29 December 2008

She Said He Said

I've always been the chick who has more guy friends than girl friends. I didn't plan it that way. It just sort of happened. Perhaps because I preferred kickball to jumping rope. Not that I'm particularly sporty; I just liked the friendly competition the boys had going. I preferred it to the rather catty competition happening in the girls' corner. Come on, sisters, you know what I mean. Little girls can be big bitches.

As I grew older, I still found myself hanging out with the lads more than the lasses. Guys didn't mind that I was opinionated and prone to use language that would make sailors blush. With guys, I didn't have to mind my Ps and Qs. And the conversations weren't about clothes or hair or boys. Come on, sisters, you know what I mean. In high school, conversations ran about as deep as puddles in most cliques, no? [And I should really qualify all this by saying I grew up in a stucco-encrusted suburb I fondly refer to as Stepford.]

By the time college rolled around, I was used to palling around with the guys and usually being the only girl in the lot. That's when I noticed the whispers. Slut was a common slur. Because *obviously* I was sleeping with all of them. These guys wouldn't just be my friend if there weren't *benefits*, right? A girl couldn't be close friends with a guy unless they were very close indeed. This happened with more frequency and fervor if I was friends with a guy another girl liked but he didn't like her back. That suddenly became my fault. Because, at that age, it's always another woman in your way...right, sisters? It can never be that he isn't the right guy for you. No. It's the slutty girl "friend" re-routing the rooster.

I've come to find that there are some people who absolutely don't believe a man and a woman can have a truly platonic relationship. This is usually the thought pattern of those who sleep with their friends. I don't sleep with friends. I sleep with my boyfriend or lover, not a buddy. I'm not judging a buckfuddy situation. But, that's not what I consider a friendship. That's a quasi-relationship, ill-defined and prone to heartbreak or a bitter end. Most likely, you would not be able to sit across from that "friend's" spouse and have a pleasant conversation about all the fun times you two had without a few hesitations and awkward edits.

College is a heady time. Young adults and sexuality are much like baby rattlesnakes and venom -- we don't yet know how to control it. How much to give off. When to stop it before it goes further than planned. That's all part of growing up. And while I wasn't chaste, I was far from the hose-hound whore a some sorority sisters seemed to believe...and spread about. I can count my college conquests on one hand. And no, I don't have additional digits like Anne Bolin. I bring this up because, nearly two decades after the fact, I recently had to do a reality check. It seems that rumor and innuendo can fester into legend then harden into "fact". Which I found utterly baffling. So much so, emergency text messages were sent to two of my guy friends and a panicked after-midnight call was placed to a girl friend who, too, has her fair share of platonic male mates. Each of the communiques began with WTF?!?

It came in the form of an email in which she said he said, to which I said horseshit. At first, I really didn't care. I mean, seriously, WTF. But it was so outlandish that it began to bug me. What if all this time people were under the impression that actually happened? Now, I'm not one that feels the need to defend myself, nor do I really care what some people think of me, but I do care about the truth. I found myself going right back to sophomore year when I wanted to shout from a bullhorn at every kegger: Seriously, I'm not a slut! Just because we are hanging out does not mean we are making out...or anything else!

Sigh. Trust me, there are plenty of things I actually do that people can judge me on. That I welcome. Have at it. Spread it like wildfire. Whatever. But if I didn't do it...then I get a little pissy.

Rumormongering isn't just a girl thing. Guys were equally guilty of it. I remember one occasion where a dude in our crowd told the world I went home with a certain bloke. This, after I was nice enough to give him a ride home. Because I dropped him off first, I must have gone back to my dorm room with the other guy. When I heard about this, I was furious. The look on his face when I called him out on it -- in public -- was priceless.

"Why would you start a rumor like that?" I demanded. "Uh..." was all he could come up with. "Did you see us go into my dorm together?" I questioned. "Uh, no," he admitted. "Were we making out in front of you or flirting even?" He answered, "No." "Well, then what made you think he ended up spending the night with me?" I huffed. "I just...I...I don't know," he stuttered. "So you just made the whole thing up and spread it around? Kind of an asshole thing to do, isn't it?" He hung his head, muttered that he was sorry and couldn't look me in the eye for a month.

Now, if you'll notice, in my line of questioning I never denied going home with the guy. The truth was, I did. But, that wasn't for gossip guy to say. That was my private affair and none of his or anyone else's business. When the bloke and I later showed up as a couple, the gossiper called me on it. I explained that he assumed what happened and went about spreading the news like a twelve-year-old without asking me if anything had gone on before he did so. That's not what a friend does. But, like I said, some people don't think guys and gals can be friends. And, after that, he and I weren't.

Over the years, the ratio has shifted and I have a larger network of girl friends today. I still have a lot of guy friends, though. And, for the record, I can look every one of their wives in the eye. It's nice that we can all be friends. But it's sad when you stumble upon someone who's still sitting in the quad.


kmccloskey said...

There is nothing like being falsely accused, especially when you can't confront the source. It gets under your skin and takes over your mind. In thinking about my own experiences with this (as you know I was the real slut in college (HA!)) I have a new theory as to why this is so incredibly frustrating. I think the reason false accusations are so maddening is that we are transferring all the stored up guilt from the things we actually did, and got away with (and I'm only half-kidding here).

Think about it. Would it really bother you that much if you were taken to task for every wrong or questionable thing you did? I think we've all felt or said something like, "I've done a lot of bad things in my life, and Lord knows I should be tarred and Cheetoed for it, but this thing I did not do!" Do you think the guilt adds to the indignation?

Or maybe it's because we don't feel guilty enough for the things we got away with (I'm still winging it), because if we did, we could just write off the injustice as part of the karmic balancing act of the universe.

Then again, maybe it's just the frustration of our collective self-delusion that there is justice in the world instead of the chaos we pretend to understand.

You know I'm not defending the accuser in your particular situation, but since this incident didn't directly involve me, I wanted to take a little time to try and examine the feelings, without the emotional involvement, for the next time it happens to me. For my part, the two big ones that stuck with me are being falsely accused of sexual harassment (you don't have a right to face your accuser in the workplace) and of exposing a secret society to the media (long, stupid story that I shouldn't have let get to me, but it did).

Maybe it would help to give a name to these particular set of feelings. It would need to be a pretty impressive word to encompass everything, something like "Infrustradignation!" And those feelings can only be resolved through "Revengeancipation."

I need a drink.


RUAWAKE said...

Well, KMcC, I have to say, no. I don't feel that I was falsely accused (especially now that I understand the situation better). It was more the discomfort of there (possibly) being some other impression of me that some of my friends might have that I was unaware. That's really what was bugging me.

I know that people will think of me (or anyone) what they will. I don't feel the need to correct every bad impression or set straight every innuendo. I don't have the time or energy for that. But, I do care what my friends think in relation to what the truth is.

So, this isn't so much transferred guilt or lack thereof. While I don't know there's a need to be taken to task on everything (and I'm a Buddhist), I do my share of introspection. Still, I would hope that if my friends had an issue -- past or present -- that was bothering them, they would bring it up so we could clear it up. But, I'm sure that's not always a comfortable thing to do.

Of course, this pales in comparison to what you've been falsely accused. Sheesh. And once the falsehood is there, it tends to pop up from time to time. Which is beyond annoying. But, as long as your friends know the truth, there's some consolation in that. xo