Boys & Girls

I glimpse at my phone, he’s texted me. No butterflies, no skipped heartbeat, no waiting at least twenty minutes to read and a further 22 minutes and 30 seconds (or something) to reply. I pick my phone up ‘yeah, come over in 10… I haven’t washed by the way’ my fingers quip. No I haven’t found the love of my life, got comfortable too quickly and think its okay to look vile whenever he comes round; I’m just replying to my best friend.

Oof, I can practically hear your sharp intake of breath. A boy and a girl – friends? Oh, We have all seen the films; we’ve all heard about Harry and Sally, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, and not forgetting what happened to Julia Roberts at her Best Friend’s Wedding and well I’d be a liar if I said I’d not sat and watched these films, and their many variations, and thought the same thing – can a boy and a girl JUST be friends? Is it hopelessly idealistic to think that a man and woman can have a purely platonic relationship without it ending up a sexual one, or worse still, a loving one?

Can boys and girls be just friends?

Can boys and girls be just friends?

Here’s the thing. I speak from the place of someone who has two male best friends whom I happily tell my deepest darkest secrets to, spend time alone with, laugh with, argue with, snap at, bitch at and above all else, love wholeheartedly. However, I also speak as someone who is dubious as to whether being close friends with the opposite sex is actually feasible. Those ideas don’t really work together, do they? Hello! Welcome to my world! I went to a mixed sex secondary school. Growing up in an environment where boys were always around, throwing things in lessons, kicking footballs into large groups and chasing you around the common room, not only enabled, but encouraged friendships with boys, we saw them less as ‘items’ to speak to on Facebook, giggle at when passing on the street and kiss at discos and more as people and in some cases, the funniest people I know.

I currently work in a single sex girl’s school and the difference is astonishing. I speak generally when I say this (and with the understanding that they are young), but the girls seem to have a lack of understanding when it comes to any non-sexual relationship with, not just boys, but the entire male species. The girls will gawk and blush and point out of the window at the scruffy looking hedge trimmer with his tight fitting trousers travelling too far south causing his bottom to smile back at them and they will giggle and push each other in front of the geeky new male supply teacher. They will speak not of the funny thing Tom said at the park the other day, but of the amount of kisses and BBM Contacts received at the most recent disco.

I can’t help but feel that they are missing out; missing out on watching boys grow from the irritating idiots punching each other in the back of the classroom into some of the best friendships school has to offer. The media has always had an opinion on this ‘will they/wont they’ matter and have no doubt helped to shape the status quo. Think of Ross and Rachel (sigh), they get together in the final moments of the final episode of the final series after being on and off for years, during which time Chandler and Monica get married, on that programme, what was it called? Ah yes, FRIENDS. Not lovers, not spouses, Friends. Of course we can’t blame it entirely on the media – it’s the practicality. The thought of either of my male best friends finding the perfect girl and falling in love fills me with a mixture of delight and strangely, loss.

With or without intention our friendship would slowly become less intense as the new girlfriend would naturally become the confident and go to. And if that wasn’t the problem, the new girlfriend’s feelings surely would be; I’d like to think I’d be fine, but in all honesty I don’t know how I would feel if my new boyfriend maintained such a close and personal friendship with another girl especially the further our relationship went down the line. Anyway, I fear I have digressed in an attempt to avoid the inevitable. Of course it’s not been as plain sailing for me as I would have liked you to believe. I have failed to reveal the hours upon hours spent talking to my (female) best friends about whether ‘I like him’ or whether ’I don’t!’ It’s failed to reveal the nights I’ve cried into my pillow out of the pure frustration when not knowing how to feel. It’s failed to reveal the hours spent in the bathroom waxing, shaving, brushing and dyeing to turn myself into a different person for the sake of a ‘friend.’

Being close friends with boys has not always been (and will continue not to be I’m sure) an easy road for me, or any of my friends for that matter. But has it been interesting? Yes. Has it shaped me and my life? Absolutely. And as for my two male best friends, who may be reading this (but probably not, let’s be honest) if I end up marrying one of you, if we end up having a relationship, sexual or other or if we end up completely drifting and I turn up at your wedding, 8 years down the line, to your perfect girl, it has been totally, completely and 100% worth it.

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Is It Time to Reconnect?

“It’s imperative that we bring children into close contact with the miracle of evolution…and by so doing underline man’s consciousness of being responsible to a unit much greater and more valuable than himself, of which he is part”. (Konrad Lorenz, The Waning of Humaneness)

Has the Western world lost its way? This is a question being posed with disconcerting regularity by economic theorists since the onset of the latest in a series of catastrophic economic recessions.

But one could also pose the same question in a different sense: has the western world lost its way historically, culturally and on an individual level?

