In defense of opposite-sex friendships

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By Heidi Stevens

My friend Jeff does not want to impregnate me.

And thank God for that, since his wife is expecting their third child this summer.

“Let me be clear,” he told me Thursday morning. “I have two, almost three children. I don’t want to impregnate anyone.”

I called him to check, since Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene put me and my fellow females on notice earlier this week.

“You don’t have any guy friends,” Fiene wrote in The Federalist on Tuesday. “In fact, you can’t have any guy friends.”

“Quite simply, men can’t be at peace being just friends,” Fiene wrote. “And there’s nothing you can do to change that. Platonic chilling won’t stop your inner (and outer) beauty from pulling a man towards romantic love. Telling him he’s like a brother to you won’t stop his brain from shouting ‘Marry that woman and impregnate her now’ when he encounters your femininity.”

Maybe Fiene didn’t mean my femininity, since I already have a husband. Maybe he didn’t mean Jeff’s brain, since Jeff already has a wife. But between his essay and Vice President Mike Pence’s no-dining-with-women rule, it’s a tricky time for opposite-sex friendships.

I’m here to defend them.

Jeff and I are friends because we work in similar industries, we live in the same neighborhood, our kids get along and we make each other laugh. I adore his wife. He likes my husband. Sometimes we meet for coffee. Sometimes we get together with our kids — with and without our spouses.

My husband, meanwhile, has a handful of female friends. He sometimes shares meals with them. With alcohol. Without me. I can’t overstate how much I prefer this setup over a husband who views all women as potential vessels to grow his babies. His female friends give him a greater understanding of half the world’s population. My male friendships do the same for me.

“It helps un-bro me,” Jeff said of his friendship with women. “I don’t know how bro-tastic I ever was, but certainly more so when I was younger and had exclusively male friends.”

Now his female friendships lend valuable insight and awareness to his home and work life. (He works in media relations.) “I haven’t had a male boss in 15 years or so,” he told me.

Friendships give us a different lens through which to see the world. They help us walk in someone else’s shoes. They give us people to care about, protect, laugh with, cry on, learn from, respectfully disagree with, cherish.

Friendships with people who don’t look and live just like us can open our minds and alter our behavior in ways that are immeasurable and invaluable.

And we should turn a skeptical eye — or avoid altogether — people whose reproductive parts don’t match ours?

I don’t think so.

We can acknowledge that some men are sometimes attracted to their female friends, and some women are sometimes attracted to their male friends. (And some men are sometimes attracted to their male friends, some women to their female friends, while we’re on the topic.)

We can also recognize that mature adults go through life, every single day, not acting on all our impulses. We don’t eat the whole pan of brownies. We don’t tell our bosses to take a flying leap. We don’t order martinis at lunch. We don’t sleep with our friends.

We don’t do the things, in other words, that sabotage our goals and our lives, even if they sound sort of fun at the time.

You can be friends with the opposite sex. You should, I would argue, be friends with the opposite sex.

The benefits of opposite-sex friendships far outweigh the possible, occasional risks, especially since we’re perfectly capable of mitigating those risks.

Men and women have far more to offer each other than our bodies, in bed. It’s insulting and, frankly, a little sad to suggest otherwise.

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