It is official. What Harry told Sally in Harry met Sally was not just a witty comment; Harry was telling the universal truth.
Men and women can’t be just friends, because sex always comes in the way. Men, it seems, are incapable of having purely platonic relationships with women. They are, by nature, debarred from forming friendships with women without also wanting to have a sexual congress with them.
According to a recent ‘research’ carried out (a hyperbole, if you ask me, to label a survey as a research, a bit like calling American baseball the greatest sport on earth) and published in British newspapers, a significantly higher proportion of men admitted that they secretly fancied their female friends, and fantasized about going out on a date with them. The percentage was much higher amongst younger men than older men. (In other news Pope is Catholic and dogs like to shag your leg.)
Interestingly, amongst middle-aged persons, the proportion who fancied a friend of opposite sex was roughly the same amongst men and women. With one difference: women were more likely to fancy unattached male friends, while men had no such compunctions.
So there it is. Men are not to be trusted. If, say, you are an attractive young woman with a chest worth pressing, and are meeting a male friend in order to have a shoulder to cry on, because you are, say, going through a personal crisis, your boyfriend, say, has cheated on you with a woman-you-can’t-understand-why anyone-would-want-to-sleep-with, then it is not at all unlikely that your friend, who, you think, has no sexual interest in you, and who is listening to your woes with a show of concern worthy of a Samaritan, is in fact wondering whether you have saucerised areoles and harbouring a desire to tweak your nipples as if turning the knobs on his transistor to get Radio Ceylon in record time.
I have a friend who doesn’t do platonic relationship (he says). As far as looks are concerned, he is (like the majority of blokes I know) neither sensationally good looking nor stunningly ugly, but average, give or take a few points depending on the fat-muscle ratio on a given day and other factors such as the angle at which the sunlight is falling on his face. He is a good raconteur and the desire to be interesting has a tremendous force for him; he is always devising ingenious, intricate schemes to make himself interesting to women.
This friend tells me that there isn’t a single woman among his friends and acquaintances he wouldn’t sleep with given half a chance. To the best of my knowledge he has not been offered even a quarter of a chance (although I don't think that is for want of trying).
We have a few common female friends between us, and he is secretly obsessed about one of them. She is more of his friend than mine; I meet her mostly at parties and gatherings where both of us are invited (2-3 times a year; if she gives parties I am not invited; as for me I do not give parties). However, I feel as if I know her very intimately because my friend can’t stop talking about her, especially when he is drunk. In so far as I can see, she is a pleasant enough woman of pasty complexion whose face would be more ogleworthy if she did not have a large nose placed on it at an awkward angle, irregularly arranged teeth, a mircognathia, and large ears (although she hides them under her tresses). She has a warm enough personality although I wouldn’t have thought she would win medals in the IQ Olympics. She has big(ggish) breasts, chunky thighs and legs like French furniture. As for her buttocks, I am reminded of Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow’s extremely funny novel, the protagonist of which has a theory that the way people park their cars has much to do with their intimate self-image and how they feel about their own backsides; I have not seen this woman parking her car, but I should imagine that she needs a lot of parking space and, after parking the car gingerly, she rushes away so as not be noticed as the owner of the car. I have to say that I do not find this woman, who, for me, is between an acquaintance and a friend, particularly attractive, physically; but as far as my friend (the male friend) is concerned, he would like nothing more than to—paraphrasing Mohammad Al-Fayed, the erstwhile owner of Harrods—f**k her up and down, then from front and behind (Fayed was describing how the British system treated him when he applied for a British passport). He (my friend, not Fayed) used to tell me that while having sex with his ex-partner he used to imagine that he was screwing this woman (quite a feat of imagination on his part, I thought, as his then girl-friend was so skinny that had she taken off her clothes in front of me, I’d have been tempted to give her lumps of sugar than do anything else). He is single now, and I guess the mental image of this woman helps him to pass lonely nights.
My friend’s sexual attraction, bordering on obsession, with our common female friend, means that he has, over the years (usually after a few pints), forced me to listen to his sexual fantasies involving her. The content of the fantasies changes from time to time, but the common element of all of them is what can be described as the element of surprise. The latest one involves him creeping on the woman from behind and, in one swift motion, pulling down her skirt and knickers, exposing ‘the globes of her buttocks’. She then turns towards him, revealing a dense triangle of pubic hair (my friend wouldn’t have it any other way; he insists on a luxurious bush; she has to be so hairy, he says, that when she sits down, naked, it must look as though she has a fat squirrel in her lap; experience has taught me to let him continue unchallenged; it’s all fantasy-island, anyway) and (instead of giving him a resounding slap) kisses him full on the mouth.
‘No offence,’ I said to my friend on one occasion, ‘but what exactly do you see in this woman? Granted she is not ugly and can be said to have a decent figure if you go for fuller figures, but come on, you must have been with women more attractive than her. What’s the deal here?’
