I can barely remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a great guy friend or friends. In elementary school, it was Jamie. Jamie and I met when he licked my back (on a dare) on one of my first days at gifted. Back then, those of us who went to gifted went to a different elementary school two days a week; being new, in a new place, I was slightly terrified. But something about the bizarre back-licking-episode offered safety (and, oddly, acceptance) and glued us together almost instantly. My mom loved him. Everyone loved him – he was cute, smart, and hysterically funny.
It would be Ruben and Marcus in jr. high along with Brandon. Marcus, Ruben and I were all band nerds together and delighted in truly insane conversations at lunch and “spill out” (the bovine-style holding pen they shuttled us too post lunch and before the next class period). An example of our uniting insanity: the seats to the lunch tables could spin – I never got tired of watching Marcus and Ruben spinning themselves silly simultaneously. We laughed until we couldn’t breathe. Often. Brandon and I connected in history class, where we were two of the stand-out students. We would talk for HOURS on the phone. I can’t even tell you what we talked about, but it typically involved more ridiculous conversation(s) and lots of laughter.
Ruben would continue to be a close friend through high school (Marcus moved away; we were not happy campers) and we hung out often. Later on (maybe senior year), I met my next BFF Ramon in a weird way through one of my other female BFFs. I remember Christi (she’s reading this, I know, and laughing) introducing me to him as a way to get rid of him. [He had been her other friend’s boyfriend and he was calling her daily to talk about the failed relationship.] Introduce yours truly … Ramon would grow to be the first person I was utterly and completely gaga over. Tall, dark, handsome. I was in love with someone who had started out as another great guy friend. Importantly, Ramon was a lesson in where not to take guy-girl friendships (yes, eventually I was left heartbroken). C’est la vie.
Jesse and I would meet while I was in college at one of my first (awful) jobs at an alarm company. Jesse and I would be great friends for years, even though I would spend a lot of that time wanting to “beat him about the head” (a loving threat he would visit on me as well). We had a weekly dinner date where we’d talk about everything under the sun. Again, we had humor and companionship in common. During that same time, I connected with Joaquin. Oddly enough, we had gone to school together for years and were never friends until being united through the online world. Joaquin and I had one of the most fleeting friendships, but we had fun. I made him endless baked items. He watched endless sporting events sprawled across my couch.
Vinny deserves his own paragraph. I know he and I were meant to meet and possibly lived as siblings in another life. Briefly, he and I had met previously when AOL was what Facebook is today. That was 1997. In 1999, I walked into my grad stats class and saw this tall, handsome guy straining to look up at the board. I KNEW IT WAS HIM. The good-looking French guy I had talked to at some point on AOL; I knew his name was Vinny. I had no idea what he was doing in my class (a class I had gotten into three weeks late based on an ongoing battle with my then-department chair). During our break, I walked up to him at the vending machine and said: you’re him; you’re Vinny! He remembered me too. That was really all it took. 15 years later, he is still one of my best friends. A brother in this life and someone who has lived an oddly parallel existence. My mom considers him her son, and he can still make me laugh until I cry.
Higher education has yielded amazing male friends as well. Leon, Charlie, Manny, Justin (my Weegan), Louis, Jon, Raja. Colleagues and supervisors, even, who would come to be part of my hysterically unwell circle (and lifelong friends). Calming male companions in a professional world that’s sometimes hard, sometimes confusing, and always perfect fodder for the next hilarious story.
The dynamic between male and female is something unique (side note: I know this is a traditionally gendered rendering of this dynamic – but it is my story and an honest acknowledgement of that). There’s a lack of competition, a want for (and granting of) acceptance of the other. There’s protection. There’s also comfort in knowing that you’re really just friends and can get an alternate perspective on just about anything. There may (at times) be a hint of the romantic, some kind of love that seeps just over the threshold of friendship. But, still, you (typically) remain platonic for the benefit of the relationship.
In my friendships with boys, guys and men, I’ve been constantly reminded of the purest ties that bind all profound friendships: the ease with which we can talk about anything, the inappropriateness of our humor, and the ability to accept each other for and through anything.