Same Sex Friends
Oprah Winfrey has recently denied rumors that she and best friend Gayle King are gay. Since they talk everyday, do many things together and obviously have a very deep connection some have assumed that the relationship must be sexual and that they are denying a gay connection.
What does that say when we assume that two same-sexed people cannot share such a bond without a sexual component to the relationship? Is it that we struggle to put everyone in a box and because two single women are friends they must be gay?
I think part of the difference lies between how men and women experience friendship, which is very different.
For men it is about activity and is often very superficial. Rarely do they have relationships where it is appropriate or comfortable to share emotions and struggles. Instead in their same sex friendships they remain competitive and at a distance from each other, preferring to speak “side by side” instead of “face to face.”
It has been noted that while playing a sport or engaging in activity together men share facts. For example, during a game of pool they will talk about sports and then in a burst one will say, “and my wife and I decided to divorce.” His friend will make a short comment back saying, “that’s too bad,” but the conversation will move on. Then a little while later, the friend might ask a question requiring another factual response, “when did you decide to do this?” Think of the scene in When Harry Met Sally, when Harry and Jess are at the baseball game.
I know many men that don’t have close friends outside of their wives. They might have a guy or two they can call on for a game, but no other men that they regularly invest in or vice versa. What does this say about a father’s connection to his son? What are we teaching our boys about emotional availability? I think this is especially true as men get older. In college activity buddies are plenty as life gets busier since there is nothing holding the relationship together but an occassional game or outing when other things take their place the frienship dissapates.
Women on the other hand emote with one another. They share graphic details and in turn enmesh their lives with one another. This is why frequent updates are required because we sustain the emotional connection with one another with information. It may or may not be about the fact, but is about how we feel, what we need, expect, want in comparison to what we receive or are offered.
So when two women like Oprah and Gayle are open about their relationship it might be difficult for men, or those who communicate differently to understand. It isn’t about sex, it’s about the connection. The attraction, stimulation and sustenance of the relationship has nothing to do with physicality but instead with emotions.
When Joanna and I lived together we had several people wonder if we were gay. We might have been co-dependent but not gay. I think a lesbian relationship might be easier than a relationship with a man at times, but no we weren’t. Never even crossed our minds. Instead we chose to live our lives in such a way, for a time, that we stay connected in many aspects of our lives.
Given that we experience friendships so differently it is crucial that we maintain strong same sex friends. Imagine how empty a woman’s life would be if she had to depend on her boyfriend or husband entirely for emotional fulfillment. She would be a starving woman. That is why its so detrimental to her soul when she abandons her friends for a man. He isn’t capable of, nor is he supposed to fulfill her every need.
I bet men with no activity buddies get lonely. Does he then expect his wife or significant other then to want to play sports, work on cars and participate in the other activities that he would normally do with another guy?
It is about community. This is why we need to surround ourselves with different types of people who offer us different things. The only entity that is able to be our everything is God. He knows us intimately. He sees who we are in public and private. The psalmist says that he “hems us in.” This means that he is all around us. This idea that God is so close can be scary, when we think in abstract of the almighty God seeing us but its also comforting. It is the Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth knows me, my needs, wants and desires. He sees into my heart for who I am. Wow. That is overwhelming.
But the good thing is he made us to need each other. I think this is why its so essential that church teach people how to be in relationship. The essence of the church is Koinonia. With increasingly numbers of divorces, addictions and other things that tear up our lives we need a place of refuge where we can receive unconditional acceptance as we learn to become more like Christ.
I kind of got carried away, but you know what I mean.