Can Men and Women Just be friends? Dating and the Age-Old Question (Take Two)

Author’s note- this post from several years ago was on my mind again recently, and I want to re-share it (with a few slight editing updates) since the topic is so good and is one that many people have pondered over the years.

Can men and women just be friends?  That is a question that many writers, singers, and infinitely countless number of women and men and boys and girls have pondered through the ages.  It is the quintessential age-old question.  I, too, have pondered this question over the years, and my interest in women’s studies and my own personal experiences in the murky waters that can be male and female friendship has led me to examine this subject one again.  Also, I have noticed that of all my blog postings, the most popular one is my first post on Word Press, “Love, rejection, and poetry (a.k.a. a heart, a wall, and vulnerability)”.  I have observed that there is an wide interest in the topic of rejection judging by the many google searches where people end up on my blog when they are looking for topics such as “love rejection poems”, “heartbreaking love poems”, “rejection poetry”, and “famous poems on rejection” (I didn’t realize that I was famous).  If you are interested in reading my post on love and rejection, then feel free to link to it here: https://julieannesmith.wordpress.com/2012/01/

Today I was reading an article in the Daily Illini online written by Tanya Trivedi on 4/24/12 entitled “Just friends or hidden desires: Cross-gender friendships not clear-cut.”  I found the article to be thought-provoking and well-written, and it caused me to re-visit this topic, ponder my personal experiences, and take action to write a blog post.  Trivedi begins her article with a quote from Oscar Wilde and then she poses some interesting questions.  Here is an excerpt:

“Centuries ago, Oscar Wilde said, “Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.” Can his perception of friendships between males and females still ring true in regards to sprouting relationships in the 21st century? Perhaps love, passion, enmity or worship is lurking under the illusory layer of what we think of as friendship.”

(Quoted from http://www.dailyillini.com/index.php/article/2012/04/just_friends_or_hidden_desires_crossgender_friendships_not_clear_cut)

Look deeper in to your friends personality

Look deeper in to your friends personality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My experiences in the vastly murky waters of male/female friendships (and relationships) has not always been a pleasant one.  Hence, some of my poetry.  I am definitely not a huge dater, and I actually have only dated a small number of guys in my life.  There is a long list of reasons for that, but I am sure no one here wants to read a book.  However, to give a “Julie’s condensed version”, I would say some of the reasons are:

1. My parent’s divorce scarred me, and I have various fears related to love.  I am greatly troubled by the vast number of marriages that end in divorce, and how it seems (for reasons that I do not understand) that people can have longer relationships with their favorite sweater than a committed, lasting, and emotionally healthy and stable marriage.  Pardon my bluntness.

2. I am quite independent, and I have never been one to “need a man” to be happy.  Sometimes it seems to me that many women let  their own emotional contentedness and happiness with their life rest on the fact of whether or not they have a boyfriend (or husband).  I would like to think that has never been me.

3.  I am not a fan of internet dating.  I prefer to know a guy in person.  However, with the current rise of internet dating, sometimes it seems that I am the only one not really desiring to run out and do e-harmony or Match.com.  Almost every wedding that I have attended in the last 5 years came about as the result of internet dating.  Am I missing out?  Personally, I do not think so. (Author’s updated note 9/9/16- I am pondering this topic again re: if I am missing out, because internet dating is a possible avenue to love, although I MUCH prefer the old-fashioned way of knowing a guy in person and then dating.  However, the jury is still out).

