Can Men and Women Really Be Friends?

Recently, I had to cut off a friendship with a man I have known for 10 years. I did it very deliberately and specifically told him why we could no longer be friends – as opposed to other methods such as always appearing to be too busy, or never answering calls/messages.

At the beginning of this month my sister passed away, and ten days later, a friend passed as well, both from cancer. Both were young, and their cancer took over their bodies very quickly. I felt as if I had been crying non-stop since I moved to Minnesota. So when this friend, Clueless, texted me about taking care of destroying old, useless MRI films for me, I told him what happened. This is how he responded:

“How old was he? How did he die?”

Now, let me rewind a little bit and tell you that I had told him when my sister was sick that it was imperative that I move back to MN as quickly as possible so I could say goodbye to her. His response was, “Well, WHEN is she going to die?” Up to that point he had been calling me to complain that he didn’t have any friends, and the people he had considered himself close to – me included – were all leaving the state and he wasn’t going to have anyone left. So when he started quizzing me about the friend who passed, I ended each short answer with, “Why?” After the second time I responded with “Why?”, he told me he felt as if I was fishing for condolences.

Fishing for condolences.

He told me that he was justified in demanding that I defend why these deaths affected me.

Let me go back even further to February 20, 2013. That was the day I had my third brain surgery (I’ve had 10 at the present date), and I was lying in my hospital bed, in horrible pain as the anesthesia was wearing off. I got a call from Clueless. He wasn’t calling to see how I was doing; instead, in his most whiny voice, he said, “This is day one without Nasty, it’s your job to keep me from calling her.” Nasty was his ex-girlfriend, whom he wasn’t currently seeing, who ended up giving a cable guy a BJ like she was living out a porn scene, and Clueless found out about it. Nasty was a very mousy woman with glasses and braces who called in sick at least twice a week at her workplace because she didn’t feel like going to work. The only reason Clueless was so attached to her was that she is a swallower. They had nothing in common, fought constantly, and she didn’t understand any of his cultural references because she was at least a decade younger than him. That day in the hospital I tried to follow his rantings, but he got pissed off when I dozed off, and hung up on me telling me that he was going to call back the next day and quiz me about what he said. And he certainly made good that promise.

Let me go back even further. In 2005, I joined an online socializing group. We would sign up to events listed on a calendar, hosted by other members of the group. It was a great way to meet new people and try new things. I hosted a few events myself including a dinner night at an Ethiopian restaurant. Cluless joined the group at around the same time. At the events, we would often gravitate towards each other, always laughing and sharing stories. We ended up dating. Now, the length of the dating varies according to whom you ask; we lasted about six months, but Clueless says it was only one month because the rest of the time he was trying to find someone better to date. He also had a list of 42 qualities he was looking for in a mate. I met all but two because at the time I had already lost all of my hair and so didn’t meet his minimum requirement of shoulder-length hair, and my bachelor’s degree came much later. At the time we were dating he wasn’t working and he was getting his food from the food bank, but was still convinced that he should buy an investment property. Clueless would often tell me that he was different from everyone else – he really, really didn’t want to work, and he wanted all of his income to be passive income. No, really. So when he told me he was going to have his mortgage broker cook the numbers so he could qualify to buy another property, we got into it. (By the way, #3 on his list was to have a girlfriend who would NEVER question and always tell him he was doing the right thing.) During the fight he told me I obviously didn’t know what I was talking about because I had never owned a home. It didn’t matter to him that I had already been in real estate for 12 years at that point; he had just gotten his real estate license six months prior, and that outweighed any experience I had. I told him that the crazy prices in the market weren’t going to last and that he shouldn’t count on a house becoming instant income, and he obviously couldn’t handle taking on another mortgage. (Incidentally, six months later the market crashed and his properties were sold at 1/3 of their high values. He is still kicking himself 9 years later.)

