing to work so hard to know more about me. That’s why I include you in this collective thank you. After all, you went from my Tinder to my Instagram to my blog, where you discovered I’m a “shit storm of trouble,” and still filled out the blog’s contact form.
But you should also know, I have no interest in casual romantic encounters. I don’t know how to say this without sounding like some sort of reverse sociopath, but I don’t enjoy the company of people unless I connect with them on a deep level. So you can imagine how poorly meaningless sex rates in my catalogue of fun – simply replace “meaningless” with “worthless” in that sentence, and you’ll understand more about my philosophy than if you read this entire blog.
On the other hand, I often do feel a deep connection with men toward whom I have no romantic inclinations, which rounds us back to the original point: I want men to be my best friend.
A couple of you are.
For whatever reason you’ve decided to take me on as your stray – because when I’m single, it seems I’m everybody’s stray – thank you. You feed me, fix my car, and introduce me to eighteen-year-old Scotch. You sail me to Mexico in your own sailboat and fly me to the mountains in two-passenger planes. You put me up in fancy hotels even though I never put out. You bail me out of trouble – not just threat of eviction and towed cars, but putting me up in your home when mine was occupied by a man who chased me down to the street while he was stark naked. When I’m shamefaced at all the things you do for me, you say what I give to you in heart and loyalty is thanks enough. You say the way I look at the world makes you see it as a better place.
I often want to turn around to make sure it’s really me you’re talking about.
Sometimes I see myself as a low-functioning thrill-seeker who should be job-seeking instead. But you see me as an artist on the cusp of breakthrough.
I’m intent on proving you right.
I do whatever I can for you – cuddle you when the world seems bleak, make up grand adventures for us out of ordinary moments, give you my car when yours is in the shop, and take you to the hospital for your surgery. I don’t have the patience or skill to put on the proper young lady show, so what you get is just me. Some of it is proper, but the rest of it isn’t proper at all, and that part lets you be just you. More than anything, I hold up a mirror to show you how good you are, even when unfettered, and it always surprises me that no one has done that for you before.
Many people don’t understand our friendship. My other friends have affectionately called me a man-eater, a not-so affectionate term. They think, they have to be sleeping together. Nope. Or, he has to be in love with her. Sometimes. But those of you with whom I’ve journeyed over a decade – we could both be genderless and disfigured at this point and it wouldn’t matter. Each of us would come running for the other.
You claim I’ve saved your life. Maybe I’ve saved it philosophically. But you’ve saved mine more than just figuratively.
So it makes sense that the love I feel for you will never wither, go stale, or seek variety.
- It’s not that hard to understand.
- Being yourself around people allows them to be themselves, and for that, they will love you.
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