About a year ago, I noticed that, in a reversal of the previous pattern of my life, almost all my close friends were women. This has to change — and Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams (sort of) explains why.
My guy friends [...] will hang out for an entire evening and never once mention anything to do with feelings. If one of them forwards me an e-mail, there's an 85 percent probability it involves "Star Wars" and zero chance it contains a quote from Maya Angelou. If a man I'm not sleeping with tells me I'm beautiful, I believe him. I have had guy friends gallantly toss me over a shoulder and carry me through big puddles. They have, when I've been blue, asked if I needed somebody's ass kicked. My guy friends have never asked to split an appetizer because they were really trying to stay in the Zone, nor looked at me like I was a war criminal for ordering dessert.
At times in my life when I've had more guy friends, they've been wonderful confidants about feelings (note to current guy friends: you still are). If a woman "looked at me like I was a war criminal for ordering dessert," I probably wouldn't be friends with her. None of my friends tend to e-mail me about Star Wars, but if an e-mail includes sharks, there's an 85% probability it came from my mom. Williams also commits what I'm now christening Geek Deadly Sin #6, using the word "frak" in a context not related to Battlestar.
Stereotypes aside, though, Williams makes some good points about the value of dude friends for straight women. She writes,
You want to have good relationships with the opposite sex? Get to know a few members of it. That's what friends are for. To hear you out. To keep you in check. To make you a better person. And your girlfriends and wives and boyfriends and husbands will thank you for it.
If you let guys into your life and your heart, you can't hear the phrase "there are no good men out there" without recognizing it for the stupid sexist bullshit it is. You can likewise toss out the male canard that they're all just booty-chasing simpletons as the smokescreen that is as well.
Especially if you've been burned in romantic relationships, there is no quicker recipe for a hopeful attitude toward future relationships — and a continued appreciation for half the human race — than a male friend who treats you well and doesn't try to sleep with you. Bitching about men with your girlfriends is a time-honored (at least on TV) activity, but it can become an echo chamber of bitterness, clichés, and, frankly, sexism. I'd argue that all women, not just straight ones, can benefit from friendships with men, if for no other reason than the fact that these friendships force us to recognize that the problems of gender roles in our society are a lot more complicated than "men are pigs."
My dad once said, of someone who didn't read books published after 1950, "why would you want to cut yourself off from so much interesting stuff?" I feel the same way about guys. So although my recent woman-centric years have been wonderful (I used to be one of those girls who "didn't get along with other girls," which, as many commenters have pointed out, also sucks), I'm trying to get better at calling my old guy friends. Because although it may be harder to maintain female-to-male friendships as you get older — after college, it's tougher to become close with men without giving off a datey vibe — it's totally worth it.
Guy Friends Rule [Salon]