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?

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Majestic Nostalgia: The Drive-In (a poetic tribute)

Drive-in Nostalgia (clip art)

The majestic nostalgia

of the drive-in

calls out

to a place

in history

that is vanishing.

That makes me sad.

It is

a special place

where families and friends can

enjoy

movies on the

big screen

in the summertime and fall

in the crisp

night air

with popcorn in hand

and contentment in their heart.

There is

something

so beautiful

and pure

about a drive-in,

and I hope

that they last

into the future

for many years to come.

 

Love Tarries

Embed from Getty Images

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.

Digital Inequality and the IRS

Inequality is “an unfair situation in which some people have more rights or better opportunities than other people.”  The definition of inequality is “the quality of being unequal or uneven” and can include social disparity and disparity of distribution or opportunity (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inequality).

In terms of digital inequality, this can also be referenced as a technology gap.  I understand this very personally, because I was raised in a blue-collar family that was largely against computers when I was growing up.  I think my parents either hated or were scared of computers, and my Mom as a postal carrier never had need of a computer.  Today she gets upset when coupons are e-mail only since she doesn’t do e-mail, however, now that she is retired she surprised me when she took an entry level computer class with her friend at the community college.  Personally, I never owned a computer or laptop in college.  I would sometimes borrow my friend’s or my boyfriend’s computer, but mostly I would live at the library or computer lab when I needed to write papers.  Finances were an issue, and my first real computer came once I graduated with my Bachelors and Masters degrees and bought an old computer from an acquaintance for $100.  I know my experience may not be typical, but it is important to note that not every family can afford computers and technology, which can be very expensive.  This reality does set a child behind in school and can be a learning disadvantage.  A pencil and notebook is much less expensive than a laptop and affording home internet, and for parent’s struggling to put food on the table, technology is most likely not a priority.

Tonight I was disappointed and concerned when I went to my local library that is a star library in my state (Illinois) to pick up my federal and state tax forms and booklets.  Earlier in the week I had no success picking up the tax forms at the main post office that always stocks them, so I figured that perhaps I was thinking about my taxes late this year and the post office was just out of everything.  However, the sign at my local library said that the IRS decided to not send federal tax booklets this year to places that they always send them, like post offices and libraries. An extremely helpful woman at the library reference desk pointed out that the IRS also did not send supplementary forms like years previously, and a library staff member had to repeatedly call and ask for tax instruction booklets, only to be given 10 booklets that were quickly gone.  Also, there were no IL-1040 forms or booklets at all, and it was unclear to me what the library was given regarding state forms.

People looking for tax booklets were instructed to go online to look up the information.  This is not a good option for people who want to use a tax booklet and a paper form to mail their taxes in the old-fashioned way, which many older people still do.  Also, the library had a sheet with a phone number to call to have tax forms mailed to you.  That is a decent option for people that aren’t trying to do their taxes that night or at the last minute.  However, it is a hardship and a hurdle for taxpayers to jump through when instruction tax guides are not free and easily accessible to people of all income levels.  Many people may not have access to the internet at home, and most people would not like doing confidential tax information at the local library. I think this situation is inequality since it is social disparity and a disparity of opportunity for people of lower income levels.

Libraries and post offices are hubs of their community and provide services to people regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or other factors.  While I can understand the IRS wanting to save money in the costs of printing and mailing forms, which is good both economically and environmentally, it still troubles me that this move results in an inequality that epitomizes the technology gap that is a way of life for many citizens in the United States of America.  I am a fan of freedom, and my hope is that people who are comfortable with old school paper tax forms can easily find and use them, while people who are comfortable with internet tax filing can utilize the internet to file their taxes.  I do not want to see either option cease to exist.

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

 

 

 

 

Starbucks and Starfield: The Perfect Combination (I checked out Starbucks NEW Chestnut Praline Latte)!

I recently heard that Starbucks has a NEW seasonal drink, the Chestnut Praline Latte.  I was intrigued and eager to check it out.  While uncertain if I have ever had pralines before  (yeah, maybe I have led a sheltered life), but I was game to give it a try.  Call me a fan of Starbucks, which would be a true understatement.  So, I got a Chestnut Praline Latte on my drive back home from visiting my family for Thanksgiving.

It seemed appropriate to pair the latte with a cd from one of my favorite bands, Starfield, a Canadian praise and worship band with a slight rock edge, who is not very well known in the United States.  A quick side note: I once road-tripped to support Starfield years ago when they were nominated for rock/contemporary album of the year at the Dove (GMA) Awards for Christian artists.  I did a lot of music promotion “back in the day,” and I was always going to concerts and volunteering at promotional tables for Christian radio in multiple cities.  I’m kind of surprised Starfield still flies under the radar today, but sometimes that can be kind of cool to me.  I am definitely not one who is into things because other people are; while sometimes I can be influenced,  I think it’s important to follow your own drumbeat, too. But, since I am going on a tangent, I’ll get back to my story.

