Platonic opposite-sex friends without jealous spouses…Or, Saw an old friend for lunch yesterday

It was so good to see my pastor-friend “Mike” again.

He says his wife is “very jealous,” yet she doesn’t know me, doesn’t want to friend people on Facebook just because they’re his friends, doesn’t monitor his conversations with me, none of this.

If what he means is, she doesn’t want to share him sexually, that’s not “jealousy,” that’s normal.  🙂  No, I don’t consider her jealous, since she’s never shown any sign of jealousy with me.

Yes, Mike is in my college memoirs.  We’ve known each other since InterVarsity started up my sophomore year.  I even had a crush on him for a while.  But it wasn’t returned, I moved on to my now-husband, and our friendship has always been strictly platonic.  As Mike puts it, we flirt on occasion, but we always maintain boundaries.

What did we talk about?  Family.  Church.  Religion.  Nothing to be alarmed about.

Some people, even in the twenty-first century, still have problems with married people having opposite-sex friends.  Or people flirting innocently and harmlessly with opposite-sex friends.

While some people do turn it into affairs, that’s their problem.  Let the rest of us have our friends without fear of facing an angry spouse, or having to justify it.

Mike was part of my main circle of friends in college, even though it was mostly female.  We called him an “honorary woman.”  Even though half of us had crushes on him at some point, he never dated us.

I’ve kept up with that circle over the years, and now we’re all on Facebook, connected though scattered across the state.  It would be a shame to break that up because of a jealous spouse.  It’s so good to see this is not a problem.


Carolyn Hax (and the “nutterati”) Stick It to a Jealous Girlfriend

A letter writer is quite upset that her boyfriend of two years still talks–all the time–with his ex-wife of 30 years.  Even “put her foot down” over it, only to find he was still talking to the ex.  Carolyn Hax’s response was not what she expected.  For example:

But this is not up for debate: He has every right to this friendship. You can point out things that bother you, take offense at being lied to, and decide they’re too cozy and break up with him for it, but you can’t tell him who he can or can’t care about based on the way you think coupled people are supposed to behave.

The commenters “below the line” (whom Hax calls “nutterati”) also, for the most part, appear to agree with Hax, and consider the letter writer to be controlling, jealous, insecure, etc.  They note that she’s trying to control a grown man.


Column here: Why can’t these exes who are “bestest buddies” move on?

And here’s another one in the same vein:

Her hostile reaction to misfired introduction shows trust issues

This girlfriend throws a hissy fit because her boyfriend accidentally called her by his ex’s name, and still has pictures of the ex on his Facebook.  Then he didn’t grovel enough for her taste.  The commenters then started calling her very immature, hoping she’s about 21 and will grow up soon.

One commenter says, “Impossible to care about a person who is so intent on keeping score. Her behavior is poison to any relationship.  Assess the bigger picture, accept what is or don’t and move on.  IMO anyone this insecure and high maintenance is just too exhausting to bother with.

I can attest to that: Even if you’re not the significant other, but a friend of the SO, this can be so exhausting that you finally say screw it and leave.


Reblogs: Confronting Friend About Significant Other; About Responsibility for Others’ Emotions

Carolyn Hax just had a column about confronting a friend about her significant other.  I do wonder if the same thing applies if the S.O. is actually abusive.  Also, when the S.O. is abusive, I wonder how effective confronting him directly would really be: That could bring the abuse on you.

As soon as Richard’s wife Tracy discovered that I considered her abusive, she began abusing me as well with various overt and covert abuses, culminating in The Incident and later stalking me.  So I suppose Hax’s column is useful for the majority of issues with a friend’s annoying S.O., but not necessarily abuse.

As for Anonymous in the first link, whose friends didn’t tell her a thing about her ex until afterwards: I was in the same place.  There were little hints which my friends gave here and there about my abusive ex Phil, but I didn’t pick up on them as warnings.  No explanations were given, so I just thought they found his constant, silly jokes annoying.  And, well, I liked his jokes.

