On the John
Life’s great struggle
Originally published in NUVO Newsweekly on February 8, 2006
I was talking to my brother the other day—just the usual stuff: school, weekend plans, the many uses of Cool Whip—when he told me of a problem he was having, one that every heterosexual human male with a working penis has faced at least once in his existence. It seems that my brother has been spending a lot of time with an attractive female friend, and through some bizarre process of osmosis, he’s developed sexual feelings for her.
Like the “mind/body” problem that has plagued every philosopher from Descartes to Bottorff, the “how to be friends with a woman without wanting to sleep with her” problem has baffled man since the beginning of time. Just consider this transcript found during a recent excavation in Egypt, in which two primal males discussed their lives.
Zork: “So, Naduck, how are things?”
Naduck: “Pretty good, Zork. I’ve finally mastered rudimentary communication skills. How is life for you?”
Zork: “Excellent. I’m no longer afraid of the sun.”
Naduck: “That’s a relief.”
Zork: “Yes…but I’m afraid a new problem has arisen. You know my good friend, Jessica?”
Naduck: “Ooh yeah. Jessica’s hot.”
Zork: “Well, we’ve been spending a lot of time together lately. We are great social companions, and yet I have the strangest desire to beat her over the head with my club and insert my cavemanhood into her.”
Unfortunately, scientists do not know how Zork’s situation with Jessica turned out, as the remainder of the transcript was illegible, though it’s a safe bet that Zork either A. told Jessica of his feelings, leading to an awkward all-night conversation in which their truest emotions were revealed, or B. froze to death.
We’ve made many technological advances since the days that Zork, Naduck, and Jessica roamed the Earth; oh, how their heads would spin if they were ever able to see our modern world of flying machines and high-speed internet. Yet there is one area of life that has not evolved in the 42 years since Zork’s tragic death, and that is poor cave insulation. No, that is inter-gender friendships.
However, there is one big advantage to pursuing a relationship with a woman you do not know: sex. It’s an immediate starting point. Sex is one of the most personal things that two people can do together, and yet there are plenty of people who have engaged in some sexual activity with a person whom he or she has never met before. Only the prospect of sex can lead a person to approach a complete stranger and begin a conversation, which is why a woman has only two reactions to a man who randomly approaches her in a bar: she either laughs, knowing that there is no way she will be sleeping with that man tonight, or she smiles, knowing that (as long as the man doesn’t say something really stupid that turns her off) she will definitely be sleeping with that man tonight.
When it comes to sex, men are nothing more than boy scouts selling candy door-to-door. We do our best to deliver our little speech about how the money is going to a worthy cause, but that doesn’t matter. Women know what we’re selling, and our success depends entirely on whether or not they have a hankering for a Snickers. Take that candy away, and all that’s left is some annoying kid ringing your doorbell for no good reason.
This is why random heterosexual male relationships (HMR) are difficult to form. All of my male friendships developed the same way: we met in some sort of natural setting (school, camp, friend of a friend), began talking in a casual, masculine way, and then began hanging out after a long, awkward stage of pretending to not like each other.
With no immediate bond like sex, HMR have to form around some other connection, and it’s never anything simple like “Hey, we get along.” Instead, HMR usually form around one of these four activities: watching sports, playing video games, drinking, or smoking weed. Still, there is no way to just jumpstart an HMR. Imagine walking up to a random guy in a bar, and having the following exchange:
Guy 1: “Hey, how you doing?”
Guy 2: (confused, looking around for a hidden camera) “Uh, alright.”
Guy 1: “Do you come here often?”
Guy 2: (still confused) “Uh, alright.”
Guy 1: “So, whadya say you and me go back to my place, smoke a joint, and play some Madden?”
It just doesn’t work.
However, once an HMR is formed, everything is smooth. Why? Because there is no sexual desire to cloud either person’s judgment. Guys are just friends. Period. But with women, there’s always that voice in the back of your head saying “You know that girl I’ve been hanging out with? Wouldn’t it be great if we were having sex, too?”
This is the thought that screws up every male/female friendship, and eventually men realize that there are only two options: marriage, or complete seclusion.
Which brings us back to my brother, and his new female friend. Last I heard, it’s going pretty well. He froze to death.
Copyright 2006, jm silverstein