So, I sipped my Chestnut Praline Latte and listened to songs like “Everything is Beautiful” (which is an AMAZING song to listen to when you are feeling down), and “Love is the Reversal”, which I can listen to on repeat and never get sick of it.  I pondered deep thoughts with songs lyrics like “Yeah I believe our secret longings Tell us that we’re not at home. But grace reclaims what the world disowns” and “Yeah, nothing here’s as good as it should be ‘Cause this is the rehearsal” (song “Love is the reversal” on “Beauty in the Broken” cd by Starfield, copyright 2006).  While I must say that the Chestnut Praline Latte is not one of my favorite Starbucks drink, it is worth checking out at least once.  As their seasonal drinks typically go, you can only get them for a very limited time, so check it out before it’s gone.  And, if you couldn’t already pick up my extremely subtle plug for the band Starfield, you may want to check them out if you are looking for a new band.  Some of their older cds are harder to find in Christian bookstores, but you can find them on Spotify and see what you think.  You can also check out some more info on them on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfield_(band)).  I highly recommend their debut album “Starfield” (with has probably their best known song, “Filled With Your Glory”) that came out in 2004, as well as the more slight rock edged “Beauty in the Broken” from 2006.

***For those who are curious what is in Starbucks new Chestnut Praline Latte, here is that info courtesy of http://www.starbucks.com: “Espresso, steamed milk, and flavors of caramelized chestnuts and spices. Topped with whipped cream and spiced praline crumbs.”

Week in Review: Fab Lab visit, Kickball game, and an Amazing Omelet!

This past week was a unique one in ways which were fun.  On Palm Sunday I visited the C-U Community Fab Lab, which may perhaps fly under the radar as an innovative place to visit and merge technology and your creative side.  It’s a free community place where you can utilize a laser and an open source computer program to create your own key chain, make a magnet, or do more intensive things such as 3D printing and creation of your own designs.  It appeals to various ages, and while the young boy next to me seemed to do slightly better with his project than I did, with the help of three awesome volunteers I was able to solve some issues I was having and emerged victorious with a pretty blue heart key chain with my initial inside that I created.  I even got a pretty purple key ring to go with it!  See my photo below and the website links (including Flickr group for project ideas) if you are interested in learning more about the Fab Lab +/or visiting.

http://cucfablab.org/book/about-us

https://www.flickr.com/groups/1847246@N22/pool

Heart Keychain that I made at the Fab Lab!  (Photo and design by Julie A. Smith)

Heart Key chain that I made at the Fab Lab! (Photo and design by Julie A. Smith)

Next was an amazing omelet that I made heavy on the cheese which turned out good.  I’m not Betty Crocker or Rachel Ray, but that’s ok.  I get excited when I cook something and it turns out well, because my forte is in areas other than cooking.  So I was definitely proud of my omelet!  Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo to illustrate, because I ate the omelet exceedingly fast and was not thinking of photo-journaling.

Finally was the fun kickball game that was competitive and took me back to childhood.  It was between my small group and another small group from my church (note: our huge small group had actually split several months ago into 2 groups due to our size, but we still regularly get together for social outings).  Honestly, I don’t think I have played kickball since grade school, and I found my self asking questions as the game went on, such as “do you have to wait till the ball is kicked before you run from your base?”  However, unfortunately, I got out immediately three times when I kicked.  My balls always seemed to fly high, and the other team were stars at catching them.  My team was great at that, too, but we were vastly outnumbered, and I think that made a difference in our loss.  But fun was had by all it seemed, and I was happy that ONE TIME I ACTUALLY GOT ON BASE!  I DIDN”T EVEN GET OUT UNTIL RUNNING TO THIRD BASE!  I have always appreciated the saying, “it is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.”  It was a ton of fun.  See photos below to illustrate.

Small group Kickball! (My team)

Small group Kickball! Fun times! (My team)

 

Kate and me (Small group Kickball)!

Kate and me (Small group Kickball)!

 

Our tough picture! (Small group Kickball! My team)

Our tough picture! (Small group Kickball! My team)

Finally, while there were some not fun issues to the week (re: multiple doctor’s visits & health issues, etcetera),  but the week was good overall.  Now I’m looking forward to Easter Sunday and my Dad visiting.  We’ll get to attend church together and have quality father-daughter time.  Sweet!

Cocoa and a Blog

About 15 people were coming and going outside my apartment complex late this afternoon while I was scraping off my car after a huge winter storm that seemed to dump about 12- 16 inches of snow on my area (central Illinois).  I saw people driving by in cars, a guy walking a cute poodle in a pink sweater, a yellow taxicab, a man taking out the trash, and a guy in glasses but no hat or sweater (which would be quite cold).  I had been wondering how the world was coping with the winter storm that affected so many states in the U.S., causing what seemed like the world to stop.  Today, a plethora of schools and businesses were closed in my area, as well as a long list of churches yesterday, including the two I attend.  Since I had been snowbound in my apartment all day Sunday, as well as sick on Saturday, I actually hadn’t been outside of my apartment since I got home from work this past Friday.  Since surprisingly my boss actually closed the main office that I work at, my adventure as a hermit continued today….and I must say that I am so grateful for electricity, heat, and Netflix.

Now I am inside my apartment enjoying some warm cocoa and writing this blog.  The day has flown.  Winter is most assuredly upon us.  The snow is pure and white.  It is a new year, and I have hope for this new year to be beautiful.

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