Wednesday, January 4, 2012


À la the movie, Clueless, he was the Josh to my Cher and in my later years, the “straight” Will to my Grace.  I couldn’t have made it through my quarter life crises without our daily emails and endless therapeutic talks at the neighborhood bar.

We became friends in an undergrad marketing class right when he offered me the professors’ old exams he got from his frat’s test bank. I made an A on that exam and in return, he gained a friend for life, or so I thought.  Thereafter, we became inseparable, so much so that we ended up with the same major.  For the moments in school when I could have digressed into my Cher or Grace zone and acted carelessly—i.e. skip classes for a molten chocolate cake at Chili’s, waste two plus hours for a road trip to catch the Barney sale in the city, or study less for an exam because I wanted to stay home and cuddle with my boyfriend at the time— his disapproving face and smirk-like grin will appear in my head and I would suck it up and meet him at the library instead. For some unexplainable reason, I allowed him to be my conscience and I just didn’t fancy disappointing him - ever.  

At the crescendo of our friendship, I just knew we would forever be close.  We would likely face the obstacles most male-female friendships were bound to encounter:  non- understanding girlfriends or boyfriends and the occasional making out when one had too much to drink; and we would overcome it all without a dint on the friendship— and we did just that! I even fancied myself the best man at his wedding when it came to that chapter of his life and looked forward to my androgynous tux attire.  My hair stylist was already under strict instructions that a day would come where he would have to give me a slick back look à la Sade, and forget the years of bombshell hair I have always required him to create.  On my end, I knew I needed to grow boobs by his wedding date so I can be a sexier version of Annie Lennox.  I was, after all, in competition with his frat brothers for the best man title and needed a competitive edge.

Yes… it started as a platonic relationship and it stayed that way for seven years.  You see, I always maintained a boyfriend for such things as gifts and sex and I had him for everything else. It was the perfect unspoken arrangement.  I never imagined a time would come where we would cease to exchange witty banter over a Mudslide (for him) and a Vodka straight up (for me). 

We never had a true falling out.  Never the unresolved poignant argument that would’ve been the tell tale sign of his eventual withdrawal from our friendship. It happened without warning and for the life of me, I was unable to get it back.  We had sex, we both decided it was not for the best as I was just now getting involved with someone I really liked and he had proven to be noncommittal in all his past relationships.  He told me over dinner a little time after that, he, as always, was still not looking for something serious and was not sure we will be right for each other, reasons were listed…he was always very pragmatic and the jury was still out on me it seemed.  I agreed with him and knew that although he was the best friend a girl could ever ask for—a conscience, advisor, sounding board, and sometimes inspiration—he could never love me in the way I was accustomed to or needed.  I prefer my men to have no reservations about their feelings for me.   Interestingly enough, my refusals to continue down our path of tongue and sheet twisting after that discussion—seriously, who would? — was enough for him to give me the proverbial finger.   Seven-plus years of friendship disappeared like a thief in the night.   I have now been relegated to a position of an ex, with most of my emails, phone calls, and text messages being answered two weeks to a month after the fact, if at all. 

It’s a Sunday afternoon; I am still in my robe and sitting on my couch with Sandy. With tears flowing down both of our faces (Note: I am a sympathetic crier), I am tucking Sandy’s hair behind her ears and glancing around in desperate need of a tissue.  She is in the middle of explaining her gloomy disposition over the past three months and the reason why we spent an amount equal to a pair of Manolo classic pumps on drinks the night before. 

“I think my heart is broken”, she says in between sobs.  “I don’t seem to understand why it hurts so much, we were just friends”, she wails!

You see, it seems no one ever told Sandy about the all too familiar friendship barter— the non-monetary transaction between men and women, where men barter their friendships to women in exchange for a future sexual encounter or relationship.  So in this case with Sandy, true to all unsuccessful barter transactions, when she failed to continue their newly minted sexual relationship, her man “bestie” ripped away their so-called friendship, leaving her with unanswered questions and a broken heart worse than what Meryl Streep’s character felt in the Bridges of Madison County. 

From talking to some of my male friends, these friendship seizures are not usually cases of men with a broken heart that need to withdraw from their respective “Grace’s” to milk their wounds; these are just men saying, I want more, she is not game; therefore, there is no need to continue talking to her or maintaining a relationship.  As a woman and a lover of friends, I feel this is rather harsh and still hold out hope that this behavior isn’t really the norm.  Well… that was until I found myself having this conversation with a male colleague:

Male Colleague discussing his relationship with a mutual friend of ours—more his friend than mine, actually—: “I put myself out there and went in for a kiss, twice, she shut me down both times and so I am moving on”.
Me: “Oh? Moving on as in… what? You guys are still friends, right?”
Male Colleague: “Of course we are still friends but I am not going to bother driving all the way out there—she lives 30 miles away from him—just to go see her.  She texted a bunch last night about one thing or another and how she misses me but I did not reply. I will respond when I feel like it, maybe next week or next whenever”

 It has been three months and my sources tells me he responded two weeks later from the time our conversation took place with a “hey”.   He did not bother to keep up the conversation when she replied back inquiring how he has been doing and asking to meet for lunch.  She, like Sandy, has now been relegated to a position of an ex--chewed and spat out!