4. I keep busy with my friends, family, interests, church, and (previously) my educational degrees that I attained.

5. Financial limitations, perhaps??? I was unemployed after the two companies that I worked for both closed during the Recession, and no way was my focus on dating.  Also, these days, while I am a feminist, I still think that it is beautiful for a guy to treat a girl very special on a date, as well as to pay, especially if you are first dating and the guy has initiated the date.  Call me sexist if you want to, but honestly I like that tradition and think it is quite noble and honorable.  However, often times both parties wish to date but do not have any money.  Dating doesn’t really need to involve much money, and creative and free alternatives can also be done. Personally, I am quite content with pizza (which you can cook at home) and a relaxing movie, but it can be nice to go out, too.  (Good conversation is always free, might I add).  However, if I am left to fend for myself and pay my own way (as some guys seem to prefer), then honestly I would rather be able to afford to pay my rent than to go to a nice dinner at Texas Roadhouse.  Dating is not a necessity, but I will not go so far as to say dating is a luxury, either.  I believe there are economic factors in dating that have previously been overlooked and heretofore have not been the focus of Sociological studies about dating.

6. I strongly prefer being friends with women to being friends with men, with a few exceptions over the years.  Those exceptions are typically  the husbands of my close female friends (or my Dad or brother), however some other exceptions that I have made over the years have led to pain and heartache, causing me to being even MORE apt to prefer friendship with women rather than men.  My heart has been hurt enough over my lifetime.  Finally, it can be hard to safeguard your heart and still be open to romantic love, which I desire.

7.  Ok, ok, maybe I am writing a book here.  So, I will end this list with the fact that I am picky.  Also, often the guys that I would enjoy dating do not clearly initiate, most guys seem gun-shy about using the D-word (author’s side note: which I understand, because none of us like rejection…but I totally agree with a quote from the movie When in Rome: “the passion is in the risk” or “the beauty is in the risk”), and I can be shy when I like a guy.  And, as far as being picky, I think that it is important to have an emotional connection with a guy that you would date, as well as a physical attraction.  Also, I would enjoy some common spiritual beliefs, however I have had it both ways in dating, and honestly I found it challenging both ways but for different reasons.  Finally, two of the qualities that I find most endearing in a guy are seldom found together: boldness and gentleness.  I desire to be treated tenderly and gently, and guys that have a gentle and caring personality are very attractive to me.  However, I also enjoy bold guys who are leaders, highly verbal, and “Joshua” type men (meaning Joshua from the Bible).  If I ever find a guy who has both qualities, that may be the perfect guy for me.

As far as men and women just being friends, I am coming to realize that I cannot do that topic justice in one blog post.  I will say that it is a hotly debated topic, and in my personal experience some guys that I used to be friends with have acted like they no longer wanted to be my friend after they asked me out, and I verbally told them that I did not feel that same way about them.  No one wants to hear “I just think of you as a friend”, but sometimes that is the truth.  I would rather be honest, but I never want to hurt anyone.  I remember a guy friend in college who I suspected liked me, but I had a boyfriend.  Almost immediately after my boyfriend and I broke up, there was an instance where the three of us were eating lunch together.  We went to part ways and my ex left first.  My guy friend at that point took the opportunity to kiss me on the forehead while I was standing there shocked and stunned, and he said, “I can do that now since you are single.”  UH, NO!  Sometimes stuff like that makes me frustrated, and at times it seems like male and female friendships (and relationships) are like buried landmines in a vast field and you walk across the field and do your best to try to escape without major damage to life and limb.  Alright, I am being dramatic.  It is nowhere near that complicated or harmful, but male/female friendships are challenging and pose unique issues for everyone involved.

How about you?  I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on male/female friendships.  Do you find them challenging?  How do you safeguard yourself from being hurt?  Do you even think men and women can be friends, or is it a lost cause and we are all fooling ourselves?

Imperfect: A Poetic Rendering

Imperfect

why does it scare us so

to be?

Too slow

and we get left behind

and criticized.

Too fast

and we make mistakes.

 

As women

we struggle

to be thin.

To be beautiful.

To be desired.

To be capable.

All the while inside

secretly feeling imperfect

and wondering if we

are good enough,

or thin enough,

or pretty enough?

 

Perfection is a cruel master,

not allowing for any deviations,

flaws, or lesser standards.

But I believe that there

is beauty in imperfection

and freedom

in not trying to be perfect.

