I used to be a host for a small-time subscription television channel. The segment I hosted had a short shelf life, but I met some great people along the way. One of those people was named John*.
John and I were attached at the hip. We’d tell each other about our annoying families, go to lunch together almost every day and smoke joints in the stairwell while the rest of the office was out doing office-y things. It’s safe to say we were pretty damn close.
On one cold, sunny Sunday, John asked me to help him pick out a new winter coat. I merrily obliged, seeing as fashion and hanging with friends are my two favorite indulgences. He and I met at a department store, and off we went on our journey to find the perfect-fitting coat. We found a good bargain and walked out of the store feeling warm and satisfied.
As we strolled out the revolving doors, I prepared to part ways with my new BFF, but he grabbed my hand and cornered me into a nook outside the store, on the busy city sidewalk.
"Sheena," he said, "I think you're adorable."
Oh, no. I knew where this was headed.
Would you ever consider, you know, being more than just friends? Because I'd very much like to be more. You don't have to answer me now. Just think about it.
He kissed me on the cheek, let go of my hand and walked away.
I can't say I didn't have a feeling John liked me. I'm not stupid; I saw the signs. I'd been bracing myself for a confession like this. John wasn't my idea of the perfect romantic partner. I wasn't physically attracted to him, and he was too entitled for my taste.
So the next day at work, I mustered up the courage to tell him I wasn't interested. John was a calm guy, so I expected him to react in a calm way. He didn't.
He lashed out at me, accusing me of stringing him along and blurring the lines. I was shocked. I had seen my behavior as mere friendliness and nothing more, but John couldn't handle being just friends.
A month after our nook rendezvous, he quit his job at the TV station. And just like that, we went from fast friends to fast enemies.
If I could count the number of times I've been alienated, reprimanded or called a number of choice words because I enjoy interacting platonically with men, I'd be out of fingers and toes.
I love to talk. Ask me who the hottest soccer player on the FC Barcelona team is or why Hilary Clinton should be president, and I’ll have a million and one opinions. I’m an innately amicable person; I thrive off social interactions with people. Audience outreach and engagement is the very reason I enjoy writing as much as I do. I love making friends wherever I go.
But about the only successful friendships I have with men are with guys who are either coworkers or gay.
My coworkers and I can't f*ck each other, and my gay friends and I definitely can’t f*ck each other, so our friendships just work. There’s no added pressure to explore the relationship any further, because there’s no potential for our friendship to be anything more.
But nearly every OTHER guy I’ve ever tried to befriend has taken it the wrong way. And when I didn't reciprocate romantic feelings, I was told that I was "confused," or a "tease," or the girl who's stupid because she keeps dating assh*les and makes no room in her heart for the "good guy." (And no, that isn't how I'd describe guy. It's what he called himself.)
A once-friendship would then blow up into an I-wish-we'd-never-met situation.
But in my experience, men have always had underlying motives when approaching me, and they act on them, twisting my words and killing the friendship. My relationships with men feel like nothing more than business transactions: They come for a certain service, and once they’ve figured out they won’t be making any personal profit, they move on to the next bank -- er, girl.
To all the men who thought I was leading them on by simply spending time with them and talking about life: Nah. Maybe I just wanted to shoot the sh*t with you and not gab with girls about how much guys suck for once.
Maybe, just maybe, you're overestimating your worth -- and underestimating mine.
*Name has been changed.