I’ve always had a lot of boy friends. Not boyfriends, mind you, but guy friends. That said, I also have a lot of girl friends, too—the ratio equals out to about half and half. Interestingly enough, I’m one of the only girls in my “regular social circle” (if you will) that hangs out with guys on the regular in the spirit of friendly comradery—a.k.a. bromanship.
The idea of this isn’t new to anyone—it’s long been known that guys and girls can be great friends (sorry, When Harry Met Sally…!). But what struck me in particular was the attitude some of my friends had towards the idea that people of two different genders could form strong, non-romantic bonds. It came up one night when we were hanging out at my friend Alicia’s house for her birthday; it was a sleepover, and once the night transitioned into the early hours of the morning everyone’s filters shut off and the conversation really started getting interesting. After cycling through the normal stuff (school, gossip, deep philosophical opinions), the talk inevitably turned to that of boys. Why boys act certain ways, talk of specific boys, and who was (gasp!) *attractive*. Suddenly another one of my friends turned to me and said, “Victoria, I don’t understand how you have so many guy friends. How do you do it? What do you even talk about?”
I said something back to her along the lines of how I’m friends with the guys I am because we share things in common. We talk about normal stuff, the same stuff I talk to my girl friends about. How it’s easy to make friends with guys because if you don’t pigeonhole them as “the other,” if you don’t pit different genders together in a war of “us” vs. “them,” it’s just as simple and intuitive to be friends with guys as well as girls—and this goes for anything. Different genders along the spectrum, people of different sexual orientations, religious beliefs, political views…if you get rid of the mental lines that you draw to separate yourself from others, you just see them as people. And it’s amazingly easy to bond with another person if you see them as just that, without all the extraneous labels society could arbitrarily stick on them.
Another thing this same friend brought up was the idea that I was lucky to have so many close guy friends specifically because that meant I had way more options, romantically. I kind of understand where she was coming from, but at the same time it’s not as if I scout people out with the sole intention of getting into their pants. It’s true that my boyfriend was and still is one of my best friends, but our relationship didn’t start out with me deviously planning my elaborate and cunning plan to nab him as my S.O. by cleverly acting as his best friend with an ulterior motive in mind. I mean, that just sounds creepy, not to mention how manipulative it’d be. If everyone meticulously planned out all their relationships like a spy staking out a target, we’d have some serious problems. Relationships of all kinds—romantic, friendly, familial, anything—they’re organic. They develop naturally, and the best ones don’t need any force or careful forecasting to work out. It’s just inherent, something that gradually grows between two people. In the same way, I became friends with my “bros” because I thought they were cool people I wanted to get to know better—and for no other reason. It had nothing to do with finding a boyfriend or a romantic interest at all, and the idea that it could have been driven by that was totally unfamiliar to me. It was just so opposite to how I thought of people and relationships that I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
My friends enforced the rather archaic idea that girls should only associate with boys in order to woo and date them, and the notion of boys and girls actually being friends who could have actual meaningful conversations without tons and tons of overtly romantic overtones was completely foreign to them (which was a surprisingly substantial divergence from their regular forward-thinking mindsets). After hearing about it, I started to notice little things like how some of them would shy away from talking to boys about deeper subjects or subtly express disapproval of my casual hangouts with guys who weren’t my boyfriend. It made me feel alienated and kind of indignant at the time, but now I know they were just afraid—they were inexperienced and concerned, and I eventually started brushing off their actions while trying to drive home the fact that boys are just normal people. Like anything worthwhile, it’s difficult to change a people’s perspectives on something—but with more and more outings combining both the girls and the guys in my life, they’ve started to stop seeing boys solely as video-game-playing, unrefined weirdos they supposedly can’t relate to. They’ve started to see them as individuals. They’ve started to see past the labels.