“he was only friends with me…”

A few weeks ago a girlfriend said to me, “i think he was only friends with me because he wanted to date with me”. The thought has sat on my mind for a while, and it made me uncomfortable as I realized that there just seemed to be so much truth in this statement.

Even worse, it seems like I could extend the sentiment to say that the proverbial “he” is only friends with you because he wants to sleep with you. Being new to San Francisco, I experienced this surge in attention from guys upon arrival. And while I would be careful not to imply a direct cause-and-effect relationship, as I established my intentions, the new (guy) friends attention went away.

As a result, I’ve gone about meeting people on my own terms. Introducing myself to the guy in line in front of me at UPS. Meeting up with the guy who bought my stereo (on Craigslist) and his friends for happy hour. Chatting with fellow coffee shop regulars with cool accents, and accepting their happy hour invite. Maybe this way I’ll find people interested in mind, and not just my body or the sex that it implies.

Meanwhile, speaking of that guy from Craigslist, here’s his perspective:

I think that quote (“i think he was only friends with me because he wanted to date [or sleep] with me”) is generally true about us fellas. My girlfriend, if we ever have kids, definitely wants a little girl. Me? I’d be terrified if we had a girl. I know too much about what goes on in our ugly male skulls to be comfortable ever letting my daughter run around, alone and minimally protected, in a world full of men.

A friend of mine has developed a “ladder” theory of male/female friendships. I hope I don’t butcher it… I think it goes something like this:

Women have two ladders for the men they meet. One ladder is the “potential friend” ladder. The other is the “attracted to” (or potential date/relationship/lover/sex whatever term you want to use) ladder. When women meet a new man, the man is, as quickly as possible, put on one ladder or the other. This can be (and usually is) an instant categorization. Once set, this categorization is immutable. Wanna be kings had an easier time trying to pull Excalibur outta the stone.

Men, on the other hand, have only one ladder. If they meet a woman and become friends with that woman, then sex is on the brain. It’s not exactly intentional — we’re just dumb animals.

Now, let me be clear (and this is my own personal addendum to my friend’s theory). Once men and women are in a long term relationship, things change. Women have evolved over time to fight for monogamous relationships. Over the history of our species it’s been beneficial for women to find a male with whom to reproduce, and then to lock him down as her property.

Men, on the other hand, have no interest in monogamy. Men are driven to Know, Biblically-speaking, as many women as possible. It is against our nature to be single-minded and monogamous.

It’s the difference between having, on the one hand, a complicated reproductive system whereby eggs expire over time and have only a couple of days per month (if that) during which they can be fertilized and, on the other hand, having billions of sperm that are ready to go on a few minutes notice (if that) and that can be produced over the vast majority of the male’s life.

My addendum isn’t absolute, and doesn’t apply to all men and women. The male impulse can be successfully fought by the trained, disciplined mind. I, for example, have been with my girlfriend for almost 11 years, and I’ve never been tempted to stray, even though I know with certainty that, were I not in a relationship, I’d be a dog — a slave to my impulses and a revolutionary against the shackles of the long-term relationship. Quite a contrast, I know, but the truth be how it be.

Just because this is our nature does not mean that our environment, that circumstances, that nurture doesn’t play a huge role. I know some men who would never be tempted to cheat, and I know many women in long term relationships who are constantly tempted to fool around. But still, this is more a result of the world in which they live than of the genes within.


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