We are, it seems, engaged in a frantic search to reconnect with the past, as well as with our roots and origins, whether culturally, through the fixation with retro-referentiality, or personally, through the fascination with tracing our ancestry.

On programmes such as, Who Do you Think You Are? – celebrities are followed as they trace their ancestry, often with distressing or intensely joyous consequences. Likewise, on My Long Lost Family, members of the public engage in an often emotive search for missing relations. The journey to rediscover and to reconnect with, hidden aspects of our ancestral past has become a source of fascination.

We are becoming, it seems, a society that hankers after some mythical ‘lost’ part of ourselves, some missing part of our identity, in order to feel whole again.

There are numerous reasons for this and on several levels. On the cultural level, a type of spiritual ‘homelessness’ is part of the conditions of modernity as identified by the philosopher Martin Heidegger – who coined the phrase ‘we homeless ones’ to describe how nihilism and the rise of technology have precipitated this rift with our roots and with the essence of our selves, leading to a kind of oblivion of being. Disconnection from, not simply the past, but from the higher values imbibed from religion. Indeed, from the many different etymological derivations of the word religion, the mythologist Joseph Campbell favoured the root of the word as being from the Latin re-ligure, meaning to reconnect – hence the title of this piece.

Couple with the rise of the alienating force of technology this has led to a kind of existential rootlessness.

Since Heidegger’s time ( he died in 1976 but published Being and Time, his best known work, in 1927) – we have witnessed the gradual decline of the extended family and the increasing isolation of many peoples’ lives. People – being more geographically dispersed due to job changes and improved travel – are often lonely and cut off from the networks that once enriched people’s lives. In part then, this hankering after a connection with the past is partly due to a very literal sense of disconnection with the present.

Such feelings may lead us to begin the search for our roots, not simply because we want to feel connected to our past but because often these ancestral searches lead us to family members in the present with whom we may hope to establish friendships and connections, rekindling our sense of family in the spiritual sense but also quelling a more tangible loneliness.

Julia Wood - Features Writer

In many ways this search for a forsaken inner wholeness can be an inner journey, a voyage of self-discovery and self-understanding. Knowing where we come from can provide us with a sense of certainty and a degree of emotional security. There is consolation in feeling that we know where we belong, which can help us to feel more grounded. It can reassure us, especially in these uncertain times, helping us feel less cast adrift by the shifting waves of social and economic change. In Heidegger’s worse, less homeless.

But what does it mean on a cultural level, this search for our ancestry and origins, this need to be in touch with our history; the yearning to return ‘home’?

The state of homelessness leads to collective introspection redolent of a culture which has become more introverted and inward-looking. This phenomenon – more notable during times of economic recession – is indicative of a fear of the future and of what the future holds. We don’t like what think we see ahead so we look away; we turn within and we become obsessed with the past.

Of course it is the expansion of global networks and communications that has facilitated these introspective leanings, providing us with access to ever-greater banks of information. The rise of Google and Facebook has meant that we can conduct searches for people with who we wish to reconnect: websites such as Friends Reunited and Find your Ancestry make it especially easy for us to engage with this introspective culture.

Yet, perhaps ironically, it may be the speed with which technology has progressed in the last hundred years which has also become the catalyst for this need to reconnect with our roots. The impetus to return to nature, the rise of the Green movement and the striving to implement ecologically aware ideals into our lives through recycling and grown-your-own produce also reflect a desire to move closer to nature. The rise of the machine has in many ways impinged upon our humanity, moving us from a world of animate nature to the dehumanising world of the inanimate machine.

In the twentieth and twenty-first century machines continue to replace humans: answer machines delivering endless options except the one of speaking to another human being; self-service tills, paying-in machines – these are all devices that interfere with day to day human interaction, creating a fissure between ourselves and the world we inhabit, dehumanising our world through the depersonalisation of our daily interactions and discourses.

We have brought ourselves to the condition of self-imposed exile and alienation from our human origins and only we can extricate ourselves from it, before it is too late. As Heidegger might say, perhaps it is time for us to make our way home.

When a Relationship Comes Between a Friendship

What’s the first rule of friendship? Never put a man before your friends. Boyfriends will come and go, true girlfriends will last forever. Girls before guys right? I remember my mother telling me as a young girl to never let a boy come in between a friendship. Making a pact all those years ago that sisterhood is where it’s at and telling your best girl that no matter what happens a boy would never come between the two of you. You’ve been friends for 10 years and you know that you two will always be there for each other. Boys come and go you tell each other but this friendship will stand the test of time against any man.