Anyway, it got ugly. We didn’t talk for a year and a half. When he contacted me again, it was to tell me that he didn’t know why we broke up. I reminded him. He said it wouldn’t have worked out anyway because it always weirded him out that I don’t have hair. Lemme just tell you that he’s a few inches shorter than me, is losing his hair, and doesn’t care for his teeth, so his rotting mouth smells like moth balls. He’s completely obsessed with appearances and it kills him that other men are taller than him, and he has spent thousands of dollars on hair products. He doesn’t see the merit in making an effort with his teeth.

Since reconnecting, Clueless and I have kept in touch and even had times where we could comfortably be friends. We’ve shared birthdays, movie nights and game nights. We did not, however, resume dating. I couldn’t view him the same after knowing that he respected me so little.

Besides the phone call I got on that day of surgery and his jerky attitude with my most recent losses, there have been other times that he has not acted in a caring manner. For example, whenever he wanted to socialize, he would insist I drive 60 miles round trip to his house, because he could not handle driving from his workplace to my house, which were only 2 miles apart, and for all but 8 months in the last 5 years I haven’t been able to drive more than 2 miles or be upright for more than 30 minutes, if at all. In other words, if I couldn’t get myself to his suburb, he wouldn’t waste his time with me. Also, during one of our conversations in the last year, he told me that women do not age well, only men, his mother included.

So when I told him that I was no longer interested in being friends, he became very defensive, telling me that he was a much better friend than me because he would always reach out to me (and say incredibly shitty things!). I blocked his email, phone and Facebook accounts.

It doesn’t help his case that after I left Phoenix he invited himself to my friend’s house under the guise that he was sad that I left and he ended up trying to force himself upon her so that she had to push him off of her and kick him out of the house. He was mad. I was tempted to bring that up when i was telling him to fuck off, but why drag her into it? He thinks he has some magic micro penis that is going to put girls under a spell if he just waives it around.

Maybe the problem isn’t whether men and women can be friends, but rather what kinds of patterns of behavior do we fall into because of our history. When I think about what I enjoy out of any friendship, it’s sharing adventures and quality time together, and there’s give and take, plus a fair amount of respect for both parties towards the other. Ultimately I have decided at this point, Clueless can kiss my fat ass.

Goodbye, My Almost Lover

In 2013, I was kind of limping through the year. I had surgeries on February 20th, May 20th and May 26th, and by the time I flew back to Minnesota to attend a high school reunion and help my parents with organizing their house, my shunt had already formed a huge bubble in my back when it cracked after only being implanted for a month. I had just seen my neurosurgeon the day before flying out and he had given me the okay to leave Arizona because besides the large collection of CSF under my skin, I seemed to still be functioning.

What is really different about the school that I graduated from is that the majority of us lived on campus in a dorm, much like college. Only juniors and seniors attended, so the people in my graduating class were together for two years, and the class before us and after us were around for half of our tenure there. The advent of Facebook was really a boon in our attempts to stay connected with our classmates; we came from all over the state of Minnesota to attend the “Fame school” and basically felt largely that we were the rejects of our old schools because we were more intense about our art areas than most – and let’s face it, just different in general. So when one classmate organized yearly picnics for the students who graduated between 1991 and 1995 (just so there would be some overlap), we all knew that if we made the effort, there was a pretty good chance that we’d see some good friends.

I took up the task of being the event photographer. If you ever feel guilty about sitting around on your duff at a gathering, it’s a great excuse to talk to every single person who attends.

This one guy, Hot Dog (and you’d laugh if you knew his real nickname!), was in attendance. He was always in my peripheral group of friends, since he was a year younger and dated one of my classmates. He was wild. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that he had a wild mouth. He always looked a little wild, with flyaway frizzy hair, cherub cheeks and tree trunk arms, but his cutting wit was dangerous. I always thought of him as being an obnoxious younger brother while we were in school. If there was a way to make jokes about dead babies and grandmothers, he’d be the one to do it. And it was never at a quiet volume. Never.

True to form, while I was visiting with Hot Dog at a picnic table with a couple of other friends, he lifted a cheek and let out a fart. He did another one when I whipped out my camera, saying, “I was just blowing Brad a kiss.”

