Sunday, January 31, 2010

On Good Friendships and Inaccurate Assumptions

I am generally pretty astute when it comes to social situations (like most women, I consider a million details all the time), but I have my moments.  There was a dance in college to which asked a guy friend (we'll call him J) on a date by accident.  That is to say: I didn't realize until during the asking that this was obviously a date.  He was very good about it, and picked up all the chivalrous things guys do just as if it'd been his idea.  Needless to say, I was mortified!

Relatively new to the idea of gender-appropriate behavior, I quickly grabbed a mutual guy friend and told him the whole story, asking whether I'd made a huge misstep.  He told me I was fine, that sometimes it does a guy good to have a woman make a move every now and again.

He had taken for granted that I had a crush on J.  I had no such feelings; J was merely a great guy who liked to dance and was always great company (and in my collegiate cheapness, saving that extra dollar on the dance ticket seemed to be worth so much!).  All the girl friends to whom I told the story in the days until the dance also took for granted that I had a crush on him.

There is some reality to your friends knowing your feelings for someone before you're willing to admit them.  However, I will insist to my dying day that the crush I developed on J at and after that dance was precipitated by my friends' unanimous belief that I already had a crush on him.

This is not an isolated incident (the friends perceiving crushes where they were none, that is.  I haven't accidentally asked out /too/ many guys since then).  When I first started telling stories to friends from college about my musician friend back home, they all thought I was in love with him, though I was not.  His music uplifts my heart, and his friendship is a delight, but there were no romantic feelings there.  However, I learned to rarely speak freely about the joy his music and his friendship brought to me, because I just didn't want to have to explain that he was not the new romantic interest (and, of course, denying a theory like that only gives credence to its likely truth)...

I have to be careful when telling stories to friends outside of here, even.  Mention the same guy's name in a funny story more than twice, and the other person is already suspicious that I like him.  Conversely, if I mention a visitor before his arrival to friends here, the sentiment (dare I say the hope?) is that perhaps this one might do as more than a friend...

I have long been aware of the phenomenon wherein a girl discovers that a guy whom she only likes as a friend likes her as more, and then she develops a crush on him.  The phenomenon wherein a girl's friends think she likes a guy because he's fodder for funny stories, and she consequently develops a crush on him?  Much less documented.  No less real.

I take great delight in God's creation of human persons.  He really did an excellent job all around, and one of the most fulfilling -- and, thankfully, most consistent -- ways I experience his love is through discovering the personalities and idiosyncrasies of other people.  And I like to tell stories.  Heck, the bedrock of my friendship with Anne is that we both show love for people by telling them stories about other people we love!

What am I getting at here?  I don't know.  Perhaps all I've done is reveal one of my own weaknesses.  Still, it brings me much joy when people accept friendship at face value without suspecting other motives.  C. S. Lewis calls friendship the "least natural of loves," because it is not essential for the survival of the species (as is affection, to keep us from killing each other, and eros, for reproduction), and perhaps it is this very unnaturalness that causes us to infer eros where he is not present.

Crushes are not fun, (well, they may have an element of fun, but they're usually more trouble than they're worth).  As with many of my musings, these thought processes are not new.  But there's nothing new under the sun, eh?


  1. Well, it's interesting to hear the crush & storytelling dilemmas from the other side. I think it happens to all of us in varying degrees.


  2. I'm a lot less affectionate to my female friends than I used to be, mainly because of these types of misunderstandings. I'm terribly socially blind, and poor at gauging what I'm broadcasting to whom, so I generally err on the side of caution -- especially now that I'm married. When I was single and unattached, I was a bit freer about what others might think about my interests/relationships with a member of the opposite sex, because even if someone incorrectly thought I might be pining for a young lady, as long as *she* knew that wasn't the case, no harm done.

  3. Great post! Well written.

    C.S. Lewis was, of course, wrong.

    Eros is equally unnecessary, although eros is not willful in the same sense that friendship is willed.

    But eros is not "lust" or even legitimate physical desire. Eros is completely unnecessary for children. If were, merely for convenience of course, to adopt a tripartite division of the soul, the sexual urge would reside in the vegetative part, eros is the vital, and friendship in the rational. Strictly speaking, one only needs the vegetative to survive. And, if one were to look merely at the modern sexual man, one could conclude that the gratification of the sexual urge completely suppress erotic desire.

    Maybe C.S. Lewis was not so wrong, however.

    The erotic might not be necessary to produce children, but how men, with eros lacking, would commit themselves to stay with the same woman who conceives his children?

    Sad commentary on men, perhaps.

  4. So I was recently talking to Rach about the way we love intensely, even when we know that the relationship in which we are loving intensely is bound to change substantially by distance. She wondered if perhaps it could be unnatural to love with as much fervor as we do. I simply countered that we live our lives for Our Lord; it would be unnatural to love any less than we do.

    We love intensely, fully, and completely, my dear. It's a grace granted to us that other people simply don't understand. You are not revealing your own weaknesses in the value you place upon your friendships, but rather your strengths.


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