When I’m out and about, I always look at couples around me and either guess or get hit over the head with whatever their dynamic is. Good, bad, or indifferent, the relationship a woman has with her guy is diametrically opposed to anything she gets from being with her female friends.
This reality has sparked an ongoing debate within myself about the importance of female friendship versus the necessity of a romantic relationship with a man. (I’m straight, can’t speak to what it’s like to date a woman. If you’d like to speak up there’s a comments box below.) My girlfriends have provided me with far more support and understanding than any boyfriend or husband ever has, but there’s no way I can disavow the necessity of what a mate can offer me. In addition to what I always hope will be brain scrambling sex, there’s an undeniable comfort gained from having a guy who is “my person.” He’s the one who will take my call in the middle of the night if I find a spider in my tub the size of a Buick. My girlfriend will most likely take the call, but proceed to tell me to deal with my own damn bugs and stop being such a pussy. The guy, if he’s still invested in making an impression, will hustle himself to my roach motel, no questions asked. Both types of relationships are vital but neither has presented as the ne plus ultra.
The root of my inability to claim either arrangement is more important stems from the following fact: I know what my girlfriends are talking about. I have no idea what’s really going on in the heads of my various paramours throughout the years. I was convinced for ages that I only hitched my wagon to a series of non-communicative dicks; that I was the core problem. Then, to my relief, I’ll have a conversation with a female friend that is pretty much the same conversation I’ve had with every one of my girlfriends since I was twelve. That conversation consists of asking each other in as many ways as possible, “What did he mean by that?” All these decades later and we still don’t really have a clue. Well, we have a clue. We just don’t have a solid answer.
Which presents us with the questions, “Do we really need an answer? Do we really want an answer?” Do my female friends and I really want to get to the bottom of what men are thinking, feeling and talking about? Are we truly that invested in dealing with the men in our lives, (and the men we’d like to have in our lives, not to mention the guys who were once in our lives but are now banned, or conversely, banned us), OR, are we more invested in talking to our girlfriends about the insanity that makes up at least 75% of our encounters with men? Most women I know have a hard time nailing down which is the more attractive option. I know I do.
While I love the men of my past, present, and theoretical future, they are undoubtedly a giant collective pain in the ass. I know that men will say the same thing of women, so any man reading this who thinks I’m picking a fight, not so. We’re all mysteries to ourselves and one another. But the social conventions (and some might say genetic proclivities) we’re saddled with make communication between the sexes a bit harder than it has to be. In general, I like clarity. It would be nice to know what the hell men are talking about without having to get an Enigma machine involved. BUT… I wouldn’t want to figure out their code at the expense of the fabulously insane conversations I have, or hear, every day as the women in my life try to make sense of their relationships with men. The pleasure women get from regaling each other with Tales From The Dark Side, screaming, “What the fuck?” about it, and reassuring one another that it isn’t abnormal to find men incomprehensible is irreplaceable. Want a new gal pal? Go up to any reasonable looking woman your own age at a cocktail party and introduce the subject, “What is he thinking?” Chances are, only moments later you won’t be able to get a word in edgewise.
I’m sure it isn’t a surprise to know that I haven’t come up with the answer to “Are relationships with men or friendships with women more important?” Frankly, I think it’s an unanswerable question that I mostly ponder during middle of the night OCD meltdowns to occupy my brain with something that isn’t morbid or otherwise terrifying. What I do know is that I’m not alone. An entire self-help industry exists around that question as well as the vagaries of communication between men and women. Even so, after a particularly confusing or wounding encounter with some guy, I can’t help but feel that the problem lies exclusively with me and that HE is totally reasonable and clear while I’m a total nutbar. What to do? I call a girlfriend and am immediately reassured by her rantings that I’m not the only one searching the bottom of my cereal box for that elusive decoder ring.