Perfectly imperfect.

That is true beauty.

 

Love Tarries

Love tarries
as sunrises and sunsets,
new moons,
summer,
fall,
and winter
come and go
and another spring bashfully peaks
through the horizon.
The delay
and wait for love
weighs down my heart
with much sadness.
I feel forsaken
by love.

Men in my age range
seem to prefer model-types,
exotic foreign girls,
girls who like to flirt,
or girls who run after guys
and make things happen.
So, I’m no model,
nor do I want to be,
and beauty ultimately should come from within,
but I fault too many guys
for caring too much about appearance
and putting it on a pedestal,
and not caring enough about qualities
like compassion or intelligence or courage.
I don’t have exotic foreign appeal.
Alas, I can’t compete with that.
And I’ve never been one
much for flirting.
I appreciate genuine connection
and prefer to be monogamous
with flirting, but in dating
and not with every single guy.
I’m more traditional in nature,
and want to be pursued,
but society seems to laugh
at that these days.
I can be both traditional,
as well as for women having equal access
and opportunity in both the home and work sphere.

Love tarries
like a long, cold winter
when spring seems like it is forever gone,
and I sigh
and grow in patience,
albeit somewhat ungracefully,
in this wait for beautiful and lasting love.

I’m going to feel Deprived if my Husband doesn’t Cook

Pot roast

Pot roast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to feel deprived if my husband doesn’t cook.  In my head is this fantasy that I have, and I just laughed as I wrote that, because in this fantasy my (future) husband likes to cook.  Steak.  Mashed potatoes.  Chicken.  Pot roast.  Tacos.  You get my drift.  Oh, but my future husband doesn’t mind baking, either.  Chocolate cake.  Brownies.  Cookies.  Banana nut Muffins.  I laugh to myself again.  You are probably laughing at me, too.  Or, perhaps you are outraged.  Actually, that is kind of the mood I am in.   I feel like pushing the envelope a bit.  I’m not outraged, but actually I just want to set gender expectations on their head.

So I was just eating dinner tonight and thinking about how I feel like a “bad” female, because honestly I don’t really like to cook.  I was always too busy reading to help my Mom in the kitchen, and she would have to push and prod me.  So, I really don’t know how to cook.  That is part of the problem.  Also, I hate dishes.  But, I have a dish washer now, so you ask what is my excuse?  Truth be told, my Mom even recently subscribed me to Rachel Ray’s magazine, but I find myself flipping through it thinking that certain foods look good, but then I stumble at the action point where I need to go out and buy the needed ingredients to make the meal.  My observation is that if you don’t have basic ingredients to start with, then your grocery bill can burst your budget and be a major detriment into your foray into cooking.

I fear my future husband will feel deprived with my lack of domesticity.  Here is what “gets me.”  Women are expected to work full-time.  Be thin (and I must say that the older I become, the harder that is, especially with the genetic predisposition of the women in my family).  Be beautiful.  Be sweet.  Love children.  Do the bulk (if not all) of the cleaning in your home.  And, finally, be a domestic “goddess.”  But what happens when you don’t wear the red polka-dot apron and make an amazing pot roast?

Society likes to play it both ways.  Women need to work outside the home, but they need to shine in the home sphere, too.  If you don’t, then you deprive your husband (thus goes the logic).  Your husband deserves a good home cooked meal.  And why would a woman want to “waste” a college education if she decides she wants to raise her children and stay at home?  Is that not a noble profession, or does she have to be climbing the corporate or academic ladder to get applauded?  I think many women get burned out running from full-time work to PTA meetings to kid’s soccer practice, and trying to be home in time to make a five course meal may be an unfair burden that society places on women.  Women can juggle many things successfully, but I think fairness and equality is a standard to be obtained in both the work and home sphere.  Why can’t husbands cook, too?  While I definitely will not feel deprived if my future husband doesn’t cook (FYI, I was just stirring the pot), I do hope that my husband will at least like to grill out, or he will enjoy cooking with me as we learn to cook together.  A girl can dream.

