A Look At Life: Friends

17th October 2014

Boys Will Be Boys… And Girls Can Be Their Friends

Jo Plumridge

Twenty years ago, I met a group of men (little more than ‘boys’ at the time) through mutual friends. Apart from family friends – and a few disastrously inappropriate boyfriends – most of the companions I’d had up to this point had been girls. When my female friends and I started hanging out with these boys down the pub, I could never have envisaged that they’d be amongst my closest friends two decades later. Numerous magazine articles and Hollywood romcoms told me that men and women couldn’t just be friends, and, in any case, I was 18 and certainly not thinking long-term.

Life without my male friends would undoubtedly be a duller place. They have been pretty much my constant companions over the last two decades. When I think of all the big events in my life, they’ve always been alongside me. And, whilst I’d never admit it to them, they’ve taught me a thing or two about the male of the species over the years. Not all of this has been useful, of course. The realisation that they still find the same puerile jokes as funny now as the day I met them has only confirmed that most men hold onto their Peter Pan complex for as long as possible. And their preference for drinking real ale (which resembles nothing more than brown water with twigs in) is something that I’m relieved has passed me by.

But meeting my boys, as I jokingly refer to them, at a fairly young age (I was 18, they were all around 24) helped shape what I expected from any sort of relationship with other men in the future. They are kind, chivalrous, funny and endlessly entertaining and any man I’ve ever dated had to live up to them; if not, he didn’t last long. It’s probably thanks to them that I’ve only a small amount of frogs in my past and that I knew I’d met a prince when even they were impressed by my now-husband’s behaviour.

There have been endless articles and books written on the supposed differences between the sexes and there seems to be this endless argument that men and women can never really be friends. A lot of these writings seem to suggest that sex always gets in the way, which I find a rather simplistic assumption. I do believe that you need to be attracted to an aspect of someone else’s personality in order to form a friendship with them, but this is true with same sex friendships as well. As a group, there have been a few relationships between some of us in the past but the friendships have been what have lasted.

I do note that, when women and men first meet, there is often a naturally flirtatious edge to their conversation. I think this is a natural way for the two sexes to bond and that this is often overlooked by those who insist men and women can’t be friends. But a little harmless flirting doesn’t have to mean that a pure, platonic friendship is out of the question. After a while, that passes too and, certainly in my case, male friends are more like brothers than anything else.

My boys have danced the night away with me, made me cry with laughter more times than I can remember, scared off a variety of unsuitable men, carried me home a few times, looked after me when I’ve been sad and cheered me on and supported me in my freelance career. As time goes by, life has inevitably become busier and even we have begun to settle down, get married and have children. So we do see less of each other than we once did and long nights out have turned into summer BBQs and dinner parties ending at a sensible time. But my male friends will always be an intrinsic part of my life and, as with all my friends, I count my blessings that they are there. And I’m eternally thankful that I went to that party all those years ago.

So all those articles and books can keep their opinions to themselves, as far as I’m concerned. Because of course men and women can be friends – why on earth couldn’t they be? And how much duller and less rich would our lives be if we kept ourselves segregated, as some would suggest. Friends – you know who you are. And you know I am grateful…

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