Leona’s Love Quest
Friends with Penalties
Whether it’s possible for a man and a woman to be friends is an age-old question made popular by a scene in When Harry Met Sally, one of my favorite Rom-Coms. (OMG! Remember when Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan were that young and beautiful?!) Surely men and women carry on platonic relationships all the time, but Harry believed that idea of sex was always lurking underneath. While that may not be altogether true, quite often when a good friendship forms between a man and a woman there is an underlying fear that introducing sex might ruin it.
One of my dearest friends is indeed a man and I’ll admit that, while I did have a crush on him for all of about five minutes, our friendship has endured for many years. It probably helped that he was my boss and had a girlfriend at the time; however, I rarely let bothersome details such as unavailability or highly inappropriate conditions prevent me from finding a man attractive. Alternatively, a friendship with an ex can be more tricky, particularly when Person ‘A’ still has unresolved feelings and the supposedly disinterested Person ‘B’ keeps sending Person ‘A’ mixed messages. A few weeks ago, Friend Zone Guy sent me the nicest, most thoughtful text message about what a great time he had hanging out just before Christmas and he thanked me for being a part of his holidays. Now I feel like the bad guy for restricting our friendship, which doesn’t seem the least bit fair.
It’s clear to me that the word ‘friendship’ can mean different things to different people. During my last days on OKCupid, I got a message from a man who wrote in his profile, “Looking for an easy going, classy, sexy woman to build a friendship first.” That sounded really great until I saw that one of his photos included a nude selfie of his entire torso from shoulder to hip line. (You can see the NSFW photo on my Facebook page.) Normally, I would just ignore such an egregious contradiction in objectives, but I gave him a chance to explain himself because I thought you all might be amused by it:
ME: Seriously? You sounded great until I saw the naked picture 🙁 That doesn’t say to me you’re looking for someone classy to build a friendship first, it says to me your looking for sex.
What’s the whole “friendship first” about?
RESPONSE: We may see this different …. The way I see it is to be a friend with someone before jumping into bed…. If I need plain sex I would go to different website. I’m looking for a FWB.
ME: I see. And if you said that up front, were you afraid you wouldn’t get a response?
RESPONSE: Maybe guys …. Not girls… People have different needs …. If u think about FWB is not that bad. If woman (or men) has FWB then she/he is not desperate and can make right choices when looking for special one.
ME: If I were desperate I would settle for FWB instead of holding out for the real thing. Men like you are just adverse to commitment. You think it requires you to give up too much.
RESPONSE: U maybe right
Geez, what an asshat. Here, I need to quote a priceless comment from our own darkandlovely of the BBW community who stated, “When guys think you aren’t seeing anyone, the default with them is always sex . . . They’re always ready to step up to the plate and offer you some penis.”
Guurll, you sure got that one right.
Alternatively, I recently met someone who, much like me, is tired of the endless string of dates that go nowhere that result from online dating. Since more of his successful relationships began as platonic friendships, he asked me (as the expert, ha!) if I thought women online might be open to this kind of approach. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to recreate an organic friendship with someone you’ve met on a dating website because of their inherent expectations. I assumed he’d most likely end up in the Friend Zone while the woman continues to look for someone who actually wants to take her out on a date. Likewise, if he continues dating someone he’d prefer to be friends with, she’s bound to be disappointed when things don’t work out the way that she expected. How’s that for a no-win situation? People who walk the line between friends and lovers often find themselves on some really shaky ground.
Someone with the username of heylookatthat recently coined the phrase “friends with penalties” on Urban Dictionary as:
“A friendship, most often between a man and women, that you do everything that you would when dating, but without romantic or sexual behavior. Many people assume the two of you are dating when in public. Note: Neither party wants something more out of the relationship.”
I’m guessing the reason this entry received a large number of thumbs down is because this person has described a friendship in which neither party is being penalized for any reason (or maybe UD commentators are just judgmental haters; I’ve also found this to be true.) I think a better definition for “friends with penalties” might be the kind of Friend Zone or FWB situation where one person puts up with a lot of crap from the other person because they secretly or not so secretly want more out of the relationship. The friend-zoned person is most often depicted as a male being strung along for his cash or a female FWB being used for sex, but we’ve all seen situations where the roles went down in reverse. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with a FWB situation, as long as it is mutually beneficial to both members and they are being completely honest (especially with themselves) about what it is they really want. I have come close to this kind of arrangement with my young musician friend I’ve referred to in earlier posts as Boy Wonder. The downside is that I only see him once or twice a year. Come to think of it, that could be the upside as well, depending on how I choose to look at it.
Thanks to Facebook, the definition of the word “friend” is even more ambiguous. However, just because we have the ability to grant friendship requests with a simple click of a button, doesn’t mean we’ve lost control of how much access we allow them into our lives. Once it becomes difficult to let go of a friendship or love interest that no longer serves us, we must remember that our value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see our worth.