But at least they didn’t do as this group of friends did (in the Carolyn Hax letter above), and pretend the guy was great until after the breakup.  That just makes you wonder which is their real feeling, and which is a lie to make their friend feel better.

Hax’s column here addresses the concept that you’re not responsible for another person’s feelings.  A reader confronts this with the objection many of us have: But if you’re a jerk to somebody else, aren’t you responsible for their anger/sadness?  :

You have said a few times something along the lines of “We are not responsible for someone else’s feelings,” and when it comes to the extremes of narcissistic or victim-playing behavior, I get this.

But if I do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else, whether through malicious forethought or benign error, it’s hard for me not to feel at least a little responsible for the likely distress that person then feels, and I do my best to make amends.

True, some of us have an especially Zen approach to life, and each of us ultimately chooses how we react to what life throws at us, but I think I’m understanding your comment much more coldly and heartlessly than you intended. Could you please help clarify?

Fortunately, Hax’s reply is that no, she does not mean it to be so heartless.  She basically means that you do what you can to fix things when you cause pain, but some things are beyond your control.

This is good to hear for those of us who have been told, “I’m not responsible for your emotions,” by someone who has just done something that hurts you, but doesn’t seem to care.  As I wrote in Narcissistic Webs,

If I told [Richard] he did something that hurt me, he put the blame on my shoulders, saying he wasn’t responsible for my feelings (which is an a**hole thing to say).

Update 12/6/14: This has also been addressed by Ferrett in The Myth Of “Nobody Can Make You Feel Bad Without Your Permission”:

You might want to start that long discussion of how to get to the point where they can shove off that tidal wave of sadness with a cold freeze of logic… but that’s not how this is used.

Instead, the “Nobody can make you feel bad…” argument is generally wielded as a club to make it the victim’s fault when someone decided to be an asshole at them.

….But when you say, “Well, nobody can make you feel bad without your permission!”, that sets up a world where you have no responsibility for your speech.

Were you digging for weak spots, mocking to make a point? Oh, hey, well, you were trying your damndest to make them feel bad, but if it worked it’s their fault for not having sufficient defenses.

It’s not 100% correlation, but when I see “Nobody can make you feel bad!” I usually find a taunting dillweed nearby, taking potshots from the brush and then claiming no responsibility.


Classmate a stand-in for “Rudy,” Jigging at College Dance, Library Tales, Happiness Returns–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–September 1993, Part 1

Classmate a stand-in for “Rudy”; Jigging at College Dance

I wrote this in my diary on September 1:

Last night the old friends of Mom and Dad who have the college grandson stopped by.  I discovered they’re still thinking of fixing us up, and the woman asked me several questions and talked about him ([he’s going to] Purdue), and showed me a picture of his brother because she didn’t have one of him.  If he looks anything like his cute younger brother….

And I noticed with surprise that the man’s eyes were sky-blue! [my favorite eye color]  My parents were looking all over for a picture of me they could give them.  When Dad pulled out pics from 7th and 9th grade, I hurried upstairs and got a senior picture.

All this began just as Hawaii ended on channel 50 [Chicago] and the 1st part of the sequel, Hawaiians, began with cool music and a pic of a boat on the sea with Charlton Heston in it, dressed like a captain.

I don’t know whatever became of this fix-up with the grandson.  I never heard any more about it.

Hawaii and Hawaiians were excellent movies, though.  Hawaii was funny, with the natives doing as they’d always done and not realizing they might be doing something wrong; the missionary’s list of sexual sins only gave them new ideas: “Hey, I hadn’t thought of doing that.  I should try it.”

Rudy was a movie about a college student who’d always dreamed of playing football for Notre Dame, but was small and not that good of a player.  But because of his lifelong dream, he worked hard, and got to play at least once.

The crowd chanted, “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy,” when he played.  Dad saw that game and remembered the chanting, though he didn’t know at the time what it was for.  On September 3, I wrote this in my diary:

On the 10:00 news on [channel] 16 tonight, they talked about how hotly Rudy is selling, and showed the long-sideburned stand-in–[one of my high school classmates]!!  

