“Yaffa, you can’t have a play date with that Yale boy.” Aldie, my favorite six year old, informed me that I– a young woman– could not have a casual foodie date with my best guy friend in the city. “It’s simply not natural,” he exclaimed.
“I can play with Isaac [a fellow kindergardener] because he and I are both boys. But you and that boy are not the same gender. And you can’t be platonic and play.” While I paused to contemplate if Aldie actually had used the word “platonic” in casual conversation, Aldie went on to explain that men and women are biologically engineered to procreate… not casually coffee.
And in that moment I was reminded of every high school rabbi I had, every one who informed me that there was no such thing as being “just friends” with a boy/man/not a boy, not yet a man. It went against every hormone in our bodies.
But unlike my high school rabbis who I simply disregarded, Aldie actually made me think perhaps there was some truth to his madness. Before I studied abroad, I can safely say I had no [straight] male friends. And even today I can count on one hand the number of gay and straight male friends I have.
Blame it on the years of women’s only education, but I am beginning to believe that subconsciously Aldie, my rabbis, and I are all aligned. Somewhere deep in my psyche is the belief that men and woman are lean, mean baby making machines. They are meant to propagate, not be playmates.
And yet since returning to New York, I have made every effort to dissuade myself of such adolescent notions–to diversify my social circle, and to watch a basketball game or two with a guy and beer or two. Does it feel natural? Certainly not. I must make a conscious effort to move beyond my sisterhood ways, but if the last eight months of my life are any indication, it is possible to be friends.
I say possible, not probable. Age, estrogen, the inevitable urban loneliness all pose challenges to this possibility, but over time I believe I will achieve a happy equilibrium. Or perhaps just arrive at a point where I can have a proper comeback on hand when Aldie challenges my fraternizing ways.