Only two days later, when I was back at my parents’ house, my shunt went into total failure and I lost most of my vision. I had to fly back to Phoenix to be operated on again by my neurosurgeon because the neurosurgeons at the Mayo in Rochester turned me down – they didn’t understand my symptoms, so they didn’t want to work on me. Any plans to socialize were impossible.

But after that reunion, Hot Dog stayed in touch with me. I’m not sure if I sent him a message first, or if he initiated contact, but we commiserated over our mutual disgust for my most recent ex-boyfriend (Angry and Stupid? Dumb and Angry? I will have to look back at what I nicknamed him initially.), because we were all classmates together. He actually married (and subsequently divorced) the classmate that he dated through his time at the arts high school; they were together about 13 years before she found Jesus, and I think they were as close to being soul mates as anyone could hope.

After a few months, our messages became more intense. He was always supportive of what I was going through with my brain stuff and tried to understand as much as anyone could who had never had a chronic condition himself. We had some discussions about my difficulty as a bald woman finding any men who were okay with my hair loss. It was immediately easier for me to open up to him because for him, my lack of hair never diminished my femininity in his eyes. Then I found out that some of my kinks were the same as his – not an easy feat, as anyone in the kink world knows. I’m not saying that I am anywhere as unusual as the guy who thought it was hot to have his jaw stomped on and teeth knocked out, but there are certainly more than 50 shades of dirty out there. We had many steamy sessions of sharing our wants and urges. He also talked about how good it felt to start working out again, getting back into the karate he had picked up as a boy, sweating and kicking and punching and trading fat for muscle. We discussed the possibility of coordinating a road trip for him to come down to Arizona.

And then he got sick.

At first he was joking that his intestines exploded. At least, that’s what it felt like to him. But as it turns out, after his doctor insisted multiple times that he suspected the atypical presentation was actually cancer, and his body flying apart was caused by stage III colorectal cancer. He had to go through multiple rounds of chemo to try to keep the cancer that had spread to other parts of his body under control before one big surgery was performed to cut it out. At the same time that he was going through that, I had already had four more surgeries and was waiting on another one, and was in excruciating pain for 10 months because of a leak that could not be fixed until we figured out what I was allergic to. Rather than talking about what we wanted to do to each other, our talks shifted to his fears about never having full functionality or a decent quality of life ever again.

The surgery was extensive. He had a bowel resection and they removed his rectum completely, sentencing him to a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. The surgery was not as bad as it could have been – the doctors had no idea what to plan for, everything would only become apparent after opening him – but it was certainly bad enough.

We traded more messages, but there were a few times when it sounded like he might try to reconcile with his ex-wife. Around the same time, Ping Pong came in for his final round, so I let Hot Dog know that I would no longer be able to talk dirty as we had been, but I didn’t want to lose touch. Our talks were never the same and we went radio silent fairly quickly.

Around the end of March of 2015, I saw an article about a guy who was modeling with his colostomy bag, and I sent it to Hot Dog letting him know that I was thinking of him and hoping that he was getting stronger. I didn’t receive a response. At the end of April, when I figured out that I would have to move back to Minnesota, I sent him another note letting him know I was landing very close to him. Again, there was no response. At that point I figured that he really didn’t want much to do with me after I went back to the ex and he tried to move on.

But then he died.

It was actually just two days ago. I found out because like every other morning, I started by opening my laptop and catching up on the news. That was the first thing that came up on my Facebook. It was like being punched in the stomach. From what I’ve been able to gather, they succeeded in removing all of the cancer, but the surgery was so invasive that the aftereffects were eroding his life on a grand scale. For a short amount of time he allowed pictures to be posted of some events he attended and it seemed he had taken up residence at his favorite coffee shop to sketch, but he did not update Facebook himself.

I was not the only one who was shocked by the news, but towards the end, he kept only his most loyal people close to him. I understand. I came in late and left early. But I still wish we could have had a conversation, and maybe some laughs, all better face-to-face rather than 1600 miles away, before the option was forever off the table.

On Friday we will all have to say goodbye to Hot Dog. He was so many things to so many people, but to me, he was my biggest regret. I didn’t see the diamond that was camouflaged by all of the shit jokes.

