Harry Got It Right
Years ago, when I saw "When Harry Met Sally," I was on Sally's side. I didn't see anything wrong with being chums with the opposite sex; in fact, I counted a good half of my friends as male (or vice-versa, depending on your perspective or what they were wearing on a given day.) However, that was long ago, the 80s. Let's review where things stand today. It's 2001. And yes, while there are many supposed male-female platonic couplings roaming about the U.S. landscape -- careful not to trip over them as you maul your romantic partners in the park -- I seriously doubt said couplings will last. Why?
Here goes: Because Harry got it right. I should know. At 39, I've left so many male friends behind they're beginning to look like a wedding train. Oh sorry, poor simile. Why the death of these friendships? Because always, inevitably, one or the other of us wanted more. Sorry -- that's just how it goes. And when neither of us really wanted more, or only wanted more for, say, a month or so, inevitably one person got married -- at which point if you think the wife would put up with ol' stinky me then I've got some cheap property to sell you on Nob Hill, girlfriend.
Case in point: my friend Jack. Not his real name, but close enough. Well, Jack and I have been buddies for at least a million years. Let's see: we met in a bar when I was 23 (and fell all over his good looking friend Dave the comedian); I'm 39 now, that makes us friends for 16 years. OK, 16 years -- got it? A helluva long time. So after all this time, do you think Jack has ever gotten so much as a peck from me, let alone a feel? No! Why? Because Jack, though he has the heart of Bambi, is no Chris Noth -- but no one on Planet Earth is. And moron that I am, I am only drawn to men with "Sex and the City" looks and the soul of an electric barbed-wire fence. Anyway, Jack gets invited to Christmas dinner at my mom's. Not by me, mind you, but by my mom, who runs into him at a fair in San Francisco. "He's so excited about coming," she tells me long-distance. "You should have seen him!"
"That's great, Mom." But I am thinking I better not wear my red sweater and tight black pants so as not to excite the man ... I'm already mentally planning my "buddy wear" -- baggy shirt and pants, little makeup, and definitely no perfume. "He said he'll be here after he's done playing piano at the old folks' home." "That's great." When we hang up, I am feeling guilty. Jack has nowhere to go on Christmas; how can I be so selfish? What is it I am feeling?
When I put my finger on it, I realize I am not being selfish -- I am being human. And after 16 years, it still gets me that I cannot be attracted to Jack. As my biological clock ticks so loudly it's beginning to wake the neighbors, why can't I just, well, jump Jack? He loves me, that's obvious, and there's no question about his character: for Chrissakes, he plays piano for the elderly at Christmas!
Well, fast forward to Christmas. Guess who is suddenly disinterested in coming for dinner. "It's a long drive," he tells me. "It's 40 minutes." "45 with traffic, maybe 50." "But Jack, it's Christmas," I implore. "All the more reason to stay home. Double the traffic." He always makes me laugh, but this time I just want to cry. Home alone on Christmas? I hang up the phone, silently wondering if I somehow caused this. Did he read my thoughts? ...'She doesn't want me to come ... Her mother invited me ... I'd be intruding ...' The sad fact is, in male-female friendships, inevitably one or the other of youse gets left in the dust. And I have all too often been the Jack in these scenarios. I've even had friends write me off because their girlfriends just didn't like the idea of these men retaining female friends. Or been written off the old-fashioned way -- through disuse.
Once married, these men somehow lose my number somewhere midst the baby rattles and dirty diapers. And don't even go there with the 'gay friends' thing. They are the worst. Believe me, you can fall for a gay man just as easily as a straight guy. I should know; I've fallen for at least three of them. The last one got to the point where I just had to admit my feelings --(mistake: warning! Warning! Never go there!) -- outside a restaurant. As he was massaging my hands (is this normal gay behavior?) and we were trying to sober up (don't ask, and yes, we were on foot) I unleashed all my better-hidden emotions.
"Oh Jeff ... there's really only one person at that whole office I'd want to be with ..." And as I looked him in the eye, I could tell he wasn't ready for it. "That's nice," he said, "now here's your cab." He gave me a kiss on the cheek and a pat on the bum. Then with a wink he added, "Some things are better left unsaid, hon." Ahhh, yes. But a 6'5" redheaded drink of water like him, with the cutest collection of baseball caps I'd ever seen ... not to mention a shared love of films like "The Opposite of Sex," a wicked laugh, and a twisted sense of humor ... Well, those qualities were just not that easy to come by. "I'll catch ya later," I said, falling into the back of the cab. Jeff shut the door, kissed his fingertip and placed it to the window. I waved goodbye as we sailed out into the warm Pasadena night. But I knew, more clearly than ever, that I had to add him to the list of casualties.
Laurie Wiegler is a Stratford, CT-based free-lance writer whose credits include Entrepreneur, San Francisco Focus, San Francisco Magazine, Office.com, About.com, The Singles Cafe, MUSE (Canberra, Australia) and dozens of other publications. Laurie is currently searching for Mr. Right in Manhattan and getting plenty of material for her next article.
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