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Can men and women be friends, just friends?

28 Dec


It’s the question men and women have been asking themselves for forever and never more than shortly after the release of the brilliant movie When Harry Met Sally
in 1989. Two very attractive people (Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal) are on a forced road trip together and Harry explains to Sally that men and women can’t be friends because sex is always on someone’s mind. Then, they become friends, disproving his theory before getting together, proving it once more.

So, we’re still in the dark with some of us thinking men and women can be JUST friends (no flirting, no benefits) and those of us who think that it’s never just friendship.

I was one of the ones who thought men and women could be friends, just friends. I count a handful of special men as dear friends, as dear to me as my girlfriends. We care about each other, we amuse each other, we break bread and there is no sex and minimal flirting involved. I’m happily married, my husband is happy with my friendships and we’re all happy as Larry, so to speak.

But here’s what happened to me recently…I landed myself firmly in the shit after I sent an overly affectionate Facebook-hug to a male friend on his birthday and his wife read it and became a little unsettled. It was on their shared Facebook page so even though I sent is as a message, I didn’t think she wouldn’t read it, I fully expected she would.

In my defense, I did think the world was ending in a few, short weeks and I had been sending affectionate correspondence to several friends including my male friends (hi Alf, hi Alex) and all of my female friends. I hardly ever get to see this friend, someone I consider family and the message read something like, “Thinking of you today and now I know why. It’s your birthday. Happy birthday. You’re the best/awesome, I love you lots, have a great year. I hope the girls are well.” I think that’s how it went. That’s basically how it went. My friends and I always joke that when I think of someone they call or I call them when they are thinking of me, like we are all mind-readers. And did I mention I thought the world was ending?

So the shit hit the fan a few weeks later when I was made aware of the discomfort and I promptly apologised, protested my innocence and tried to smooth things over. Then I found out I’d been unfriended by one and blocked by the other. WTF?

I felt like I’d been kicked in the guts. I felt really sad. I really like these two people and I couldn’t believe that after almost ten years of successful friendship just one overly-enthusiastic message could result in such drama. As friends, wouldn’t they assume I had the best of intentions? Wouldn’t they know what I meant? Didn’t they know I am happily married and even if I wouldn’t I have never and would never do anything? Was the message really a proposition?

I am a writer and I do word-vomit like this often but most of my friends laugh it off. They know I get emotional.

Do I have to be more careful with my married male friends? Is friendship between men and women only possible if they are single? Am I living in fantasy land? Are any of my male friendships real?

I really don’t know the answer but I do know I might be a little more careful in how I express myself through social media (for a little while at least). My husband has been telling me for well over ten years I am way too affectionate in written correspondence. Apparently xxx’s and ooo’s are not appropriate ways to end emails and text to work colleagues, in particular bosses, but otherwise it just seems so cold. Can I at least send a smilie face?

I love my male friendships and I love becoming friends with their life-partners too. There isn’t anyone less threatening than me. I mean really. Even if my friend was Daniel Day Lewis and we’d previously dated I would NEVER EVER EVER try anything and I would never expect him to read a proposition into my message.

Did I mention I thought the world was ending?

I think it’s sad that this has happened but I really don’t want to be less expressive with my friends. Life is too short. I love everyone. I love you and you and you and I truly didn’t mean anything by it.

Another of my favourite movies Juno has a scene with the step-mum where she is advising her step-child to be careful with her friendship with a married man, saying it’s different with married men. But Juno is single. I’m not. We all know each other. Our kids play together.

Maybe I’m too influenced by my Gen-Y friends. They don’t seem to have the friendship rules and regulations my generation has (Gen-X, yeah!).

I’d love to know what you think. It may be one of those conundrums that is never answered and that we’ll struggle with for all our days.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

Has Facebook killed the high-school reunion?

4 Nov

Has Facebook removed the need for high school reunions?