He’s a Notre Dame student, and the reporter was talking with him at a kitchen table, it appeared.  The reporter said, ‘Don’t think he wants to be an actor.  He wants to be a game-show host.’  

I can just see that–and I think I remember him saying that once. 

He was also the stepson of a famous South Bend DJ, one of our local gods.  He was the James Dean lookalike in this McDonalds commercial when he was 19.


I probably arrived at school on Monday, September 6, because that was Labor Day and a much more convenient day for my parents to drive me to Roanoke.

On Saturday, my friends and I went outside Bossard to cool off and drink pop while the DJ played “Jump” by House Of Pain, a rap song.  Because of the Irish theme of the video, which had Irish hats and buttons and dancers, Astrid and I began to dance an Irish step-dance or jig.

Since it was so much fun, I realized I liked it far more than the modern, boring sway-dancing going on in Bossard.  I requested “Funky Ceili” by Black 47 so we could jig again, but the DJ didn’t play it.  I don’t know if he even had it.

Library Tales

To my glee, James worked with me for the last few minutes of my Tuesday and Thursday shifts.  I had a chance to get to know him–and possibly even more.

Though some people thought library work was the most boring, I thought it was the most wonderful.  Almost anything seemed better after a year working in Food Service, but it wasn’t just that:

I could sit at the information desk and read my homework assignments, waiting for people to check out or return books.  When the cart of returned books was full, I put the books in order and re-shelved them.

I loved being alone among all the books, and often found books on the cart or on the shelves which I checked out for myself.  I hung the daily newspapers on racks in the main reading room (by the information desk).  I loved spending time among the 800s, of course, since that’s where literature is in Dewey Decimals.

There was a third floor, a half-floor, actually, a kind of balcony extending over part of the second floor.  It may not have been in use junior year, though senior year it was used for a juvenile section.

My boss, Head Librarian, was a tall, skinny woman with glasses and dark hair.  I don’t remember Flora’s librarian title; she had short hair and glasses.  I don’t know how old they were; probably forties.  Flora was from Indiana, but had a Southern bent to her mostly Northern accent.  She must have come from farther south than my hometown.

Seymour was the circulation librarian.  He dealt with the newspapers and magazines.  I wrote an essay on him for Advanced Writing.  He was tall, mostly bald, and dark-haired, with glasses and a gentle expression.

This was a post-retirement job, taken after he got a Library Science degree.  He often sat at a desk alongside the wall opposite the information desk, and above the desk was a window.  People would come in and, without turning his head, he greeted them by name.  Some people found this scary, but he could see their reflections in the window.  He was friendly and talked to everyone he could.

Freshman or sophomore year, I went into the library and checked out a book.

Seymour asked, “Where are you from?”

“South Bend,” I said.

“Why did you come so far away from home to Roanoke?”

I came for the Writing major, and other things.

“South Bend is the home of Notre Dame football.  Are you a fan?”

“No, but I still support the team.”  I supported it by rooting for it, not watching the games.

Sophomore or junior year, we had the same conversation, almost word for word.

Though Head Librarian and Flora could occasionally be seen doing things around the library, much of the time I found them sitting in the office watching a TV on a wheeled stand.  Sharon wondered if they had us student workers do most of the work.

They were pleasant and laid-back, not caring if student workers came in a few minutes late, and often smiled at us.  The library clerk, J–, had one leg shorter than the other.  She was a pleasant person, with blonde hair and glasses.  When she was at the desk, she’d chat with me.

Sometimes I was the only student working, and sometimes there was someone with me.  When setting up hours, you had to be careful not to schedule yourself with more than one person.

One of the heirs to a prominent local business was a schizophrenic man in probably his forties or fifties.  He would come into the library to find his tutor.  He talked very loudly, and as if he were a little slow mentally.

He was tall, maybe a little overweight, and dark, with heavy eyebrows.  His tutor was heavy-set, dark, and mustached.  I grew to recognize them both.