My friend agreed with me. He said that he could not explain what it was about this woman that gave him an erection every time he thought of her. ‘There is rumble in the horn section,’ he said after a while, doing with his hands the universal male gesture to emphasize his point. ‘I bet she is dirty in bed,’ he concluded. I doubted that, but all that it told me was that he wanted to have sex with her; he couldn’t explain the attraction.
Once I interrupted him in the middle of his graphic (and brutal) description of the angle from which he would apply pressure on her bare arse with his penis, and said, ‘But she is your friend!’
My friend made a grimace ‘I know,’ he said. ‘It is not right, but I can’t help it. I think it would help if I can somehow get it out of my system.’
We then had a further discussion on the subject and came to the conclusion that the only way to get the whole thing out of his system was to have sex with this woman (preferably from behind). That, my friend ruefully admitted, was never going to happen.
‘Do you think she is at all interested in you?’ I asked.
‘She might be,’ my friend said.
‘Why do you say that?’
It then turned out that once when he (with his then partner) had gone out for an outing with this woman and her husband, she had brushed her breasts against his arm.
‘On two occasions. In quick succession,’ my friend said, and looked at me as if he had presented me with the final clue that would solve a particularly vexing problem I was struggling with.
I looked back at him.
‘Come On!’ my friend said. ‘Can brushing of tits by a woman against a man’s arm ever be accidental? You know where your breasts are. You know where the man is standing. How can you accidentally press your tits against his arms?’ Then, looking at my face, ‘OK. Once might be accidental. But twice?’
‘Do you have,’ I asked, ‘any other evidence that ___ is succumbing to your sexual allure?’
He had. My friend told me that there were occasions when, during parties, he had (strategically) placed his hand on the small of the woman’s back and gradually slid it down on to her buttocks. ‘She just stood there. Didn’t even change her position,’ he concluded.
‘Did you touch her buttocks with the back of your hand or with your palm?’ I asked.
‘Is that important?’
‘Well, if in a crowded room the back of your hand touches someone’s bottom, it may be construed as accidental. But if you use the palm, that might denote an intent. Did you apply pressure?’ I asked.
‘I can’t remember. To be frank, I was slightly drunk myself,’ my friend said. ‘But,’ he added, in case I had not heard him correctly first time round, ‘she just stood there. She obviously didn’t mind.’
‘So how are you going to take this further?’ I asked him. ‘The signs are ominous. She is clearly falling for you.’
‘That’s the problem,’ my friend said. ‘I don’t want to ruin our friendship.’
‘But you think she might be interested in you,’ I pointed out.
‘I think she is, but what if she isn’t? Or, does not want to go all the way? It might create complications.’
‘Do you want to have a relationship with her?’
‘Oh God! No!’ My friend was scandalized at the suggestion. ‘I just want to sleep with her. Don’t look at me like that. Haven’t you fancied your female friends?’
‘I can say with complete confidence that I have not fancied___. I have no wish to press my penis against her buttocks,’ I told him.
‘Not her, maybe. There’ve got to be others you must have wanted to shag,’ my friend appealed to me.
‘Never,’ I said. ‘I don’t look at my female friends like that.’
‘You are a f**king lier.’
I can say with complete candour that of my current group of female friends (about 6 to 8) I don’t fancy any one. (That one has a skin condition and another has bleeding gums helps, I suppose). I should like to think that sex does not play any part, at least not consciously, when I form friendships with women. My friend, mentioned above, who wants to sleep with each and every person of his acquaintance with XX chromosome, is an exception (I hope). I think that men might fancy some but not all of their female friends and acquaintances. Whom they will fancy will depend, in no particular order, on how good looking the women are, how they dress, and (there is no escaping this) the size of their breasts and peachiness of their arses. And no; it doesn’t matter whether the women are single or attached. Disgusting, I know; but there it is.
Many years ago I read a novel titled Alchemy of Desire by the Indian author Tarun Tejpal. I do not remember much about this novel other than that it was pretty dire, with repeated (and repetitive) cringe-worthy descriptions of sex. But I remember a conversation in the novel between the protagonist and his girlfriend. The protagonist explains to his disbelieving girl-friend the male psych when it comes to fairer sex. Essentially a man wants to have sex with any woman he finds sexy. It doesn’t matter who the woman is. She could be a friend, friend’s wife, friend’s sister (or mother), a colleague, a casual acquaintance he has met at a party, the woman at the Tesco till, or a complete stranger he has happened to have looked at in passing. (Thus, if a man happens to glance at a woman, a complete stranger, for a few seconds, with tennis-ball breasts or legs longer than Marathon, even in passing, in a crowded London underground, he will make a mental note of her: one for the wank bank. Indeed—and this is important—the woman does not even have to have a terrific figure (it could be Claudia who cleans his house and weighs 200 pounds); but if there is anything about her anatomy that triggers the man’s fancy, there will be a nightly deposit in her name.)
Doctor Obvious says that men are able to make a differentiation in their minds between love and sex. A man may have no crisis of conscience while bonking woman A (whom he doesn’t love but wants to f**k) while in a relationship with woman B whom he loves (and also bonks). Women may be more likely to equate sex with love.
Men, as they say, are from Mars . . .