Stories we Tell Ourselves

Men, women and friendships

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The scenario: Imagine you are the fifth chap to board a matatu. Inside it, randomly located, are three ladies and two gentlemen. The matatu sits 33 people. Where will you seat? If you are a guy, you will probably look for the two or three adjacent seats which are unoccupied and sit on one. If you are a girl, most likely you will sit next to one of the three ladies and pretty soon be chatting about her hairstyle or other girlish stuff.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what differentiates men and women, and by extension, how they form friendships. Whereas a man likes his space, a woman likes to feel included; to feel as though she is part of the conversation. Thus ladies are able to form friendships easily; true friends and false friends; hairstyle friends and ‘chama’ friends. Men, on the other hand, are a different breed.

Friendships among men: A man just doesn’t form random friendships; acquaintances yes, friendships no. Every friendship is deliberate, calibrated and cultivated. Does he have the same interests as me? Social standing? Values? Is he likely to hit on my woman? These and others questions have to be answered before a friendship can be let to flourish.

That said, there are some social norms that guide friendships across the sexes. Follow them and you are guaranteed of lifelong and firm friendships.

1.Know each other’s boundaries: There are areas that are a ‘No-No’ in our lives. Areas that can only be accessed by special permission. Know these areas and do not infringe on them.

2.Respect: Each one of us has multiple personas that guide our actions and behaviours as determined by the particular role we are playing at any given time. These include being a father, a friend, a neighbour, a mentor, an employer and so on. Sometimes though, these lines do cross; and when they do, it calls for wisdom to manoeuvre them. For example, there are certain things you do with your friends and which are not acceptable when your family is present. In this case, family comes first, then the friendship.

3.Be your brother’s keeper: Being a true friend calls for looking out for each other. When a friend is down, you pool resources and rescue him; not scorn at his mistakes. That is the sign of genuine friendships.

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