“Mr. Heir” would ask me if I smoked, maybe to offer me a cigarette if I did (bleh), and go outside to smoke in the entryway, the only place in the library where it was allowed.  I think sometimes he even lit up in the library itself, and had to be told to move into the entryway.

Teachers put articles, test answers, books, and other things on reserve, and these reserved materials were put in a bookshelf to the left of the information desk and along the wall, with each teacher’s name pasted over separate sections.  Students had to ask one of us to get the reserved materials for them, and they signed their names on long cards stuck in the material.

Because of this, I felt like I knew a lot about what was going on in the classes.  Sometimes, teachers came up to the desk and talked to me because of these reserves, or because they knew me.

Flora’s husband liked to call her a lot, and always asked for her by her first and last name.  Since many people just asked for “Flora,” we’d know it was her husband.  It almost seemed as if he wanted there to be no mistake that she was his woman.

I didn’t know her full name at first, and had just read in the student workers’ information manual that the student workers weren’t there to go fetching people all the time.  We often got calls asking to talk to people who might be in the library, so I went to Head Librarian and Flora, who were usually in the office, or to Seymour and asked if they knew who such-and-such was.  They often did, and found them if they were there.

So one day I asked if they knew a Flora T–.  Flora laughed and said that was she.  She took the phone and told her husband I was new.

I had to read the manual on my first day, and though I probably forgot a lot of it, I knew I was supposed to answer the phone and say “library” if it was on-campus (one ring) or “Roanoke College Library” if it was off-campus (two rings).  I kept wanting to say “Lib’ry!” like the British.

Sometimes Latosha came into the library and talked with me.  She, of course, had her cute baby daughter by then, and sometimes brought her in.  Last year, when she conceived the baby, she was living off-campus with E–; now, she’d broken up with him, and was glad to be rid of him.

(She’s on my Facebook, and now that little baby is all grown up and graduated from high school!  Scary how time flies when you pass 20.)

Happiness Returns

On Wednesday, September 8, classes began.  The new year excited me: What would it be like?  Shawn was gone, and I didn’t see Peter anywhere.

On the one hand, it was sad to not see Shawn anymore, but on the other hand, it was a relief.  Both those men were finally gone, and I was free!  I could start the year off on my own terms.

I had gotten used to looking at everyone who came in or passed, wondering if it was Shawn or Peter, but now it would never be again.  That was weird.  A wonderful semester began, the best and happiest semester I ever spent at that school.

Though I thought about Peter during the summer, I did not want to get back together with him.  On September 22, I wrote in my diary–and later told Pearl–that maybe the supposed “word” about Peter and I getting back together, referred to friendship and not romance.  Though before I would have hated this thought, now it elated me.

One night, sometime before mid-October, as Jennifer and I washed our hands alone in the bathroom of Fox Valley Mall in Appleton, I asked what had become of Peter.  I hesitated and took great care in bringing this up, probably because I didn’t want her to think I was still hung up on him.

She said, “He dropped out of school.  He decided he didn’t need a degree for what he wants to do.  Now he’s working in Radio Shack in the S– mall.”

On the one hand I wondered how the supposed “words” were supposed to be fulfilled now; on the other I felt joy and release: Peter was truly out of my life.

I rarely stayed in my room on Friday nights, and I think Clarissa often came with me.  My friends had parties, or Jennifer and her new boyfriend Mike invited me to join them and others as they drove off to Jennifer’s house or elsewhere.

Jennifer and Mike weren’t together yet at the beginning of the year, though: We met him that year.  He may have been a transfer student or a freshman.

I remember him sitting next to me in the back of a car full of my friends, and talking to us.  I thought he had an uncanny resemblance to my World Civ teacher (and laughed like him)–though, thank goodness, he didn’t spit when he talked.

I soon discovered he liked Jennifer.  I thought they started dating, but Pearl or Sharon told me he was interested in another girl and had to decide which one he wanted.  This anxious triangle was soon resolved when he chose Jennifer.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:


Reblog by Linda Holmes: Disposable Friendships in Modern Society; Opposite-Sex Friends (Assumed to be Lovers); Friendship Getting Respect; Friendship Breakups

Amazing how lightly people can take friendships….

