Do You Pursue Friendships with the Opposite Sex?

Photo courtesy of Pictures88.com

Photo courtesy of Pictures88.com

Cuddling and reading Harry Potter in bed with our daughter is one of the highlights of my evenings. Our nine year old is often talkative and revealing at bedtime, especially as we’re giggling about Ron and Hermione’s constant bickering. Little did I know these beloved characters’ mutual crush would provide fertile ground for an eye-opening, painful conversation.

After a juicy discussion of Ron and Hermione’s flirtatious antics, I playfully broached the subject of crushes, asking if my daughter had a crush on any kids in her class.

“I don’t have a crush on anyone,” she answered, avoiding my gaze.

Certain she was on the verge of opening up to me, I pressed on. “When I picked you up from school this afternoon, I thought I saw you staring at Joe, but not talking with him. Are your feelings for him similar to Hermione’s feelings for Ron?”

“No, mom, not at all,” she said. “I am nervous around him. But I’m nervous around all boys. I’m scared to talk to them, and I don’t know why.”

As tears flooded her lashes, Ava explained that she didn’t understand why she was so uncomfortable when all the other girls seemed to interact well with boys.

So much for my maternal instincts. Where I perceived an innocent first crush, my daughter was experiencing real discomfort. As I held her and brushed the hair out of her eyes, I realized I had little experience-based wisdom to impart on this topic. My own lack of male friends throughout my school years and beyond was not a formula I’d want my daughters to emulate.

The best I could offer in the moment was tell her she wasn’t alone, that I remembered being scared to talk with boys too, and was open to talking more about her fears whenever she wanted.

Sated by my response, she fell asleep in my arms, leaving me to review my own history of interacting with boys.

As one of three sisters with protective parents, I never spent much time around boys. I never made friends with them or really got to know them. For me, boys felt magical from afar; terrifying up close.

My past is littered with experiences of ignoring boys who were nice to me and wanted to be my friend in favor of longing for those who ignored me, wishing they would choose me for relationships. Although I had little actual experience interacting with boys, my obsession with them taught me lessons I don’t want to pass on to my children.

In kindergarten, my rogue classmate Devon grabbed me by the arms after school and attempted to plant a rough kiss on my cheek. I, in turn, hit him with my blue Barbie lunchbox, winning his devotion for the rest of the school year. Lesson:  play hard to get, the boys will love you.

In second grade, I eagerly tried to win over Edward, a scrawny, tow-headed boy who repeatedly ignored me and my offerings of the dry Stella D’oro anise cookies my mom packed in my lunch. Lesson:  Keep chasing, sooner or later you’ll win his affection. Or bring better cookies.

In fourth grade, I graduated to Donald, the tough neighborhood kid who rode his bicycle to my house and threw rotted green apples at my legs to win my affection. After several days of this mating ritual, my younger sister sprayed Donald with our garden hose, ending his infatuation. Lesson:  keep your smarter, braver sister away so you can enjoy the attention.

In sixth grade, my undying devotion to Michael, the nearsighted boy who never acknowledged my existence, led me to commit the first of many fashion don’ts – octagon shaped, wire-framed glasses to match his. Lesson:  do whatever it takes to make a boy notice you.

My high school and college years, with their mix of hormones and unrequited love, offered similar lessons; the more uninterested the male, the better. My motto:  completely ignore me, I’ll follow you forever. Be nice to me, want to be my friend, I’ll look through you to the unavailable guy in the corner.

While my relationships with men have blossomed with time, maturity and therapy, I don’t pursue male friendships. If I’m going to model healthy interactions with the opposite sex for my kids, I need to get some male friends. Stat.

I wonder what Devon, Edward, Donald and Michael are doing these days?

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86 thoughts on “Do You Pursue Friendships with the Opposite Sex?

  1. i think the best way to feel less intimidated around boys is to just be who you are and be their friends. since i have a boy around the same age, from his perspective, he likes girls well enough. he’s happy to chat and play, but for the most part, both the boys and girls travel in their gender packs, so real interaction is limited. and as a group, both boys and girls are s carrrr y! maybe there;s a neighbor boy she knows who can come over for an hour and they can play a game of clue or something..?.

