My girls love playing with the boys on the block. They love their girlfriends, too, but this summer they are developing relationships with the boys.
Together they play basketball in the driveway, they practice karate (they don’t know what karate is, but they practice it), they pick up bugs, dig in the dirt, and make up games about woodchips.
I appreciate what I am seeing because I grew up with some great guys, too; guys that I met very early in my life, guys that remained friends through high school and beyond.
I can’t say enough about the girlfriends I have had over the years, but my opposite sex friendships have been pretty special, too. They offered me a world of new experiences, a different perspective on how to see myself, how to be more of myself.
I never considered myself “boy crazy”; I just enjoyed the company of boys. My guy friends were funny and uninhibited and they taught me about music, sports, and swear words. And they carried themselves differently, not better or worse than my girlfriends, just differently.
I don’t have any brothers so these guys were my teachers. They let me wear their wrestling shoes and their football jerseys. They encouraged me to ride my bike without holding onto my handlebars and they confided in me about things they didn’t want to tell their friends.
grade Jacob and Scott taught me how to spit through my teeth at Sweet Park (gross, I know, but so cool back then…I can still do it by the way).
My friend Jerry always knew how to make me laugh when I was struggling, and he liked to make fun of my big 80’s hair (he still does). And my friend Brian taught me how to handle, and even throw back, sarcastic comments. He was, and still is, a pro.
Sometimes Jim and Randy would walk me home from school and teach me the words to Van Halen’s Ice Cream Man, and Led Zeppelin’s Thank You reminds me of Joe (as does Aldo Nova’s Fantasy, a song that will follow him around forever). When I hear Billy Idol I think of Richie and Elvis will always remind me of Justin.
The guys had their own lingo, great words that were easy to pick up. Everything from pulling ahead (meaning you made a fool of yourself ) to sick one (similar description) to Skirdoo! (very loosely translated as, all right!…I already know that I will be made fun of for this translation). And the term of endearment Pretty, which my best friend Monisha and I still call each other.
Along the way some of us dated and had more serious relationships, but at the root of it all there was friendship, which made it easier to get back to where we started.
The relationships were not always easy, they could be messy and they required some work, but I am so thankful for the experiences because they were a part of my base, part of the reason my life unfolded as it did.
I left for college with an ability to relate to men and women confidently, to view guys as friends and not just romantic prospects. My first response to a guy was never changing or flirting, it was more honest than that, much more of a peer relationship.
I was even drawn to my husband because of his love of sports, his humor, his appreciation of great music, and because he embodied what it meant to be a good friend. He reminded me of you guys, and I felt right at home.
So this summer I enjoy watching my girls play “sticks” and kick every ball imaginable as their fancy dresses, princess toys and dolls go untouched. It’s fun to watch their awareness and self concept shift as they investigate different parts of their personalities.
And it’s a pleasure to see their definition of “friend” expand, because I know from experience that this will impact, and greatly enhance, their lives.