A book review about how friendships these days are treated as disposable:
‘Friendkeeping’: The Close Relationships We Could, But Can’t Easily, Let Go

Some quotes:

I realized as I read it that I wasn’t responding only to the book itself — which covers territory like secrets, crisis management, and how much advice to give your friends — but to the mere fact that it was written.

It was taking seriously something, namely adult friendships, that often turns into the wallpaper of cultural life: something that’s there, and that’s lovely, and that ideally you don’t have to think about, but not something that you would delve into deeply. Not something you attend to specifically.

In a way, this theory reminds me of what we talked about here earlier this week: that the very compelling fragility of friendships comes from the fact that there’s such a low barrier to exit. You don’t have to work on anything if you don’t want to.

Indeed, Klam says when she wrote the book proposal, she realized that in theory, there were easy answers to all the hard questions she had about friends. “You could possibly write every question that I posed and answer it: ‘Well, just don’t be friends with them anymore.’ ‘If you don’t like their spouse, don’t hang out with them.’ So there was less of a sort of [concern for] how to work through things … just because you know you really can walk away.”

From the same blogger who wrote the review:

Building a show around friends has some structural advantages; friendships are precious specifically because they are fragile. You’re not bound to these people by law or by blood (in most cases), and you don’t share a home with them or share your stuff with them (again, in most cases).

You have to keep choosing them every day, and on any given day, you could just … not choose them, and that would be that.

I once had a friend very tentatively, in hushed tones, acknowledge that there is a way — one particular dimension, one kind of sense of intimacy — in which your closest friends are closer than family, and I think that’s what was meant.

You don’t have to file anything to dump your friends; the barriers to exit, you might say, are very low. Your mom is supposed to like you; your friends just do. —You’ve got to have friends: how curated families shook up tv comedy

As for opposite-sex friendships as shown on TV:

Heaven knows, I’m a rom-com person. I’m an appreciator of the slow burn as much as anyone.

Still, not every close bond is a precursor to something entirely other than itself. I admit that I’m an outlier — I badly wanted Friends not to get Ross and Rachel together at the end, since they were obviously going to make each other miserable as they had so many times before. But I don’t like the romantification of every important relationship in the known universe. —Sometimes a friend is just a cigar: why not everybody needs to kiss at the end

She may be talking about TV, but it also applies to how people often see opposite-sex friendships: as somehow necessarily being about sex.

Which is really frustrating and sexist, because then you can’t even talk about how much you care about your opposite-sex friend without everyone on the forum going, “OMG you want to have an affair and should ditch that friend!”

Um, considering how many guy friends I have and care about, you must think I’m a promiscuous ho bag.  I mean, sure, I love to flirt with my guy friends, but that’s all it ever is: a little joke between friends, nothing serious.

It’s extremely annoying to have to add some version of “I mean as friends” when I talk about Richard, because so many people (including Tracy) have made it into something it’s not, that I feel the need to do so.  Let’s get with the 21st century, people!

People say “best friend” because it recognizes what you might call, for lack of a less academic-sounding garble, “platonic intimacy.” It says, “This is a person who is not like normal, ordinary friends, but who is the ‘I would drive anywhere at two in the morning for you without complaining’ kind of friend.”

Or, in the case of Pam Ribon’s book You Take It From Here, which is a wonderful look at a relationship like this, the “I would manage your life in the event of your death” kind of friend.

One of the reasons Bridesmaids was so affecting was that it really honored how important those relationships are and how painful it is when they’re jeopardized.

It was great to see Kristen Wiig play the fact that you can feel just as devastated, just as undone and disoriented, by losing friends as by losing boyfriends.

Breakups are common dramatic fare, but as I recently talked about on our podcast, the saddest breakup on My So-Called Life, after all, was Angela and Rayanne. —Best Friends and Broken Hearts