Finding the Art in Everything

08 January, 2008

Men are Friends , NOT FOOD

I got a phone call last night from my dear friend Mike James. (He wanted someplace to rant about the New Hampshire results, and if there is someone with whom anyone can do that, it's me). Mike is a friend who reminds me of something important: I have been very blessed with terrific men in my life.

Don't get the wrong idea. Mike is married with two gorgeous kids and a wife who is funny and kind. Mike and I met because we were both hired as first-year teachers at my last school, which is a bit like saying we were together for a tour of duty in 'Nam. He taught near me so it was his room I ran to after a hard day for solutions. He gave me a bunch of U2, (he is 8 or 10 years older than me) and I gave him Coldplay's Speed of Sound and David Crowder. Unless he was coaching, he was almost always good for a Friday beer. Mike only lasted at my school for one tour--I mean year--and when he left, it was hard to tell if our friendship was a work-related circumstantial thing, or something meaningful. (Confession: I hardly think anyone is my real friend. I always second guess things and write them of as circumstantial, only to be occasionally surprised) Those Friday beers meant so much to me because he was such a profound encouragement. Mike has called me or emailed every month or so for 2 years since he moved to North Carolina. Apparently the appreciation went both ways. I watch for cheap tickets to NC so I can visit his family. I have sort of adopted him as a mentoring big brother, and he is not my only one.

As an oldest child, I have ALWAYS, as long as I can remember, wanted a big brother. Someone to be bigger and smarter (OK, maybe not smarter) to deflect the heavy blows and look out for me. Because of this, I have adopted a dozen in my life. I had Paul, Mat, and Brian in high school. I just saw Brian over Christmas break when he was passing through Orlando. He was on the drum line with me and an upstanding Eagle Scout . He was sort of assigned to me because I needed help discerning the stupid in my plans, an I was assigned to him because I had a car. Paul and Mat were there to harass and embarrass me when I had my first date with another guy from the drum line.

In college, I had Kip, Mike, Dave, and Matt. Kip took me camping (the only time I have ever gone) and taught me how to shoot things with a 20-gauge. Mike, Dave, and Matt were sent with my sisters as the envoy to drag me back from Britain when I swore I wasn't coming. These four guys were voted "most eligible men" in my college circle, and other girls swooned and vied for their attention. I could call them whenever I wanted because they were my brothers. Dave is still like my brother 8 years later. I saw girlfriends come and go, but I still had more of their company over the long term than any of them. Those men were (and some are still) very precious to me--and I never dated any of them. I was never even interested.

Somehow, I always knew how to enjoy and appreciate men without needing to attach them to myself. Maybe it comes from getting along really well with my dad. It takes me about 5 mins (literally) to know which ISN'T the man I'll end up with. Sorting that out right away lets me just enjoy them for who they are. I have always been able to do this. And I've always had more guy friends than girl friends. ( having 4 sisters helps--really, do I need many more women in my life?) It turns out this isn't very common. Sometimes, there is an awkward few days where the guy has the wrong idea because I am genuine and friendly, but it is so great when he gets that I'm genuinely agenda-free.

I wish all of the high school / college girls I mentor could get it. It is like in Finding Nemo, where the sharks are going through the "program" chanting, "Fish are friends, not Food!" I wish they could get how much better it is to treat men as brothers instead of boyfriends. I try to make them see: Men are Friends, not Food!

More than my girls, I think we all suffer from the absence of the "Men are friends, not Food" mentality. Because it is so rare to be agenda free, we suffer under the constant accusation that there are ulterior motives. I have truly appreciated some men only to have a friendship precluded by social protocol.

I noticed one of my favorite co-workers at my last job because he was sitting in his first faculty meeting unabashedly reading Vonnegut and drinking a Venti latte. We had a common planning time, and I thought he was hilarious. He had worked with Justice Bryer and as a lawyer for Microsoft during the anti-trust lawsuits. What a fascinating guy to meet for coffee! Though these meetings were few. While it was more likely busy life than anything that prevented regular coffees, he is 40 and married, and I am twentysomething and single. I doubt this was remotely considered, but it looks weird when it shouldn't.

I've often been self-conscious about my relatively short dating history. No, I haven't had a lot of boyfriends who have given me emotional baggage (or other things--eek!). But I can count dozens of men who have taught me and enriched my life and treated me well. I am glad I never had an older brother, because I have been greatly rewarded in my search for one.

1 comment:

Bird said...

j- Gosh you.... You are an amazing woman with great insight! I wish you and I lived closer to each other so that I could have you back! Maybe one day...