What About Friendship as Defined by Gender?
It’s always interesting to me to explore the differences between how men and women, and boys and girls bond with friends of their same gender.
The photo above is of my son and some of his friends on the way to summer band camp. (Don’t ask me what the title of the photo means. I haven’t a clue. I don’t speak “teenage boy.”) My son, Logan, is the one on the left sporting the manic side-eye. (How could a mom be any more proud?)
If I were to ask him on any given day what one of his friends likes to eat, wear, read, listen to, etc. I’d get a blank stare followed with a mumbled, “Uh, yeah, so, I really don’t know.” And then he’d go right back, completely unperturbed, to whatever he was eating, wearing, reading, listening to, etc.
Boys don’t ask those types of questions of each other.
They also don’t talk on the phone – God forbid.
They text – sometimes. They play games online together. They play games on the TV together.
They hang out and play games or sports in person together, during which time they eat and drink and shout a lot.
Then, if they occasionally feel the need to talk about something deeper than, well, playing games, they connect with a girl.
That’s just how it goes.
At least in my experience.
When I was a girl, my friends and I talked on the phone about nothing and everything incessantly for hours on end – without call waiting what’s more. It used to drive my dad crazy. They were conversations that I look back on, and am amazed that I had the patience to participate in even for half a minute much less half an hour: what Joe Stud’s look really meant as he passed us in the high school halls. Was he winking, or did he have a piece of fuzz in his eye? The fuzz debate could consume an entire evening on the corded phone with the spiraled cord stretched taut so I could hide out in the bathroom, perched on the can, to discuss the fuzz situation in semi-privacy.
Even now, my husband will walk by a few dozen times while I’m engaged in a drawn-out phone conversation with a friend and eventually give me a “wrap it up” motion like an impatient talk show director needing to go to commercial. And when that doesn’t work, he’ll grunt and roll his eyes to show his disdain for lengthy phone calls laden with “Oh, that’s too bads!” and “Are you kidding mes?!” – his contorted face saying, “This is not what we do.”
Guys, that is. It’s not what guys do.
But it is what women do.
Whether it’s on the phone, which frankly, isn’t always my favorite communication method, via text, email, or in person, we emote, empathize, and discuss just about everything. I have listened to more detailed conversations about laparoscopic surgery, children’s ear nose and throat issues, and half-off sales at Bed, Bath and Beyond than I even care to recall. It’s a way to stay connected, to relate, and to say, “I’m always in your corner.”
Guys don’t get it.
I cannot, however, remember even a single time when I summoned a group of friends over in an hour’s notice to play poker with an already-opened bag of Doritos, a pile of Skittles, and a liter of Coke as our only refreshments and then sat around laughing uproariously over bad “ass doctor” jokes. (Don’t ask. You don’t want to know.) Apparently this is a suitable invite, though, if you’re a guy.
And women don’t get this.
When my husband and I are alone together, he’s a very caring, tender guy who seeks out sappy Hallmark specials, especially around the holidays. Most of the time though if I were to ask him how one of his friends is feeling about a major life event, he would look at me as if I had grown a third eye. Feeling, it would seem, is not so much a topic of conversation amongst guys. Therefore, I hold out little hope that Logan just needs to mature a little to have the touchy-feely conversations with his friends that I have cherished with my friends throughout my life, since it appears that this distinction is a Mars/Venus gender thing.
There is one thought I cling to with unwavering hope, however.
I have two children – both boys. Both of whom I know to have soft, kind hearts in need of relating and empathizing from time to time with a girl. And, as luck would have it, despite my advancing age, I am still a girl. I only hope that, as they grow up and move on with their complicated lives, and upon occasion feel the need to talk about something deep, that I, once in a while at least, will be the girl with whom they choose to connect.