Been There, Had That Done to Me

For the past three hours, I have been reading all of the submissions on the “Straight White Boys Texting” Tumblr site. It’s for real. We couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried – and by “we”, I mean women. We are barraged by unsolicited sexual taunts, messages, photos, groping and slander constantly. Is it lucky or unlucky to be an attractive woman? Of course, this is a hypothetical question, because I don’t put myself solely in either category. No matter what, if you are a female, you’re going to be on the receiving end of stupidity and hatred.

Facebook has been great about allowing me to connect with people I haven’t seen in about 23 years or more. I get little glimpses into their lives, such as who is cranking out the babies, who is getting married (some even for the fourth time!), who is getting divorced, and who has left this earth – and everything mundane in between, including which recipes friends are going to try this week.

One such friend whom I haven’t seen for a few decades had many posts over a short period of time regarding his polygamous arrangement disintegrating. (By the way, he’s a self-proclaimed Christian and even posts church events he attends or pictures of the bands performing for whom he has run the sound. Polygamy isn’t just for heathens!) Both his wife and their girlfriend left him – and I have no clue as to why, because no one is going to admit how and how much they fucked up. Besides becoming “friends” on Facebook, he and I hadn’t traded any messages. Then BAM! Out of the blue, I get a message saying something to the effect of “Hi”. I answered back with a “Hi,” and then the next thing from him says, “I’m horny and lonely lol.”

Let’s break this down: 1) There’s no pretext before the declaration of horniness; 2) We’ve never previously talked about feeling lonely or horny; 3) Does the “lol” at the end of the message instantly make it a “joke” so that if I’m offended, he can just say he was joking and that it doesn’t mean anything? 4) So what??? Does he want a medal? Oh, no, wait – I know what he wants. He wants to bang, to be told he’s the best/biggest and that no one else compares, and he wants it NOW. Talking to me like a human being isn’t going to get him what he wants, obviously.

This is one of the biggest problems we face today as a society seeking social partners. Instant gratification is killing our skills. Now, males don’t want to “waste” time on such simple things like conversation – let’s get straight to the sex!! On top of that, anonymity makes it easy to throw out insults and degradation like handfuls of slimy shit. So if you’re a guy, or a man, or a boy, saying hello and then instantly wanting to know if someone is into anal sex is just like monkeys slinging around turds. Sure, if you do it 100 times, you might find someone one of those 100 times who replies back and says, “GOD YES, I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU TO ASK! NO ONE HAS EVER ASKED ME THAT BEFORE! I AM DTF RIGHT NOW!” But my guess is that she is also going to sneak into your place and cook your daughter’s pet bunny. You have no filter + she has no filter = scary crazy and shit is going to escalate quickly.

And when women turn down these handfuls of flying turds, it’s disturbing that we are instantly and consistently called bitches/sluts/whores/ugly. Is that some sort of reverse psychology, where guys think that being nasty is going to suddenly open our legs? They don’t even make the connection that if they treated us like human beings, the Holy Grail might, in fact, be attainable – they just have to not act like assholes. As soon as they do, though, that shit slams shut and the rivers of love and affection dry up instantly. It should be no great mystery. In fact, what I am saying here has been repeated thousands of times over.

Occasionally the moderator of the “Straight White Boys Texting” posts question and answer exchanges that she has received. There have been many times where she has been told that she just needs to get laid. Therein lies a specific problem, too: The perception that the penis obviously solves all ills. Running a temperature and colors are coming out of your nose? Just get laid. Your best friend died? Just get laid. Lost everything in a fire? Eat a dick, it will make you feel better.

I wish I could say to some of these guys, “Hey, I’m someone’s daughter/sister/aunt too – would you want the females in your life to be treated this way?” Sadly, I don’t feel like this is an effective way to reach them. Often their impatience and hatred of females is universal. If they had a daughter who was being treated this way, it’s more likely that he would say she deserved it or that he should teach her how to defend herself, but never would it enter into his mind that he ought to not attack women or that he should lead other males by example.