Guys and Dolls: Intergendered Friendships Post Marriage

As I pen what is sure to be my greatest work yet I sit in a coffee shop awaiting the arrival of a long-time acquaintance. This individual is someone I knew briefly in a past life at my first agency just after college. We’d lost touch some time after he moved on from his internship to get swallowed up in the world of limited graphic design careers in southern Minnesota. He has since moved on to a fairly successful UX path that led him to the Minneapolis pool I drown in.

Over the past couple years we’ve touched base as he recommended me for a position at one of the trendier places he’s worked (for a finder’s fee of course). He’s also spent some time working with a current colleague of mine. Most recently, I reached out to him in an attempt to tap into his network of freelance resources in an effort to bring some relief to my tight work schedule.

All this to say that we don’t know each other terribly well, but we run in similar professional circles. I bring all this up because upon agreeing to meet him for coffee after hours I realized that I had not met a dude after hours since I vowed to love The One™ forever. Well, I’ve  hung out with dudes after hours. But you know, the dudes I’ve known since before I donned a cap and gown the first time. Dudes The One™ has met and can call buddy ol’ pals of his own.

Normally, none of this would warrant a blog post analyzing the situation, but these are special circumstances because my dad--lovely as he is--put some strange ideas in my head over the course of my formative years.

I’ve always been the girl with a lot of male friends. Not in that slutty way that girls on reality shows are always like “I’m just really more of a guys girllll. There’s just too much drahhhhhma with girls.” I had female friendships over the years. Increasingly so since I graduated from college. But, in high school I predominately hung out with people who played nut ball and super penis. Games only the burly sex could possibly have invented.

It was these friendships that prompted a conversation with my father that began, “What does Andrew (boyfriend at the time) think about you hanging out with Mike (best of the male friends) all the time?” I promptly explained that I hadn’t thought about it because feminism and equality or something and how dare a man tell me who I could and could not hang out with, etc., etc.

My father isn’t the only one to raise questions about whether or not men and women can/should be friends when one or both of them is in a relationship. Especially if they’re married. There are plenty of Christians who’ve hotly debated this topic. The most conservative of which have fallen on the side of “No it is improper!” Billy Graham had a whole rule named around the idea that women and men should not so much as ride in cars or enjoy a meal together if they are not married.

But, the thing is. We (thankfully) live in a world where men and women have to interact every day. Both as friends, but also professionally. It’s highly impractical to expect married individuals to require a chaperone every time they interact with someone of the opposite sex. Throw in the idea of gay married couples and the mind is blown. Who are they supposed hang out with? Only straight members of the opposite sex? Only straight members of the same sex? Only gay members of the opposite sex? Oh the rules! The rules! Propriety!

Anyway. I digress. Back to the story at hand. All of these conversations about what is and isn’t allowable within a marriage in terms of interacting with someone of the opposite sex put weird guilt thoughts in my head. To the point where I essentially confessed to The One™ that I had set up a--professional mind you--coffee with a guy he had never met before and did that bother him. He immediately said “no, of course not.”

But then….the idea that I felt the need to clear it with him made it weird, which is totally fair. I made it even weirder when I gave him the context of my dad’s thoughts on the matter. And, so he was left thinking, “Why did she make it weird? Is she doing something wrong?” And, I’m left thinking, “Why did I make it weird? Am I doing something wrong?”

I think the answers to these questions is likely, “because you’re a neurotic, recovering Catholic” and “no, the very idea that you’re questioning whether or not you’re doing something wrong within this context after you brought it up to your husband suggests, no you are not doing anything wrong.” Some people will probably disagree with me. Many Christians will probably disagree with me. Controlling boyfriends everywhere will probably disagree with me.

But the thing is, I’m in the most open and honest relationship I’ve ever known and if we can’t trust each other to meet up with members of the opposite sex for coffee, how can we trust each other to go anywhere without the other? There are men literally everywhere in the world. It’s actually kind of a problem. There is no avoiding them. And, if you are the person who grabs a buddy every time you have to go into a meeting with someone of the opposite gender, you’re going to stop getting invited to meetings.

Naturally, you should probably draw the line at sharing hotel rooms or all-nighter happy hours, but if you use a little common sense and a shit ton of honesty, you’re probably fine.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for your divorce if it turns out that you aren’t fine.

PHOTO: REUTERS/Corus Entertainment/Handout