In an era of sexual liberty and casual sex with friends, I feel like I’m witnessing the end of true platonic friendships. There’s a common misconception that there’s sexual tension underpinning all friendships between men and women. Certain individuals tend to perceive friendship as the intermediary stage, that either precedes sexual relations or follows amicable breakups. I blame men’s perceived entitlement to the female body and society’s disposition to reward esteem to females based on their proximity / connection to men. A lot of women succumb to the pressures of patriarchy and struggle with the concept of being alone. Subsequently they try to transform every male interaction or male acquaintance into something romantic. A lot of women don’t understand the benefits that come with having a truly platonic relation and exclude a male acquaintance if they don’t see any possibility of romance.
In typical fashion, I blame Disney and romantic comedies. As much as I loved watching Monica & Quincy (Love & Basketball) and Sidney & Dre (Brown Sugar) fall in love, I despise how romantic comedies have diminished the importance of cross- gender friendship and portrayed best friends discovering they love each other as the ultimate happy ending. Although I believe your partner is meant to be your best friend, I believe in converting your partner into your best friend, instead of converting your best friend into your partner. I’ve cycled through a series of boy best friends and none of my boy best friends have ever been my boyfriend in waiting. I think that’s one of the reason why I’ve been able to sustain multiple best friendships with boys – I understood the nature of our relationship and established boundaries. Furthermore, I treat all my friends the same regardless of their gender. My personality doesn’t fluctuate depending on my company – I offer the same level of support and affection to each of my friends. I subject each friend to equal amount of my off-brand humour, sexual innuendos, and activism.
Boy Best Friend – My Experience
I met my first best friend “M” at primary school, at an age where it’s socially accepted for boys and girls. This friendship was easy, we were both in the same class, both Nigerian and both supported Chelsea. As an incredibly awkward, anxious and introverted child, this friendship was incredibly important to me. We were friends before I had boobs and before the concept of Prince Charming and Disney princesses had penetrated my psyche. It was just a friendship based on innocence and resonance – my primary school was predominately Portuguese and a familiar looking face was refreshing . The transition from primary school to secondary school in a social media less era, meant a friendship fell by the waste side. We recently reconnected over social media and there was a half-hearted attempt to make it romantic, but we both came to the realisation that we’re not romantically compatible.
I met “J” the same day I met my female best friend and future godmother to my children. It was the first day of university and we were put into groups to do ice breakers. Despite him being older and of different ethnic background, something about us just clicked. We somehow just bonded and every time we looked at each other, the both of us would burst into laughter. It was friendship categorised by a plethora of inside jokes, late night library sessions and tequila Tuesdays. I met him when I was young and impressionable. Away from home, trying to find myself in a university social life that felt alien without my support system was hard and I needed a big brother. It was a relationship completely devoid of any sexual tensions. He would check I got home after nights out, deliver pizza when I was wasted and tuck me into bed after drink ups. 9am 2 hour accounting lectures, the morning after student night, were manageable with him. It was a friendship that ended after graduation when real life and adulting got in the way – the struggle of trying to secure your first post university job is hard. He still appears on my Snapchat and we occasionally exchange birthday greetings but unfortunately there’s else to say. Now that the campus bubble has burst, we’ve matured and drifted apart.
My last male best friendship “A” ended around this time last year and I’ve only just finished the grieving process. Although he was conventionally attractive, there was a lack of mutual attraction or sincerity in our “flanter”. It was a friendship defined by late library sessions, banter throughout lectures and A1 champions league commentary. With him I could be my authentic self, I felt an affinity to his soul because there was something soothing and comforting about his energy. We quickly developed our vernacular and terms of endearments for each other “bromie” – where brother meets homie. Despite frequently dodging questions regarding the nature of our friendships, we met each other at the right time, and it felt like our souls collide. We were experiencing break ups with “toxic relationships”, trying to navigate depression, heartbreak and dissertation. This was one of the most influential friendships and unfortunately the only friendship that had a discourteous ending. Our friendship concluded when I acted in accordance with my ethics and morals rather than our friendship. He desired a friendship consisting of unconditional support, lacking accountability, which conflicted with my desire to focus on self-improvement, unlearning and detoxifying.
My Rules for Platonic Friendships
- Hold your male friend to a higher standard, than you do the average man – The male species is full of trash individuals who unfortunately have a tendency to only respect females, that they are related to and females they’re friends with. Insanity will have these men justify their disparaging comments and deny being misogynistic through their friendship with you. If your male friend is misogynistic and spews damaging rhetoric about females around you, it is your duty as a woman to correct him. Don’t be the female who co-signs patriarchy or rape culture because “he’s like a brother to you”.
- Introduce yourself to their girlfriends – I’ve always befriended my male friend’s partners in order to pacify any qualms surrounding the nature of our relationships. Understandably your friend’s girlfriend maybe curious about your history (i.e., whether it’s been sexual in the past). I would advise against becoming close friends with your best friends’ girlfriend, to avoid conflicts of loyalty. Speaking from experience it only complicates things and you may be forced to choose.
- . Introduce your best friend to your boyfriend – Men’s egos are fragile, and the thought of being cuckolded, continues to be one of their biggest fears. Consequently, your boyfriend may feel threatened about your close relationship with your male friend. The dynamic of your relationship with your best friends may change when you enter a relationship, innocent things that were previously acceptable may no longer be suitable. Allow your boyfriend to suggest reasonable boundaries (i.e., he may be against sleepovers) to alleviate any concerns. In this situation please me mindful of advise red flags – don’t stay in a relationship full of trust issues make unreasonable and controlling requests. Introduce your boyfriend to your boy friend .
- Don’t become an emotional fluffer or transform him into your emotional fluffer – The opposite of friends with benefits, an emotional fluffer is someone in a relationship without the benefits. Subjected to all the collateral damage typically accrued in a romantic relation (i.e., emotional support, homecooked meals, cleaning), you get none of the romantic or sexual benefits of being a girlfriend.
- . Pause if you sense yourself developing romantic feelings or feeling jealous when your friend is seeing someone else romantically – If the feelings for your best friend evolves, I advise you to pause and take some space to reflect internally. Self-awareness and an examination of whether you’re lonely and just want to be in relationship is paramount. – you may just desire a relationship and your best friend is the most viable option. If you’re in this situation and you do have genuine romantic feelings for your male friend you can either hope your feelings dissipate over time or you can be honest with your friend and see what happens. Either way I wish you this best because both unrequited love, opening yourself up to rejection and being rejected is painful. By being honest you risk permanently damaging the friendship, however keeping it inside may foster toxicity – unfortunately, you have to pick your poison.
Despite being a tomboy in my youth. I am very much a “girls girls”. I detest “pick me b*tches”, who proclaim that they only have male friends because females are too much drama. I know that females can posses both masculine and feminine energies, however I don’t think that negates the importance of having friendships with the opposing gender. As advocate for black male mental health, I understand how important cross-gender friendships, building a space to be vulnerable and breaking down the pillar of toxic masculinity is, to ensuring good mental health.