I cannot grasp anyone’s failure to understand that the worth a man can offer a woman’s life is much more valuable than anything he can give you in bed.
Last year was a strange year for me in the friendship department. One of my best girlfriends, Sharon, decided I could no longer provide what she needed in a close relationship. After many lengthy emails, and several passive Facebook posts, we—mostly she—decided to call it quits.
I won’t pretend to not know why. Over the summer our differences had begun to emerge in a distressing exhale of relief. There were arguments about gossiping and unwanted relationship advice. Parental skills were questioned during a hair highlighting party that ended with another friend crying and taking back a crock pot. As anti-feminist as this will sound, the events over this past summer led me to some important realizations: 1) Women tend to fight over the most ridiculous things. 2) I’m getting too old for this crap, and no longer desire to have a woman as a best friend.
Though I was extremely hurt over all the she said/I said/she said nonsense, I never expected my closest friend of five years to cut me out of her life. I spent an insane, though necessary, amount of time analyzing where I had gone wrong (mostly through the emails included later in this essay.) But as it should be when relationships end, I came away from this experience with a new ability to understand the kind of person I am: I really suck at keeping women happy. I own this, but I will not own being a bad friend. I am a good friend, just not the kind of good friend many women would consider a great friend.
Perhaps my girl troubles have to do with growing up close to my older brother, or raising four sons, or the fact that the people I found it easiest to connect with in school were the ones who liked video games, raunchy B movies, and space stuff.
These people were almost always boys.
I did have a small circle of girlfriends and spent many Judy Blume nights sharing makeup tips and kissing posters of Duran Duran. But there was always that part of me that felt like the resident anthropologist from the Almost Girl’s Society, watching, taking notes, studying everything I could do to ensure myself a stable position in this complicated and beautiful species I had been born into.
Also, I have some odd social issues that get in the way of me being fully accepted as a best friend—like hugging and saying “I love you” to people who aren’t my immediate family. I get anxious and weird when I see someone cry, though I think this makes me a better presenter of facts rather than pity. It’s much easier for me to figure things out with words and a plan rather than an uncomfortable silence and a sympathetic shoulder. Yet when I tried to console a heartbroken friend with, “Just remember how badly he treated you,” my good intentions would be met with notes in my locker declaring me as “mean” and/or “of no help whatsoever.”
Not a lot would change over the span of 20 years—for me as well as the women I chose as friends. Yet as I grew older I found the biggest problem in most of my relationships is my inability to read people. If you ask me how I like your new haircut, could you please let me know, preferably right then, if I’ve said the wrong thing? With facts I can make the wrong right again, but without the truth of what you are feeling, I’m completely lost.
Subject: Re: Why are You Still Mad?
Traci, it’s not that I am angry at you. Maybe we just do not fit as friends. But I am surprised you would make a remark about my hair looking “masculine” since you were the one who said I would look cute with shorter hair. I realize you are busy and have your own life so I don’t expect an apology from you.
Women are generally more intuitive than men when it comes to figuring out who is feeling what, but with strong intuition comes a stronger abstract, and my incapacity to gauge emotions by implications, to respond to such emotions by saying one thing while meaning another has always caused a giant rift between being a woman and acting like one.
If the laws of attraction hold any truth at all, then shouldn’t friendship be about connecting with your emotional “pack.” Since my own experiences with male friends have proved men to be more direct in times of crisis, opting for a solution to a problem instead of sulking over one, I figured it was time for me to find my own solution to my girl troubles: If it’s important to have a best friend—for me it is—and following the logic that like attracts like, then perhaps the best girlfriend for me is a man.
I met Craig about two years ago in a book club. The first link he provided in my pursuit for deeper friendships was the connection he’d already established with my boyfriend Max. This added a level of safety, and helped us not to get too close too fast. Something that’s important to me. Many women have a tendency to love RIGHT NOW, declare you as their number one girl after the first glass of wine. This makes me nervous. Room to breathe and time to grow would make my blossoming friendship with Craig more genuine.
Many nights after our book club, Max, Craig and I would spend the evening talking about family, politics, or religion. We blasted Pearl Jam in my living room while playing Scrabble and mourning the death of grunge. It’s not that I couldn’t have had these moments with the girlfriends who are still in my life, but most of them live too far away to completely fill the void Sharon had left. I need someone who can offer Real Life time. Not just with me but my boyfriend as well.
No matter how Craig and I spent our time together, chatting after book club or through emails—neither one of us are big phone talkers, which was something else that seemed to irritate my girlfriends—time was never wasted speculating on the women things I’ve worried about my entire adult life: Am I saying something wrong? Am I being attentive enough? If I don’t answer his email right now will he think I’m not interested in his opinion?
Craig’s response after I asked him why he was wearing his pajamas under his work clothes:
Subject: Re: Is This a New Fashion Statement?
I’m cold and I’m lazy. You’ve rocked that Spiderman sweatshirt for quite some time, haven’t you?
When the official falling out came with Sharon, I filled Craig’s inbox with my neurosis. I explained my dilemma, whined, and felt sorry for myself. I sent him Sharon’s last email hoping to get some insight on where I had gone wrong. With each message he sent back, I got a man’s perspective on de-coding the female response.
Subject: Re: Why Are You Still Mad?
Traci, I don’t feel like I should have to accept your apology because I shouldn’t have to take your criticism in the first place. When you claimed you were tired of our girl time being one big “man hating fest” I realized then what kind of person I am dealing with. I guess because you have the perfect life (or think you do) there is no reason for you to join in mine. Also, when I left that CD for you it took two whole days for you to thank me. Yes, you’re busy, yes you are sorry. I simply do not care anymore.
Craig’s 3am response:
Subject: Re: What Should I Do?
First of all you need to stop obsessing over this. This is way too much drama and you are working yourself up over someone who is clearly looking for a way out. The way I see it, you have two choices here. Accept that this person does not want to be in your life then beat yourself up so you can feel sorry for yourself, or move the fuck on.
See what I mean about the “no guessing” part?
Yet before I could make that final conclusion on how close I wanted to be with Craig, I first had to feel out the other stuff. Would sexual feelings get in the way of our spending time together? Would I feel safe around him if we went out alone?
It angers me when I hear people, mostly women, say that being best friends with the opposite sex isn’t a good idea. Something else that sparked many arguments between me and my girlfriends. I cannot grasp anyone’s failure to understand that the worth a man can offer a woman’s life is much more valuable than anything he can give you in bed. But when I expressed this to my girlfriends they thought I was being dishonest. Or a tease. “If sex is your main reason for not letting men get too close,” I would say, “maybe you’re just not mature enough yet to see a man as your true equal.”
So in a round-about female way, I asked Craig for his take on the subject. “If you’re asking about sex,” he answered, “I think it’s the most insignificant part when you’re trying to build a strong relationship.”
Deal sealed. And that’s when I decided to send a ridiculous girly message to an ungirly man, declaring him as my new “bestie.”
Subject: Re: Tag. You’re It!
So my new official title is “Traci’s Bestie”? This sounds great, but what exactly does being a bestie require? Maybe you can use a different word because it makes me feel like there is going to be a lot of things I am probably incapable of. Also, high school was a long time ago.
Traci Foust holds a degree in American Literature from UCSC. She is the author of Nowhere Near Normal: A Memoir of OCD (Simon and Schuster 2011) Both her fiction and non fiction have appeared in several journals and websites including The Southern Review, Funny or Die, and The Nervous Breakdown. She is currently working on her second memoir, Love and Xanax. Find her on Facebook or her website. She is also a memoir instructor for Hardcore Memoir Workshops.