I realized at age six that girls make better friends than boys. My male peers amused themselves by competing to see who could smack a higher spot on the wall in the hallway outside our first grade classroom, a pursuit that seemed to me not only entirely pointless but also like an unnecessary waste of energy. This sort of judgment serves as a pretty neat summary of my observations about most male behavior for the following decade. (Most boys want a car for their sixteenth birthday; I wanted The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations and The Portable Dorothy Parker. The chasm, in all that time, had not been bridged much at all.) As a result, I grew up with girls as my best friends. To me they seemed much more logical and understandable creatures, despite the initial shock I had about how they changed as we got older. In middle school I formed a sort of trio with two girls, and during the awkward first few months of high school I became best friends with a girl who sat near me in third period. Though I know from my sister’s experiences that friendships between girls are as completely inscrutable to me as the wall smacking competition, my friendships with these girls were beautifully simple. I think the prime factor was a lack of competition, which seemed to me the hallmark of male camaraderie, a notion that I had always been uncomfortable with and somewhat offended by. And despite what cultural notions we’ve inherited, I am convinced that the teenage male is just as insecure as his female counterpart, and that, combined with competitive nature, makes it nearly impossible to form a quality friendship with him. A best friend essentially plays two roles: advice giver (or, alternately, advice receiver) and companion. In my experience, girls have been frank and reliable advice givers, and the activities they pursue are comparatively less dangerous and more interesting. The choice seemed simple.
But I didn’t think of girls exclusively as potential friends. Oh no. But there, where romance approaches, the male-female friendship manifests its most complicated aspect. (We’ve all seen When Harry Met Sally.) There are two primary disadvantages for a guy whose friends are mostly girls who is also looking for a girlfriend. Inevitably it is assumed by some people that you’re gay, which can make things confusing at first for the girl being pursued, but if you’re obvious enough with your intent that shouldn’t remain a problem. And, hey, if you do happen to dress incredibly well, she’ll have gained a shopping partner and a boyfriend! What more could a girl want? If the girl being pursued is one of your friends, there’s the equally unavoidable rejection, intended to be gentle but in fact quite the opposite: “But you’re just too good of a friend…” Or better yet, “You’re like a brother to me…” The situation probably wasn’t optimal before she brought up quasi-incestuous accusations, right? The solutions to each of these problems aren’t really that difficult, given time. The latter may have a more permanent effect, but at least you eventually realize, once your friend has actually chosen a boyfriend, that you’re glad you aren’t her type.
There are, however, undoubtedly romantic benefits to having best friends who are girls. The second sex is no longer a mystery or an only object of desire but a real person, someone worth getting to know and spending time with, and if that friendship develops at the necessary pace of affection, someone you can fall in love with. Being able to befriend girls also increases your likelihood of hitting it off with that girl’s girlfriends, something of truly inestimable importance. But in time and with luck, you’ll know without a doubt that she’s really your best friend. I didn’t know my girlfriend would be my girlfriend when I met her, but I knew right away we could certainly be best friends, and that just may have been my key to success.