  2. Hahahaha! Funny! Amazingly, I am in touch with most the boys I adored — from 3rd grade on. And I have proof on my Facebook page. They all show up there frequently to tease me. And, if you can believe it, my husband golfs with a few of my exes. Oy.

    I always got along great with the boys, earning me the title of Class Flirt in 1985. That sucked. Nobody wants that designation.

    I love how you structured this piece and used the literature as springboard into your daughter’s life and then into your own ruminations.

    Enjoy the time that your children will allow you to use them as blog fodder! 😉 And thanks for visiting me today!

    • Thanks, Renee. I think Class Flirt would be a hard title to rock in your teenage years, but a great one to own now. I love that your old crushes and exes are still in touch – wow! I wish I had a little more confidence in the flirting department!

  3. I had a similar discussion with my son on Valentine’s Day. “Are there any girls you like in class? What about that girl who stole your notebook?” Eye rolls. He’s got friends who are girls. I’ve always had male friends. I guess because I was kind of a tom boy and because I’ve been in bands with them. They’re like brothers to me. And I’ve got some wonderful gay male friends. It gets weird once you’re married though. There’s the question of inappropriateness I guess. That a whole other blog post, right? 🙂

  4. I had several friends with similar feelings when I was growing up and my daughter seems to feel more awkward around boys than I did, but she’s still doing ok with it all. I, on the other hand always got along better with guys than I did girls.

    • Awkward is a good word – that’s how I felt and I think how my daughter feels. I’m surprised how many people have responded that they get along better with the opposite sex than their own!

  5. I grew up having friends who were boys and this continued throughout adulthood. I remember playing with both girls and boys and we would do everything together as a group. As an only child, I played with kids my ages and their younger siblings. My son is an only child as well and has friendships with boys and girls. Although he is comfortable with both sexes, he will emphatically tell you that he is FRIENDS with a girl and there is no romance going on. I try to hold back my laughter. I know with my son and his classmates that there is talk about boyfriends/girlfriends. Maybe it is the same for Ava and she finds this intimidating and scary. I emphasize friendship with the opposite sex with my kid. I tell him romance is not necessary in the 4th grade and that he has lots of time before he finds a girl to romance. Until then, being friends with girls is cool. Although, he is learning that girls can be a little more emotional and sensitive-just like Mom 🙂

    • Thanks, Gretchen. I haven’t heard much about the boyfriend/girlfriend thing yet, but I’m sure it will start soon enough. From what I can tell, Ava does fine in groups with boys and girls, but one on one she feels awkward. We’ll see! I know she told me she enjoyed talking with Sean – they chatted each other up the entire time we were together over the summer!

  6. You forgot the part where Donny was constantly pulling your pigtail braids. He was an annoying little twit, if I remember correctly. That’s why I sprayed him off of his bike with the hose. Boom. 🙂

  7. For the record, I would have killed to have had a fourth grade boy throw rotted apples at me! Apparently, you were quite the catch! I have also lured with Stella Doro cookies packed in my lunch before too. I am lucky to have a handful of excellent male friends now. But not without a prior lifetime of awkwardness in front of anyone with an x and y chromosone. Enjoy your pursuit of male friendships. I bet Devon Edward Donald and MIchael would jump at the chance now!

    • You know Stella Doro cookies? I thought that might be too obscure a reference! I hate those cookies even now! I’m waiting for Devon, Edward, Donald and Michael to contact me. Or send me flowers. Is that wrong? xo

        • Right?! I wouldn’t eat a Stella Dora cookie for anything. Do they even still make them? And OMG I forgot about Melba Toast! Disgusting! Sadistic is the right word! 😉

      • I was the youngest of 3 daughters in a very conservative, Christian household. We’re not talking your every day garden variety kind of conservative, either. They were the kind of conservative that made conservatives uneasy. Is that conservative enough for ya? Needless to say, boys weren’t even in the same zip code on my radar.

        • I hear you! And I wish we could have been friends back then! Although I didn’t grow up in a religious conservative household specifically, my parents were extremely protective. No boys for us! Thanks for commenting!

