My dad recently told me that men and women cannot be friends. He said it’s unhealthy and generally wrong to hang out with someone of the opposite sex unless you’re in a romantic relationship with them. I have quite a few male friends that I don’t want to lose OR go out with, so can you reassure me that my dad is wrong? —Inez, UK
Short answer: Your dad is wrong.
(Very) long answer: My late mother-in-law was a marriage and family therapist who specialized in adultery. She wrote this book called Not “Just Friends” in which she argued that it’s OK for married people to be friends with people of the gender(s) they’re attracted to so long as they don’t tell those friends things they don’t tell their spouses, which seems wise and reasonable. But, probably because she had given this idea so much thought, and perhaps because she was understandably protective of her only son, she sometimes seemed too cautious. During one of her visits to Chicago, where my husband and I used to live, I skipped out on dinner with her one night to go hang out with a male friend of mine, also visiting from out of town. Our plan was to hang out in his hotel room, get room service, listen to something he was working on, and watch TV. My mother-in-law was fully scandalized by this plan—she said it was totally inappropriate for me to meet ANOTHER MAN in a HOTEL ROOM. After all, hotel rooms have BEDS in them, and beds are good surfaces for BONIN’.
The things her fears didn’t take into account are many: First of all, this is not Mad Men. This is real life. Second, my friend and I were not attracted to each other, as far as I knew, but even if we were, I am in a monogamous relationship. That means I don’t get naked with every person I’m ever attracted to, or else I would rarely be clothed. If I got naked with every friend I have any attraction to, I would be freezing almost all of the time, because there would be nothing protecting my epidermis from the outside elements. I’m actually not sure there’s such thing as a 100% platonic friendship—love and affection and friend-attraction and sex-attraction and friend-feelings and romantic feelings are all too mixed up together to ever be cleanly separated. I’m attracted to my friends—male and female—and in love with my friends, but I don’t have sex with any of them, because I don’t act on my every passing thought or urge. Thank god—otherwise I’d be in jail for jumping subway turnstiles, murdering street harassers, and/or pouring whole shelves of Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts into my bag and running out of the store, sans paying. I’m guessing you don’t act on every urge of yours, either. Not to mention that your dad’s theory doesn’t make any sense for gay girls—are they supposed to be friends only with men, because obviously they will try to have sex with any and every girl they hang out with? Or, geez, what if you’re bi or pansexual or just sexually open-minded? YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE ANY FRIENDS AT ALL.
The ideas held by your dad and, to a lesser extent, my husband’s mom, are deeply sexist, because they assume that there’s no reason for a man to want to get to know a woman if she’s not going to sleep with him, and vice versa, because those two genders have nothing in common, because we are essentially DIFFERENT SPECIES. On the other hand, getting to know a woman that he’s not fucking can help a man understand what all women go through (and vice versa). So, basically, CROSS-GENDER FRIENDSHIP CAN END SEXISM. Or at least it can help. It certainly can’t hurt.
Also, since friendship is almost always conducted by people who see each other as equals, more or less, when a boy and a girl become friends, that’s proof to everyone out there that it isn’t necessary to see girls and women as something lesser than (or even different from!) boys and men. So, obviously, CROSS-GENDER FRIENDSHIP CAN TOPPLE THE PATRIARCHY. Or at least not support or contribute to it.
I’ve had male best friends all my life, and those have been some of the most gratifying, fun, interesting, meaningful, and beautiful friendships I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I literally wouldn’t be who I am without certain dudes I’ve been friends with (most of them straight!) who challenged me intellectually, introduced me to new culture and ideas, gave me advice, and shared their inner lives with me. I did have sex with a couple of them, but so what? I was single then, and sometimes friends have sex! To me it was another way of expressing affection and love, and no one freaked out, and it didn’t RUIN the friendship. It probably deepened it. We didn’t try to be boyfriend-girlfriend, but what if we did? Romantic relationships that started off as “just” friendships seem pretty much ideal, don’t they?
Now, there is one circumstance where I think friendship is potentially hurtful and definitely difficult: when one of you, no matter what gender, is in love with the other, but those feelings aren’t mutual. This can work sometimes, but IME, more often than not someone gets jealous, resentful, and mad.
In summation: Be friends with boys! Boys: They’re just like us! Be careful if one of you is in love with the other but not vice versa! Your dad is wrong, and you can tell him I said so! —Anaheed
Music is everything to me, and I really want to start a band. My friend agreed to be the guitarist, and I plan on playing bass and singing, but we can’t find anyone interested in drumming for us, because the few drummers in this town are already in bands. How do we find a drummer? —Marisa, 16, Jackson, Michigan
Drummers are the hardest to find of any kind of band member—I’m pretty sure it’s an actual scientific fact. The first bands of almost everyone I know, if they didn’t have a drummer from the get-go, always wound up with, like, their sister’s metalhead friend who was just looking for another excuse to show off his double-kick-drum problem. The best way to find anybody to play music with is to get the word out as much as you can, so tell your musical friends that you’re looking, and go to as many shows as you can to network with people in your local scene who might play, or know someone who does.
If you can’t find the perfect percussionist right off the bat, don’t sweat it! In my experience, just learning how to write songs and play an instrument on your own is hard enough, though it’s a nice advantage (and just nice in general) when you have a friend nearby to musically struggle and strive with. Having a band is super fun, even in the very beginning, when it’s kind of annoying that your skill level or sound doesn’t yet match what you originally imagined yourself doing. So even if you don’t have your full lineup set yet, keep playing with your friend and working on tracks. I was in a band for nine months once before we found a singer, but the cool thing was, by the time we all got together, we had already written six really good songs that were totally worked out, because we practiced three times a week for two hours and didn’t let our lack of a singer impede us. You can always jump other members in later, you know?
Let’s just say, worst-case-scenario style, that you straight-up just can’t find a drummer, after an exhaustive hunt. You’ve still got options. There are a bunch of different drum machines you could work with or learn to program, or you could make your own beats in Garage Band if either you or your friend has access to a Mac, which is really helpful if you’re writing songs and want to see how they’d sound with percussion. If you want to actually play shows with a drum machine, you can simply plug in your phone or a CD or a laptop into a PA (you’ll need an adaptor) or into the secondary input on your amp (or borrow a practice amp from someone). This solution isn’t all bad—having an electronic drummer means one less person to schedule practice around, and it makes playing shows easier (less gear, faster load-out). Good luck, and keep us posted on your band! —Jessica