Thursday, February 11, 2010

Couple-y friends

In Roman mythology, both Romulus and Remus (Rome's founder and his brother) were fathered by the god of war (Mars) and raised by wolves. It was a mixture of their divine parentage and feral upbringing that resulted in the uniqueness of character that allowed Romulus to found one of the greatest and most influential empires in all of recorded history.

My own upbringing is not nearly as auspicious, but it has gifted me with what are apparently some fairly unique traits. I was raised... by women. Not in a "Heather has two Mommies" kind of way; I just had a very domineering mother and sisters and weak or absent male figures. Hardly an original situation, but the effect it had on me was a bit unusual.

You see, I'm a fairly manly kinda dude. Did a tour in Iraq with the Marine Corps Infantry, worked as a truck driver and in a machine shop, doing high end building maintenance right now, know more about guns than any other subject, and totally would not blame my wife if she left me for Felicia Day or Jewel Staite. Ok, so that last one more proves my nerd street cred, but still...

In two important ways I am very, very girly. The first is that I love babies. All kids really, but I get especially chick-like around the tiny people. I mean come on, who could not love those tiny little shoes?!?! Aside from the fact that all women seem to presume that a man who does not have kids but likes them is a pedophile, this has not had a significant negative impact on my life.

The second, however, has been causing some issues lately, so I thought I'd just talk it out a bit in the hope it'll be less of a problem. I also communicate like a girl. You want to talk about your feelings? I'm there. I really want to know about your parents, your siblings, your friends, your significant other, and of course the state of your relationships with all of them. When I say "How are you doing?" I really mean it.

In the case of the single girls we know, this is usually resolved fairly quickly. Elisa knows I love her in an amount that cannot be properly expressed without the use of scientific notation, and once it's clear I'm not hitting on her our friends generally find it refreshing that I care about them as a person and enjoy talking.

But in the dynamic of a "couples" friendship, things tend to get a bit more odd. There seems to be an unspoken cultural rule that when a couple is friends with another couple, the guys are primary friends with each other and likewise the girls. Of course there is some overlap: polite chit-chat, perhaps some help given or received, and so forth. But in the grand scheme of things the strongest friendship is with the person of the same gender, and their significant other is a far more casual relationship mainly based on proximity and interaction tied to the primary friendship.

The problem for me is, I really like my friend's wives. They're darn interesting people, and by God they're willing to actually talk about real things that matter to them. And those things generally don't include men in spandex whomping on each other over a ball of some sort. Heck, the dearest friend I've ever had is a wee bonny lass*. Although to be fair, she is pretty into football for some odd reason.

As one might expect, reactions to this are fairly mixed. For the average woman it's a highly unusual social situation. Generally her husband's friends are politely disinterested in her, and when they do show substantial amounts of attention it's often not for chaste purposes. I've had more than one girl who simply didn't know what to do with me.

So, to all the XX halves of our various couple-y friends, I apologize if I've made you uncomfortable. I'm not faking it to be polite, I'm not trying to hit on you, and I promise I really am just interested in your life. I'm sorry if it's a social situation your life has not prepared you for. Believe me when I say I know that feeling, and it's not terribly enjoyable. But if you can get past the awkwardness, rumour has it I'm a mild to moderately interesting guy to know.

* Before anyone gets all aflutter that I didn't list my wife as my closest friend, allow me to clarify that I'm merely using the correct terminology. Elisa means far more to me than anyone ever could, but we have a romantic relationship, not a "friendship." I would no more classify Elisa as "a friend" than I would smooch on one of my female friends. Totally different hierarchies of relationship.

1 comment:

  1. Always enjoy reading your blog John. You have a way of writing that is a sure way of cracking me up. Too bad that is the only way I have of keeping up with you right now. Sigh.