  8. You may find this strange coming from an old guy but I never pursued female friendships at all. They just seem to happen. I’m very fortunate that my wife understands this rather interesting and for some women intimidating scenario. I have far more women friends than I do men. I prefer women doctors to any male doctors I’ve had. There is one thing that I find that women do that men generally don’t do and that is listen. When I was younger I found all the macho BS and braggadocio really tiring. I’d take myself out of the conversations. OK, I know I’m a little weird. 🙂

  9. I’m usually a little bit more comfortable with the opposite sex. I have no idea how you teach that, but you have taught your little girl she can confide in you and that’s the best thing you can teach your children.

  10. My son is the boy from his class invited to all of the girls’ birthday parties. He is so often the only boy there… But he’s also got three sisters, so he’s going to have a lifetime of strong relationships with women, no way around it.

  11. I was exactly the same as you when I was growing up, when it came to being friends with boys, and it lasted all through college. And truthfully, my first real guy friends were my husband’s friends who I adopted as friends over the 6 years we have known each other. And, like you, if I have a daughter one day I hope I can teach her not to be afraid, and to be easy in her relationships, whether with boys or girls.

    • I like the phrase “easy in her relationships” – exactly what I wish for our daughters. My only male friends are my husband’s friends and my girlfriends’ husbands, too. I enjoy all of them and may start there on my quest for better male friendships. Hugs to you!

  12. Oh, Mary! We are kindred souls on the dealing with the opposite sex front. I hope to teach my daughter to deal better and more comfortably with boys as well. It helps that she has an older brother. She doesn’t seem intimidated or nervous, as I was at her age.

    • Is it too late for me to get my daughters an older brother? If so, I’ll have to trust they’ll learn the old-fashioned way, especially if I support them. Thank you for being my kindred spirit – that feels happy! 😉

  13. Maybe you could setup a controlled playdate with a boy in her class. Use the pretext of getting to know the Mom better if you need to, but let your daughter in on it. I think if she had an opportunity to spend time with guys in a nonthreatening environment, she might start to develop an understanding of things-held-in-common.

    • Great idea. Ava and I were talking about asking a boy whose mom I like to go to a museum with us or bowling or something low key like that. I’m sure that will make a good story as I’m likely to be more nervous and awkward! 😉

  14. I’m male, and I’ll be your friend! 🙂

    Growing up I had friends of both sexes, starting in about fifth grade, and carrying all the way through to the present day. In fact, overall, I’d say that most of my closest friends are female, although my best friend is male. I have boy/girl four-year-old twins, and they are each other’s best friend, and they play together w/ boys and girls equally at school and w/ the neighbors. Of course they’re not anywhere near crush age, so we’ll how things develop once they get to grade school. When I taught sixth grade, I found the while the kids definitely would splinter off into same-gender cliques, there was just as much cross-gender hanging out as not. I guess I don’t have any advice for you and your daughters, except to say that sometimes are only experiences can too strongly color what we share w/ our kids. I think you’re doing the right thing by open to talking w/ your daughter about it all, if/when she wants to. Okay, now I’ve written a post in your comments section, so I’ll stop there. . . 🙂

    • Done and done. We are now friends! I enjoy your writing so feel free to leave me post-length comments whenever the mood strikes! I love that you have experience teaching kids and have that insight only a teacher can have – really helpful. Thanks!

      • Glad to officially be friends! 🙂 And glad to help as best I can. And, next time I’ll proofread my post-length comment for grammatical and sense errors before I publish it. 🙂

  15. Ya know what? God created you to raise your daughter… all of your experiences and all of who you are will be used to embrace your sweet girl. Trust it. And believe that in your own journey of growth, God has equipped you to guide your precious daughter. That’s the beauty of parenting!!!

  16. This felt like I was reading an excerpt from my life! I too grew up in a family of three girls, and didn’t have male friendships until college. Even then, they lacked the level of honesty I had with my girlfriends. I learned a lot of messed-up stuff about the opposite sex the same way you did (if he’s treating you badly it means he likes you!), but I’m learning my way out of old habits now.
    Also, now that I’m married, I really don’t have a lot of male friendships at all…hmm, now you’ve got me thinking…

  17. I love you to pieces, do you know that!???! We have the same motto, too. I chased the heck out of those boys that wanted nothing to do with me, and I ignored the ones that wouldv’e done anything for me. I ended up with a great husband, but I didn’t chase him. No, he wasn’t the type that I would chase. He’s persistent, so I eventually just succumbed to him. That sounds terrible, but it really ended up for the best. This was a great post, as ALWAYS!

