Friendship is crucial to one’s social and emotional balance. To have someone there for you no matter what. To be a listening ear throughout all of life’s ups and downs. To do fun things with, to provide a change of pace, and sometimes to just lounge and do nothing with. Having a person to call your best friend brings even more security to your world. It means you have found that one person that simply gets you, for all that you are, exactly as you are. A true best friend only wants the best for you. Never envious, never with restrictions or expectations of who they think you should be. A best friend at times can mean as much to you as your own family. My best friend is my family. My best friend is also a male.
I have always found it flawed to think that our roles in friendship have to be plagued with gender stereotypes. That a platonic male and female relationship cannot exist. We’ve seen it in the movies over and over: Male and female start out as friends, only to end up in a relationship. Office friendships turn into office affairs and ruin careers and lives. The entire “men are from Mars and woman are from Venus” mentality. That woman and men are too different and having any relationship will ultimately lead to sex. Well, I call bull on all of it.
My first best friends were my male cousin and my brother, three months older and 14 months younger than I. We grew up playing video games, hot wheels, and legos together. I rough and tumbled with them, making up games like pillow sumo wrestling and fire couch (which only meant we came up with more inventive ways to wrestle and break the furniture). We went fishing, played in the woods, waded in creeks, and climbed trees. I was not a Barbie or princess type of girl, although I did enjoy talking my brother in dressing up in my clothes a time or two! As I became a teenager and my days of playing with toys came to a close, I grew to love makeup, clothes, and how my hair was done as much as any typical teen girl does. I had crushes on boys and I had plenty of female friends. But I always had the guys that I liked hanging around. They weren’t shy about burping and farting and they weren’t hung up on their appearance as a lot of girls that age are. I have never been a big fan of drama or gossip and my guy friends provided some much needed relief. Also, because my brother and I are so close in age, our social circles were always mixed sexes. I grew up knowing that these were not necessarily my “girlfriends” or my “guy friends”, but simply my friends.
My best friend’s first best friend was his twin sister. They did everything together from infancy all the way through high school. And they too shared an equal balance of male and female friendships. In 2009 when we met and became fast friends, it was never about him being a male and I being a female. It was always about our common ground, our personalities meshing well, and our genuine enjoyment of being around one another. We love watching football together and share common interests such as music, food, and beer. We get each other’s wacky sense of humor. And most importantly, we are each other’s go-to for all of the hard things that come up in life such as death or divorce. He is the first person to drop everything when I need a friend and I do the same for him. Being friends with each other was and still is easy.
This is why I am happy that my son’s first best friend is a female. They don’t look at each other the way girls and boys are generally stereotyped–that girls can’t be strong and that boys can’t be sensitive. They see each other as friends who can keep up with each other’s pace of play. They can go from swinging pillows at one another, knocking each other down as they giggle uncontrollably, to snuggling on the couch and reading together. They can pound out beats on guitars and drums and still play quietly together at the dollhouse. They can swing baseball bats and ride bikes together before sitting down to blow bubbles and draw with sidewalk chalk. They balance each other out and enjoy one another’s presence. To me that is all true friendship is about.
I hope that this friendship helps my son to grow up knowing that females are his equal. That, even as a boy, it’s okay to be vulnerable at times and that being male doesn’t mean that you can’t cry or have a soft side. I hope he learns that women can be powerful, which is something to embrace rather than extinguish. I hope that this first best friendship teaches him that we are all simply humans, put here on this earth to leave it a little better than when we arrived; treating each other the way we want to be treated, no matter our sex, gender, race, or religion. I hope he sees that a best friend is to be cherished, regardless of our differences.