Enter Chris.  Chris is a young hot tradesman.  He’s tall, handsome, smart-ish and apparently funny.  He dresses impeccably (if you like head to toe Armani with little imagination attached to it) and says all the right things at social gatherings when we are all out.  Chris has been dating my friend Sarah for a fair few months now and they are inseparable.  They go to dinners together, the cinema, everything normal a couple do together.  Shes besotted with him, and so should I be seemingly.  So why do I dislike the man so much?

It’s all Chris this and Chris loves going to the gym at every opportunity.  Maybe Chris should stop taking so many steroids before he bursts out of that t-shirt anymore, it’s like he is auditioning for the Incredible Hulk remake.  Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.  Ok so he’s got a few guns on him and the ladies like the way he looks, but does he have to mention how many times my weight he can bench press every time we see him?

Sarah is such a bright, confident and independent woman who loves to be the centre of attention, except when Chris is around.  It’s like she hangs off of his every bicep (or should I say two headed muscle).  She has even taking up going to gym sessions with him.  After she once quoted “only run when being chased” was her motto in life, she is now working out to a 10-step programme.  Somehow every opinion she’s ever had is suddenly moulded into that new found (brain) of his.

Her once over-opinionated tongue, which once didn’t even let a guy look at her in the wrong way before she gave him a lashing, is suddenly now firmly wrapped around his (ahem) nether regions.  She now has no opinions of her own; just a carbon copy of what regurgitates out of Vin Diesel’s forearms.  My nearest and dearest buddy has been swept away by Chris.

What upsets me the most is that they have only been dating a few months and they are already arguing like they are a couple of old drunks.  I try to tell her that she should not be arguing so soon into the relationship, but of course she dismisses me with “well we don’t argue that much” and “his ex-girlfriend was a total crack pot and he’s just scared to get hurt again”.  Personally I don’t think that rehearsing your nodding dog impression is being true to yourself.

OK, so there’s nothing I can do because she’s my best friend and she is in lust for now!  Even if it is with a total haemorrhoid.  Of course when she asks me I tell her that I think he is wonderful, and then discuss with the girls what we really think and put bets on how long it will last.  This may come across as jealousy and it really isn’t (OK maybe a teeny tiny bit).

My best girl suddenly doesn’t have time for me and would rather spend her days with meathead mayhem.  Gone are the wine and X Factor evenings, and the girlie nights out drinking cocktails and singing to Kings of Leon.  They have been replaced with nights in discussing dumbbells and protein shakes.  It happens to everyone at some point I guess, I just wish it wasn’t with him…

Gym session anyone?

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I’m at a Crossroads and Not Sure Which Path to Choose?

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about choices and decision making. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website

Thank you for your question. We all face choices, some harder than others but more often than not the solution is inside you. If you need extra guidance trust in those you choose to keep close to you that have always had your best interests at heart and avoid advice from those with ulterior motives that you highlight in your question.

Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote “No man, for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true”

There are moments in all our lives when we find ourselves at a crossroad, afraid, confused, and without sat nav! The choices we make in those moments can define the rest of our days. Looking at your personal crossroads, it is safe to say we all want the same thing, to look at ourselves in the mirror and find the person looking back at us is the person we want to be. Well…maybe right now you feel you still need some work, you are not alone, a lot of us do – but for every voice telling us we can’t or we won’t be that person, we need to balance that and focus on the supportive inner voices telling us how to move forward along the right path. Some of us are even lucky enough to have an inner circle of friends and family supporting us on the journey or in other cases a team of medics. It sounds from your question you have a great support network, trust in them and remember to ask for help.

There’s an old proverb that says you can’t choose your family. You take what the fates hand you. And like them or not, love them or not, understand them or not, you cope. Then there’s the school of thought that says the family you’re born into is simply a starting point. They feed you, and clothe you, and take care of you as best they can until you’re ready to go out into the world and find your tribe.

And your tribe, that inner circle, they are your soulmates, your support network, the ones you choose to love, they are also special. The ties that binds us are sometimes impossible to explain. They connect us even after it seems like the ties should be broken. Some bonds defy distance and time and logic. Because some ties are simply… meant to be… and some are not! But those ties, the ones that defy all odds, they are the most special…they are also family. It is these people who will help you at your crossroads.

More often than not, happiness doesn’t come from money or fame or power. Sometimes happiness comes from good friends,  good family (the ones you are given and the ones you choose) and the quiet nobility of leading a good exocentric life.

Whatever path you choose at your crossroads, wake up each morning and embrace your new path. Each morning choose to move forward and do not contemplate the alternative i.e to simply give up. Of course when faced with the unknown, most of us prefer to turn around and go back, but who said the unknown was scary. Perhaps this crossroads is the biggest most exciting adventure yet for you. All songs end, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the music. Perhaps the journey is also meant to be enjoyed and those you take with you the jewel in the crown.

So make that decision, take that leap, live your life and most importantly do it TODAY!

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