So my friend Jackie Naserian (ok, that Jackie is spelt in some fancy way with a ‘c’ and a ‘q’ somewhere, but what does a villager like me know) last week brought to my attention a beautiful piece titled The Bad Good Guy. The article was on platonic boy/girl relationships. She asked me to give my view on the subject and I promised to share my little experience on this week’s post. So let’s get this done with.
A long time ago, before the hair at the top of my head took a permanent sabbatical, I had a friend. A lady friend that is. This is how it happened. The chairman of my local church youth group was invited to speak in a certain girl’s high school, but he could not honor the invite because he was engaged elsewhere. So he asked me to step in for him. You see, that time I had a raw fire for Christ. I still have the fire, but attending an urban church has made me mellow. You know, these churches where you handle yourself with some dignity. Even worship is polished. I was brought up as a Presbyterian, but I joined the church youth group when Dr. David Githii was the Moderator and he was bringing a Pentecostal revolution to the church. He didn’t succeed much, but at least he brought us praise and worship sessions where we could expend our youthful energy. It was at this time that I got the invite to go to the school.
I did attend the Sunday service at the school. We had a fine time. I particularly loved their worship. I may have mentioned here that music is my favorite part of any service. Then I preached and the service was done. The CU officials took me to a laboratory (yea a laboratory) where they served me tea and triangular slices of bread, whose layers of margarine may have taken my cholesterol levels a degree higher. They kept me company as we partook the snack, and as I answered their various questions on issues Christianity. You see, when you have the raw fire you also become a spiritual technocrat.
It is in that meeting that I met her. Let’s call her Jane. Most of you wouldn’t know her even if I gave you her correct name, but some of you would. So Jane she is for the purposes of this story. Jane sat quietly, watching the conversation around her. Not the shy quietness. Nope. Not even the pious quietness that we sanguine Pentecostals employ when we want to be taken seriously. Or when we are moody and want to gain cheap spiritual capital from an otherwise very natural state of the body. Nah. Jane’s quietness could only be described as thoughtful. Am sure you have seen those quiet people who look like they are taking their time to figure you out. If you are a parrot like me, they sometimes make you feel stupid. As in, you have been talking for a quarter of an hour and they haven’t said a thing. When you catch their eye, the contact makes you reflect on what you have been saying and you realize it’s a lot of nonsense. But when you say something and they smile, that smile means more to you than the laughter of all your comrades-in-foolishness combined.
That was Jane. A petite, light skinned fourth former. After the end of the tea session, it happened that she was the one to escort me to the gate. As we walked, she started talking. In a quiet manner. I am tempted to add thoughtfully. She told me her mum was unwell and asked me to pray for her, and I obliged. Then she asked for my phone number which she wrote neatly in her small blue notebook. When schools closed at the end of the second term, she called. And called again. And slowly, a friendship grew. Now, I always saw Jane as my little sister. A small, vulnerable looking girl that draws out the protective instincts in you. Besides, that was around the time I was dating my teenage crush. Jane was aware of this fact and kept a respectable distance.
But months later, I did break up with the teenage sensation. Gradually, my friendship with Jane gathered momentum. But I never stopped seeing her as my little sister. So much so that months later I fell in love with another girl.
That is where it all went wrong. Jane stopped picking my calls or responding to my texts. One day I met her at the market and she snubbed me. That hurt. I did not understand how a person who was such a dear friend could suddenly turn so cold. Until a friend broke it down to me. The girl was in love with me. I gave her all the encouragement. Then betrayed her. That is scenario one.
Scenario two is other friend zones in which I have found myself on the receiving end. More like roles turned from my scenario with Jane. You have this friend, and it starts purely as a platonic friendship, but along the way you develop feelings, even as the girl insists you are just a friend. That’s a tough spot to be in. On the one hand, you know even if the girl has developed feelings herself, she will not admit it before you ask. So you can see the possibility of a beautiful romantic story if you make the move. A story born in Spain and brewed in Mexico. But you also know it might be true that she sees you as just a friend, and making a romantic statement may ruin the friendship. The signs are there, but you don’t know how to interpret them. Are they just gestures of friendship or is she saying something? You rub your eyes and shake your head to get clarity. But nothing. And so you are caught in a cesspool of indecision.
My policy has always been to bring up the conversation. Ok, fine, sometimes I dilly dally as I try to get the timing right, or more honestly, as fear slows me down. Fear of losing the dream of romance, and fear of losing a solid friendship. But bringing up the conversation has always worked. Not always the way you think though. Ok fine, with my first girlfriend it worked the way you think: she became my girlfriend. A couple of others didn’t turn into a soap opera, but the friendship survived. I think the girls were very mature about it. This is how I see it. I don’t think it is a crime to fall in love with a friend in the course of the friendship. Aren’t we told to marry our best friends? Who are these if not the platonic friends we grow to love? So girls, if I am your friend and I tell you I like you romantically, spare me the drama. Don’t look at me as if I have just announced that I feed through photosynthesis. It is a very natural thing to happen.
But I also think we should accept that we don’t have absolute control over who our hearts decide love. So it is possible that she will say she doesn’t feel the same way. And I think that if a girl doesn’t feel the same way she should say so. Don’t say yes just to avoid hurting me. Because we will get into a loveless relationship that will ultimately hurt the both of us. And most likely end up in a bitter break up. And to the guy, if she says she doesn’t share your romantic feelings, accept that outcome with grace. Don’t start sulking like a disgruntled teenager. Or throwing tantrums like a two year old. I think I should point out at this point that I have little time for girls who play hard to get. I find it childish. So if a girl says no, I take her at her word. Anyway, the other truth is, if she says she doesn’t feel the same way, you may need to go slow on the friendship. Because you need space to get over her. That does not mean you terminate the friendship. I only said slow down.
I am aware that it may be the girl who has the feelings and the guy doesn’t. I think she should speak up. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with a girl saying what she feels. Ok, so the man is supposed to take initiative. But it is also true that some won’t. They will choose to remain in the cesspool of indecision forever. So what’s a girl supposed to do? The way I see it, she has only two options. Either speak, or walk away. Withdraw from the friendship gradually.
That said, I think any platonic relationship between a man and a woman that becomes increasingly exclusive needs a candid conversation. Even where nobody has developed feelings. The reason is this: when you stick to each other and you are just friends, those of us who may be interested will stay away. Ok, some members of the mafisi sacco may sniff from the sidelines. But some of us respect the territorial integrity of comrades. So we will keep away. My point is, people should learn to talk like grown ups. Talk about the direction of your friendship. It’s not rocket science.
So Jackie, that’s what I think. I don’t claim to speak on behalf of the menfolk. That’s just my style of doing things.