Say What You Mean & Mean What You Say

I find myself in a muddle. Trying to figure out what I want and what other people want, trying to ensure that I am honest and trying to figure out if they are being honest…to say it has me a bit down is an understatement.

I’m trying to wade through the nuances of platonic and romantic. They seem to be many, varied and completely subjective. The variance factor increases depending on whether you are talking to men or women. Of course, neither sex seems to know what the hell it means, or even what they mean, when trying to explain friends vs. lovers, platonic vs. romantic, or any combination of the two.

The dinner companion who insisted he only wanted conversation a couple of weeks ago, continues to text me endlessly. I knew at the end of the evening that he was either insincere in what he wanted, or he changed his mind. Not only because of the excessive compliments and soul-wrenching confessions of loneliness, but also because he told me he loved me somewhat frantically. What I failed to mention in my last blog was that he also asked me what my idea of “second base” was, and then pleaded with me to let him climb in my car and kiss my breasts. I let him know that night, as well as several times since, I am not interested in pursuing a sexual encounter/romance. However, the texts and attempts to initiate some sort of relationship continue. Strike number one for a platonic relationship!

Like an idiot, apparently I didn’t get enough torture. I answer another ad for someone saying that they don’t want a sexual relationship AT ALL; they simply want someone to cuddle up to and be close to sometimes. As I have a high need for human touch as well, I could certainly comprehend this desire. We exchange several emails and talk on the phone. When I describe myself so that he can recognize me for an upcoming face-to-face, he says, “Redheads are hot!” In consternation, I ask, “So does this person that you want to be close with have to be hot?” He responds: “Of course not. This is completely non-sexual for me. I chose the wrong word.” When I was describing the meeting to someone that I met later that night, his response was, “You know you can’t cuddle with someone when the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Oh, hell no!’” I can’t say that the fact that I couldn’t figure out how his facial features had been attached (some of them seemed to be “off”) didn’t play a small part in my determination that he was not the person I wanted to cuddle with. The fact that he was obnoxious, overbearing and clearly looking for more than a platonic partner also played a significant role. Strike number two for a platonic relationship!

Enter a guy that I dated briefly, twice. I didn’t feel much chemistry and things never really took off for us, be he still emailed me occasionally to talk about music and kids. He has asked me to hang out, as “friends” numerous times since I said I didn’t think we should date anymore. I have declined over and over, because I knew I wasn’t interested in him romantically. Then I thought, “Why not? We get along and have stuff to talk about. Maybe we can be friends!” We get together and the evening is fun and relaxing. Until he decides to start trailing his hand across my back caressingly every time he got up from his chair. As we start talking about relationships, I begin to confide about a situation that has brought me some pain lately. When we end the evening, he kisses me (not platonic!) goodbye. He later emails me that there are some things I talked about that he wants to discuss further, but felt too self-conscious to do so in public. Based on my “sharing”, I have a feeling I know what he wants to discuss. It definitely isn’t how to make our relationship more platonic. Is this a “three strikes and you’re out” for platonic male/female relationships?

Over and over I read ads for men looking for a “friend”. They proceed to discuss how the woman should look and all the things they will do for her…sexually! I also see people looking for a “FWB” all the time. Talk about code for “I really want sex, but don’t want you to expect anything”. Often, what is being offered isn’t really even friendship, which implies emotional intimacy and deep caring (at least in my mind). What is really being offered is an NSA (No Strings Attached) sex partner.

These are all relatively casual, so despite feeling weary and bit stupidly naïve over the realization that I believed their offer of platonic “friendship”, it isn’t at all emotionally damaging.

Of course, sometimes the circumstances are murkier and the risk of emotional damage higher.

In the end, I prefer honesty in everything. If someone says “friend”, but really means “lover”, they should just say they want sex from the beginning. Trying to figure out what is really going on, amidst nuances and shades of meaning and someone else’s lack of clarity, is crazy-making. Say what you mean, mean what you say. It’s a simple rule of thumb that is apparently very hard to live by. Even in my frustration, I realize that I have no room to cast stones. I, too, have found it difficult to sometimes process the complexities when trying to be friends with the opposite sex.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies: “When Harry Met Sally”.

Sally: We are just going to be friends, OK?
Harry: Great, friends. It’s the best thing…You realize, of course, that we can never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form – is that men and women can’t be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No, you don’t.
Sally: Yes, I do.
Harry: No, you don’t.
Sally: Yes, I do.
Harry: You only think you do.
Sally: You’re saying I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I’m saying is they all want to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive.
Harry: No, you pretty much want to nail them, too.
Sally: What if they don’t want to have sex with you?
Harry: Doesn’t matter, because the sex thing is already out there, so the friendship is ultimately doomed, and that is the end of the story.
Sally: Well, I guess we’re not gonna be friends, then.
Harry: Guess not.
Sally: That’s too bad. You were the only person that I knew in New York.

In the end, of course, Harry and Sally wind up as lovers. I can’t help but voice Sally’s lament of “That’s too bad” about the loss of the idea of friendship. Yet knowing what everybody wants AND being honest about it from the beginning, could certainly cut down on a lot of confusion and wasted time. Can men and women be friends? I think it’s very difficult and I sincerely wish that were not true. In today’s world of superficiality and fear of commitment or expectations, “friend” seems to have become an innocuous label applied to many things that aren’t really friendships. “Friends” don’t sleep together; adding the word “benefits” doesn’t negate the fact that you’re more than friends. Nor does it make it more honest to use FWB when people aren’t looking for a committed relationship. The truth is that you are looking for a sex partner or to be lovers with someone who will have very limited expecations of you; the level of intimacy for these relationships appears to be optional. Lovers can be friends too; friends can be platonic. Still,  “Friends” have emotional commitments to each other and people shouldn’t use the word when they don’t intend to be a friend. Lover doesn’t always mean committed and sometimes doesn’t even involve love, or for that matter, friendship.  There are “strings” involved in nearly every relationship we choose to have with another human being. I suppose it is up to each individual person to decide how emotionally disconnected or connected they want to be. However, if we MUST label something, make sure that we’re honest with the label that we’re applying. Even if it doesn’t sound as pretty or make us feel quite as shiny about ourselves.

2 Responses to “Say What You Mean & Mean What You Say”

  1. We seem to be on the same “dating” wave these days Soccer Mom. I find it interesting how men say they don’t want a woman who “plays games”, yet they seem to be the ones playing all the games. As a grown up, all I want is for a man to “say what he means, and means what he says!”

    • Absolutely. I think that a big part of the issue is the fear of commitment that seems to be so prevalent. The thought is that you can be single, but that shouldn’t mean you have to be chaste. Yet most men realize that whole theme of “I want sex, but I don’t really want much else from you” is not often tempting to women. Women crave emotional intimacy (usually) along with their sex. So it sounds prettier and more appealing to say “Let’s be friends” and then wind up in bed together, than it does to say “I really want to sleep with you, I might want to hang out on my whim, but other than that don’t expect much”. So it’s kind of a bait and switch.

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