In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.
From Karen Pence is the vice president’s ‘prayer warrior,’ gut check and shield by Ashley ParkerThis sentence from Ashley Parker’s article about Karen Pence has stayed in my mind for the past couple weeks. While people made jokes about this view on cross-gender social interactions, I was once more reminded about how I am a minority.
In additional being Asian-American, shorter than average height, a guy who’s not into sports, a teacher, a male teacher, agnostic, a man who enjoys cooking, and a guy who is a proud feminist, most of my close friends throughout my life have been women.
When Harry Met Sally brought up the question about whether men and women could be friends, but since then, this questioned has left our cultural consciousness.
In the almost thirty years we have made great progress as a culture normalizing and accepting minorities (e.g. Gay culture, people who are transgender, comic book geeks, stay-at-home dads). However this quote, is a reminder that we still have a lot to learn about and accept about platonic friendship between men and women.
I’ve been reading different articles, blogs and websites about this idea that men and women can’t be or shouldn’t be socializing alone as friends. It mostly refers to married people. The common undercurrent is that people cannot control themselves around people of the opposite sex and that people are unable to look past sexuality when interacting alone with someone of the opposite sex.
These assertions express to men that they don’t have to work to look beyond sexuality when interacting with women. It reinforces the misperception that when women are friendly, they must be flirting and it further stratifies our society. As Dan Savage pointed out in this recent podcast, separated men and women cuts women out of important business meetings and reinforces the boys club mentality, where business gets done in a male-only country club setting over a golf course.
The other issue that is raised is perceptions. People don’t want others to perceive that they are cheating on their spouse. I don’t care about that When you have to regularly to deal with your racial identity like when a waiter assumes the Caucasian guy sitting next to you is your wife’s husband, you stop caring what someone else might think if you go out to lunch with a woman who is not your wife.
Not all guys are going to have as many women friends as I do. That’s fine. If this is based on lack of mutual interests or other social factors, no big deal. However to decide that you are never going to socialize alone with women is like saying that you never hang out with Asian people alone because you are worried that they will have too thick of an accent and you can’t understand them.
I am not going to claim on being an expert on how to meet women, but I’m proud of my ability to maintain a healthy relationship with my wife, which has lasted fifteen years. I credit a lot of this success to the friends I’ve had in my life who were women. You are a lot more likely to have a successful relationship with your wife, if you have had successful friendships with other women.
I don’t expect people to immediately move past gender roles and social norms. However, I hope that sentence made some people think about the friends they have and the friends they don’t because they were told that boys and girls can’t be friends.
I feel so grateful to all of the women who broke past gender norms to be my friend. In high school, I got bullied for these friendships and I’m sure my friends got some weird comments too. In college these were women who didn’t hesitate to pull me into the conversation when I was the only guy at the table and always welcomed me into their dorm rooms when I knocked. In adulthood, these are women who along with their kids don’t hesitate to meet up for a playdate with Ollie and me when Diana is busy.
A big part of this is my wife, Diana who has embraced this part of who I am and has never gotten in the way of these relationships. This is further proof that more than anything else Diana is my best friend.
Yes, it sucks to be reminded that you are a minority, but in the past couple weeks, I have been reminded of all of the great friendships I’ve had with women in my life. I’m going to hold on to all the warm feelings that these memories bring me and text one of my friends, a women and see if she wants to hang out.