One of my best friends is a guy. We have known each other for a while, and now that I am over 2,000 miles away from him, I think I have come to understand the value of having a best friend of a different gender. Yes, I have a girl best friend back home as well; however, I find that I cannot communicate certain things with her as easily as I can with my guy best friend. In my experience, girls have a greater tendency to judge other girls for their actions and thoughts; I have found with my guy friends, that they: 1. Don’t care, or 2. Openly accept your thoughts and opinions no matter how absurd they may be.
However, taking one of my best guy friends to prom and having him buy me a Dairy Queen Blizzard afterwards does not mean that I like him in a romantic way. When we first told people we were going to prom, I had many of my friends, who had known us for years, ask if we either liked each other or were secretly dating. I would usually give them a look of disgust and exclaim, “Ewww, no he’s like a brother to me. Y’all should know that!” There was also a time when a small group of pre-teen girls asked if he was my boyfriend and were shocked (and excited) to learn that was not the case.
To provide more insight on this important, yet irritating, matter, I asked some of my fellow Her Campus girls to share their public experiences with their guy friends.
“I had English with one of my best friends my junior and senior year and we’d always sit next to each other and tended to mess around in class on more chill days, and the entire class made a big deal of it every time we talked at all and would ask us when we were going to just date already, which ended up getting really frustrating for both of us because neither of us had ever felt anything for the other”
Every time I am with a guy friend, we are always asked how long we’ve been dating or will receive loving looks from strangers when we go out for lunch. Honestly, it frustrates me how society feels the need to label us and automatically categorize two—usually a man and a woman—as “in a relationship.” It feels as though society cannot accept the fact that males and females can be friends. However, while this may not be the case for young toddlers who don’t know anything about love or relationships (lucky them), when you enter your teenage years and are seen hanging out with a guy, it is difficult to convince people you two are not dating.
In some cases, girls like to think of their best guy friends as a brother. A member of Her Campus Kenyon says: “One of my best friends is a guy. We’ve been friends since we were five and have never had romantic feelings for one another. We treat each other a lot like siblings—make fun of one another, get angry at one another, protect one another, and love one another.” There are many types of love: familial, romantic, friendship, the list goes on. Most importantly, one needs to be able to differentiate between romantic and friendship love between different genders. I always tell my best friend I love him, however, there is never a romantic intention when I say “I love you.” I love him the way I would say “I love you” to a family member, because that’s exactly what he is to me, family.
Another member of HCK knows all about this too. She says: “In high school, I had a guy friend who was practically my brother. We had met at summer camp and quickly disliked one another, but then grew to be really teasing brother/sister vibe…Anyway, his GF assumed he liked me (he did not and does not) and for the entirety of high school everyone in our grade WHO KNEW US WELL thought we would date. We would actually call each other “sis” and “bro,” and still they thought we liked one another…”
Occasionally, there will be those cases where a crush develops between you and your guy friend, but despite everything, y’all have managed to move passed that stage and quickly become BFFs. Here’s the experience of one HCK writer:
“I have a friend who I had a crush on in middle school but he quickly became my best friend as we went into high school. I can no longer see him in a romantic light because he’s like the brother I never had. However, people in public always think we’re dating. At ice cream places, the server will ask if he’s paying for me and I’m like 1) I’m paying for him as a good friend 2) isn’t that a little bit of antiquated sexism? But hey at least people think we’d be a cute couple.”
Yes, you and your best friend may have been the cutest couple, but, that’s all you would be, friends that is. The thought of dating my best friend honestly disgusts me (no offense to him, he’s great). However, that is only my experience with most of my guy friends. Another HCK staff member has teetered on the edge of dating her male bff, and believes their friendship is actually stronger because of it. She says:
“I’ve always had a lot of guy friends, so this is something I struggled with a lot in high school. Most notably, though, is my friendship with a guy who is basically my older brother. Something that’s different about our friendship is that in high school we actually did have very strong romantic feelings for one another, though not at the same time, which is why we never dated. There were also times that we’d be hanging out watching a movie or TV and would end up kissing. At this point I’m sure even some of you are thinking that clearly we weren’t ‘just friends’ and how could we truly be ‘just friends’ now, after all that history? Honestly though, the few months I had a huge crush on him just made me appreciate him more as a person and as a friend. When he had feelings for me and I didn’t reciprocate, we learned a lot about how to communicate better and respect each other’s boundaries. I know that he’s one of those people in my life I’ll still be talking to when I’m 80 years old. I think a lot of people think that if someone develops feelings for a friend and are rejected that there’s no way the friendship can continue, at least not in a healthy way. But that’s so untrue! In my case, I think it strengthened our connection to go through that because we both learned how kind and caring the other person is.”
Overall, the concept of friendship between boys and girls is misunderstood by a majority of society. When two people of different genders are seen together doing everyday activities such as eating lunch or walking around the mall, people tend to label them as “dating” or “in a relationship.” Additionally, when I hang out with multiple guys in a group setting, I feel judged by other people, especially other women, who stereotype me as the girl who only hangs out with guys to get their attention. This is not true! These guys are some of my closest friends who treat me as a sister.
People do not understand the full story of relationships versus friendships between males and females. They usually jump to conclusions and assume that either there is a romantic interest between the two, or the girl can be classified as a “slut” or “attention-whore” when hanging out with multiple guys. This must stop. Classifying teenagers and their friends is outdated. Instead of being interested with what gender I decide to hang out with, people need to learn to accept that girls and guys can be just friends. It not only frustrates me that I get a nudge and a wink from those who see my prom photos with one of my best friends, it irritates me. At first, I was okay with people joking about having a relationship with my prom date, but after a while, it became tiring and I did not want to keep explaining the fact that we are just friends.
I strongly believe societal standards of friendships need to be expanded to include all genders rather than solely associating friendship with two people of the same gender. Take it from someone with experience: it is possible to be just friends with someone of a different gender. It’s just a matter of whether society accepts that ideology.