  18. I’ve been the exact opposite; I make friends much more easily and freely with the opposite sex than I do with dudes. It’s been that way my whole life, for as long as I can remember. I’m glad for the couple of male friends that I have, but I’ve never related with men as well as I have women.

    (I mean, I had trouble making friends, period, because I’m awkward as all hell, but just a little less so with women.)

    I think learning this *with* your daughter is a fantastic, wonderful thing. Best of all the lucks.

  19. I hope my son will confide in me someday like your daughter did. I would never have talked to my mom like that. As far as friends with the opposite sex, not so much anymore. When I was younger, it was easier. Now I have no life other than mom, boss of house, mom and homeschooling mom.

  20. I’m another guy that seems to make friends with women easier than I do with guys. And all I have is boys, so I can’t really help you on that one. But it is fun watching the kids go from thinking that girls are gross to having a few friends to actively being interested in finding someone to be with. I think it’s the hardest thing in life.

    I hope you and your daughter are able to figure this out. 🙂

  21. I grew up with brothers so I’m lucky I never had issues talking with boys. But don\t worry they aren’t that complicated. As with most people finding common ground is huge. I was into sports as a kid and boys are usually drawn to that. Hope she gets more comfortable around her peers! Must be hard!

  22. I was never good at being friends with guys and was totally envious of my friends who were naturals. On the plus side, I was and still am great and being friends with women! Great topic.

  23. {Melinda} I won’t attempt to give you advice with your sweet girl because I don’t know her and her unique struggles. I can only tell you that my girl had similar issues when she was in elementary school and now she has more boy friends than girl friends! She says they are actually easier to talk to because they aren’t jealous, don’t initiate drama and they aren’t trying to compete with her. I think she just had to mature and find her own way. I know as a mom, I always want to come to the rescue and fix it! But sometimes, I can only do what you did … let them know I understand and that I care and they can always talk to me. Sometimes that alone gives them the confidence to figure out their own solutions. 🙂

  24. I was something of a tomboy growing up, though I had girl friends, too. I played the drums and began playing in bands when I was 15, and I was always the only girl. When I first went to college I was a music performance major, and at the time (late 80s) I was the only girl in the percussion section. The guys didn’t go out of their way to make me feel comfortable, but they didn’t completely ignore me, either. Still, I felt uncomfortable enough to quit school for a while.

  25. *** the more uninterested the male, the better. My motto: completely ignore me, I’ll follow you forever**

    Haaaa. I agree. I was ALWAYS attracted wildly to the male who didn’t call, didn’t look at me, didn’t realize I existed..

    WTH? It’s all a game, I guess.

    Keep us posted about your daughter.

    Loved this post !! Xx

  26. Great post, Mary! I think about this topic a lot, especially as I see my 5yo son lose interest in his friendships with the little girls he’s played with since he was a baby. Growing up I had two brothers and played sports on co-ed teams and I think those things helped me feel pretty comfortable with boys. In high school and college, I had lots of male friends too. But these days I pretty much have none. I am friendly with plenty of my husband’s friends and my friends’ husbands, but I have no male confidantes anymore…I wonder why.

    • You just reminded me how much my daughter used to love to play with the boys in a playgroup we had when she was young. I forgot all about that playgroup and do remember when she lost interest in the boys. Somehow, remembering her comfort and enthusiasm back then makes me feel better! Thank you!

  27. I like to think that I have pretty healthy “friendships” with men. I remember always having great “friendships” with guys. I love the interactions I have with those of the opposite sex. It’s a different perspective and feeds a piece of me that I don’t get from my girlfriends. Thank you for visiting BeQuoted!

  28. I don’t actively pursue male friendships anymore, but I certainly had more male friends than female in college. Sometimes I think males are easier to get along with than females. And sometimes i think they truly are from a different planet. 🙂

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