 

“Shy Girl” and “The Waterfall”: Original Poetry

Shy Girl

The shy girl smiles.

She ponders and does muse

why when it comes to love

she always seems to lose.

 

The shy girl hopes,

but hopes seem so threadbare;

in a tapestry of love

she finds it quite unfair.

 

The shy girl wishes

that things would change.

She is shy of heart and action,

and she is forlorn for a love exchange.

____________________________________________________________

English: Waterfall near Lepena, Slovenia Slove...

English: Waterfall near Lepena, Slovenia Slovenščina: Slap, Lepena, Slovenija (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Waterfall

Churning.

Rushing.

Swirling.

Flowing.

Tumultuous

waters

flow down

the rocky

craggy

cliffs

seeking freedom.

Seeking peace.

Seeking release

from the chains that bind her.

 

She would cry

if she wasn’t

already water.

Transparent

and flowing

amidst the

beat of the sun

on her body

and the chirping

of the birds

comforting her with their tender song

in the sweet mountain air

that completely envelops her.

Perhaps

the water

are her

many tears

as they flow

free

and with abandon.

 

Tired of trying.

Tired of bondage.

Tired of who she needs to be.

Tired of the expectations.

 

She just longs to be free.

Pure.

Unrestrained by people’s expectations

of who she needs to be.

She wants to just be herself.

A waterfall flowing,

but now with a new calm strength

that is soothed by the warmth

of unconditional acceptance

from the One who watches over her

and loves her

even when she cannot always accept herself

or love herself.

 

Poet’s noteThis poem explores the internal conflict of the poet amidst expectations in the spheres of her family, work, faith, society, and even herself. 

 

***I have more of my poetry on www.poemhunter.com.  Here is a link to my poet page and poems:

http://www.poemhunter.com/julie-a-smith/

A Pictorial Snapshot from my iPhone

Life, thoughts, and journeys are expressed well in pictorial snapshots.  An eclectic mix of random moments full of mundane things, fun adventures, emotions, and the fascinating color of life all combine to create the kaleidoscope of our lives. Since I seldom use actual photographs that I have taken in my blog, I decided to make a short pictorial snapshot of photographs that I have taken in the last few months from my amazing iPhone camera.

This is the view of the Mississippi River taken out the window of the Figge Art Museum (formerly Davenport Museum of Art).  I saw the only known self-portrait by Grant Wood (artist of American Gothic fame), plus other art from the museum’s permanent collection when I visited this museum with my Dad recently.  I especially liked an Andy Warhol painting of the American moon landing that was part of a travelling exhibition.

This photo was taken when I was looking for the fitness aisle at Wal-Mart, but I was drawn to the toy aisle first.  I am a kid at heart, truth be told.  As I perused the toy aisle, I couldn’t help but ponder why there were no cool Lego’s like this for girls when I was a kid.  I appreciate how today there are many girl-oriented Lego’s with fun colors and scenes showcasing various career options.  Definitely awesome and progressive.

 Beautiful sky at my favorite park.

Pretty flowers.

Chicago Bears Training Camp that I went to with my family on my vacation.  I like Illinois and Chicago sports teams, but I am not a die-hard fan by any means.  This was a fun family time, which is what I was most excited about.

Majestic fountain that fondly reminded me of Scotland, a country that I would love to visit again.

This is pretty decor at my church.  One of my Pastor’s has a good eye for decoration.

This picture is of pretty furnishings at my church after our recent remodel.  A fire damaged the building we were renting last November 2011, and we were displaced to a hotel for 4 months.  However, a beautiful blessing is that this past Spring we were able to buy our own building.  We did a remodel of the building since it used to be a publishing house and a Moose lodge.