This wasn’t just a flyaway, two-month friend of his.  We are discussing a woman with whom he has been close friends with for the last two years.  I am certain of this because he is pretty much in my office everyday talking about something they did or didn’t do together.  To summarize his thoughts regarding her: he liked her and they had a great time every time they hung out; however, in terms of having a relationship with her, he mentioned to me on more than one occasion that they would never be compatible.  She was too high maintenance and reminded him too much of his ex wife. 

Sadly, in knowing all of this, he still threw away their two-year friendship because she was not prepared to change their relationship into a sexual one.  

As Male Colleague walks out of my office he says to me, “I started calling Mia again”.
Me: “Mia as in girl from last month that was too boring you stayed home with your dog as opposed to keeping a date you planned with her?”
Male Colleague: “Yep, that is the one.  I think I can reel her back in now that Kora is no longer in the picture.”

Another engineer guy friend of mine told me over a working lunch that he never understood why men disappear just because a woman would not sleep with them; he went on to say with a satisfied nod, “it is always advantageous to keep a good friendship”.  Whew!  I sighed; I’ve finally met a genuine man - a genuine person really.  And based on the laws of the universe, there were bound to be many more.  All wasn’t lost.  Of course my relief was short-lived when he unfortunately concluded his statement with, “too many guys make the mistake of disappearing when the girl pulls away from a sexual relationship; I say stick around…eventually she’ll come around”. 

So… sitting across from Sandy and wiping away her tears with pages I just tore from my recent Vogue issue— I just could not leave her alone to grab a tissue—I held her face in my hands and told her what I’ve heard around the cocktail and beer mill.  I explained to her the key concepts of the friendship barter:

“S, apparently, able, attractive men and women cannot really be platonic friends, contrary to the urban legends out there.  One is bound to want to cross the line.  And when it happens to be the man, God help us!  No amount of witt-cuteness, inside jokes, Moses scroll-like messages you guys wrote to each other in the past, is going to keep him – so long as his sexual advances get rebuffed.  He needs to be the one that tires of you sexually or decides not to go forward with that part of the relationship in order for you two to remain friends.  It boils down to one thing, he still wanted you and you were unsure.   
So sadly, you will never get him back as your straight Will and for that my love, you will continue to hurt mercilessly.  There are no movies or known remedies about this kind of break-up; this is what I like to call the silent heartbreak.  
First off, you cannot explain your pain to yourself or your girlfriends as they’ll remind you that “he was not your boyfriend or the love of your life after all”… so you suffer alone. And ice cream is just not a strong enough cure for the death of a friend who you willingly allowed to take permanent residence in your heart— you never thought to have your guard up like you would with a boy friend so you ended up giving him free access to your core. When it came to your heart and emotions; the person you went to for everything, your emotional soundboard, the one you felt understood you most and vice versa, was also the most conniving and deceitful person you ever had the misfortune of meeting.  Your friendship was a sham.  However any misbehavior on your end towards him because of his conniving ways will be viewed as you "caring" a little too much.  You will probably end up in trouble with your significant other. And, I know this doesn't sound fair... Lord knows, if I for some reason found out that my best girlfriend of seven years pretended to be friends with me just because of something I could give her, you could be sure a cat fight would ensue.  To add insult to injury, although you might have had sexual relations with him, you were just "friends" so you don’t even have the rights a wounded girlfriend has to demand closure nor can you curse him out over drinks in a seedy pool bar—because you never “dated”!  
On the other hand, when you and a girlfriend part ways, you usually see the warning signs.  You have a huge fight; you decide never to speak to each other at that moment.  Or when you get to a certain age and have that huge fight, you behave maturely, call to apologize after the fight and maybe decide to break the friendship off as it stands. When you break up with a girl friend, you are allowed to cry to your significant other and other friends.  You are allowed to mourn and heal.  With men “besties”, you just have to slither away and milk your wounds in private.  And for that, ma chérie d'amour, I’m truly sorry.”

Sandy nods and in a tone of an emotionally beaten person, musters the energy to utter these sad words, “These friendships should really come with a warning label.  I have a broken heart yet I am happily engrossed with my boyfriend.  You are right; there is no one to turn to in such instances. Why did I ever think I could have a straight Will, not put out, and experience no negative repercussions?”  

I reach over, give her a huge hug and whisper in her ear, “that kind of relationship is un-Hollywood, simply not allowed”.


  1. Ma cherie...truer words have never been written. Next time, I recommend a femme-proof gay man for the man bestie role!

  2. If only gay men weren't so scarce in the South....

  3. Silent heartbreak indeed! I am glad someone is shedding light on this type of emotional abuse from some men.

  4. Very true, mine went to the point of snobbing me when I ran into him.

  5. "Fist pump" to everyone's comments:)