My twenty year high school reunion is on next year but I don’t see the point of going. I’m ‘friends’ with most of the people I went to school with on Facebook already. We know everything about each other’s lives and we have even formed a ‘group’ so we can find each other easily.

High school reunions can be awkward and unpleasant. I’ve heard that some are great but most recently when asking my friends how their reunions were I heard they were poorly attended, awkward (especially if you aren’t married with children) and not a lot of fun at all.

To me, high school reunions set up a series of potential broken promises – let’s have dinner, let’s keep in touch this time… I’ve already failed to keep in touch with most of my friends from school. We try to catch up but we’re all so busy. There are only so many hours in the day.

The great thing about using Facebook to check in with high school friends is that you only have to answer the questions you want to answer (Are you married? Do you have kids? Where do you live? What do you do?). Nobody can see how much you weigh (or don’t weight, to those who are miraculously skinnier than in high school). It’s perfectly convenient and delightfully devoid of stilted conversations.

I bumped into a school friend at the shops recently. I was so happy to see her. We were best friends in high school I shrieked, hugged her and railroaded her into having coffee. She seemed reluctant. It was awkward. As always, whenever there are silences in conversations, I filled in the blanks a little too loudly, making silly comments and asking inappropriate questions. She didn’t give me much encouragement. But still, I persevered. We used to be so close!

Coffee ended and I asked her for her number. She said her phone was broken. I told her to give me her number anyway so I could contact her when her phone was fixed. She gave it to me. I tried to call. It was a wrong number. She fake-numbered me!

To me high school reunions are dying a slow death. I’m happy with my Facebook virtual high school reunion.

To the class of 1993!

Social media has stolen all my punch-lines

4 Nov

I was chatting with a friend at work. We hadn’t seen each other for a while. We were complaining about our weight. She’s put on a couple of kilos and I launched into a witty anecdote about how I too have put on a couple of kilos, mainly due to uni work. I was expanding my story into an interesting observation about how I do my best uni work when eating junk food when she said, “I know, I read about that on your Facebook page.”

Social Media is ruining my social life. All my stories are told on Facebook and Twitter. By the time I catch up with friends I have nothing left to say. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been stopped in my tracks – punch line impending – when my punch line is told to me by a friend who has read it on Facebook and Twitter.

I might need to start saving some material for socialising purpose, but how will I keep track of what I have posted? Do I need to start carrying conversation suggestion cards around with me? And in a desperate attempt to increase my Twitter followers (210 is just not acceptable) I am posting every thought and event. It’s exhausting.

Seriously, it’s a real issue. Tonight I have drinks with work colleagues. They are all Facebook friends. What are my chances of experiencing interesting things in time to share them tonight? I don’t have any old stories to polish off. Maybe I’ll talk about the weather – no, I Tweeted about it today (I Tweeted ‘Yay, sunshine. Hang around for the weekend please).

Maybe I can start my conversations with, “Did you see on Facebook how I finished my uni work today?” Or, “Did you see my Tweet about Luke Burt?” Have Facebook and Twitter become conversation starters or conversation enders?

Maybe when someone tells a story you’ve read about on social media, you should politely nod and laugh and pretend you haven’t heard it before. Sort of like when a new joke makes the rounds and they jokingly say, “Stop me if you’ve heard it.” Should you actually stop them?

Also, I tend to stretch the truth for dramatic purposes on Facebook and Twitter, or self-edit when I run out of characters. Will my little social-media-induced lies be revealed when I launch into the full version of the aforementioned event over a couple of cocktails?

I have two lives – my real life (actual face-to-face interaction) and my virtual life (Facebook and Twitter). Can these two lives exist in harmonious parallel or will they keep colliding like this?

And when I share this article on my Facebook and Twitter accounts is it irony? Is it a self-perpetuating myth? Is it a metaphor for the real vs virtual lives I am trying desperately to maintain?

‘Like’, ‘Share’  or ‘Re-Tweet’ if you agree.


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