Here is a link to the recent story about my church’s restoration after the fire:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/religion/2012-08-26/less-year-after-fire-church-its-new-home.html

Women, Cooking, and Body Image: A Slippery Slope

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn (Photo credit: baysmom3)

Tonight I started pondering about women and body image after I looked up “how to cook sweet corn” on ehow, and then a bit after that I queried to find out how many calories a cob of corn had.  My patience was waning, and I quickly gave up on my caloric question when one promising website slowed me down by mentioning about  giving me a free subscription when all I wanted was to answer one simple question and get on to my cooking.  However, as I looked through my pots and pans repeatedly, it dawned on my that I did not have the big cooking pot that ehow said that I would need to cook sweet corn.  Quite disappointing, and since I just cook for one, perhaps that is the reason I never noticed my lack of a big pot before.  All was not lost, however, because I wondered super important questions such as, “why do I need THREE Pyrex casserole dishes?”, and I also found a hidden plastic bag for steaming vegetables in the microwave.  However, the microwave felt like cheating when I was actually planning to cook ON THE STOVE the sweet corn that I purchased recently for 25 cents an ear.

I wish I could honestly say that I am a cook like Rachel Ray, but the honest truth is that when I was young my mom would try to get me to help cook dinner, but I often had my nose stuck in a book and was disinterested in doing the whole cooking thing.   Fast forward to today, and while I can go through spurts with cooking, more often than not I find it tedious when cooking solo, and often I cannot afford the staple ingredients that cooking requires.  Food prices have skyrocketed, and I find myself substituting convenience for healthy.  Honestly, I wish my budget was not as tight as it is, but with student loan bills that seem like I will be paying off until I am 70 (yes, of course I am being melodramatic), I can wish for more income to purchase fruits, vegetables, and healthy foods with low sodium.

Avril Lavigne + Rachel Ray

Society should not pigeon-hole women into having to be a “good cook” in order to be a “good female” or a “good wife.”  The old saying goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, but if that is true then I don’t really want to ponder about that.  Even in our progressive times, men are often seldom expected to cook for their wives (unless a grill is involved), but my step-dad cooks more often than my mom.  My mom is a decent to fair cook, but I have always thought it is great how her and my step-dad cook together or how sometimes he just cooks for her.  I like the idea of cooking together with a boyfriend or spouse.  It makes the whole cooking thing much more fun and is more egalitarian.

As far as body image goes, I must say that it completely FRUSTRATES me that the media and society tell women that they have to be stick thin in order to be considered attractive and beautiful.  That is one of the prime reasons that so many women struggle with eating disorders.  In the past week, I kept stumbling upon media that was harping on celebrity women who recently had a baby.  The articles were all centered around the women and their pregnancy weight that they have not lost, post-delivery.  The resulting message from the media seems to be that these women need to bounce right back to their previous lower weights, and they are viewed harshly if this is not the case.  I think that this is completely unfair.  Both society and the media in the United States unfairly thrust harmful expectations on women in terms of their weight and body image.  There is only one message that is heard loud and clear: to be beautiful means to be thin.  There are no exceptions.  These harsh expectations often cause women to struggle with low self-esteem and thoughts of only being valued for being thin or how they look in a bikini.

Finally, I want to end on a personal note.  Currently I am the heaviest weight that I have ever been, and it is a frustration for me.  I never struggled with my weight when I was younger nor did the whole diet thing.  Most of the women in my family (especially later in life) struggle with being overweight, and I have unhappily observed how I presently have a much harder time with my metabolism and losing weight than I did in my teens and twenties.  I have tried to make some lifestyle changes, but I know I need to do more.  Also, there are some sacrifices that I am not quite yet willing to make (i.e. giving up my soda- I seriously think that I could be addicted to the sugar and caffeine).  Regardless of society’s view of women’s body images and the resulting horrible pressure to be thin, I want to be happy with myself regardless of my weight while I work to be more fit and healthy.  Being healthy really is better than being thin, when you think about it.