What graphical analysis and “Gone with the Wind” teaches us about friendship
Few would argue with me when I say that Scarlett O’Hara was a bitch. She used her feminine wiles to twist and manipulate men, causing enough destruction in her wake to constitute a
four-hour movie. Scarlett seized the attention of any man she fancied in a way that even the composers of “carpe diem” would be impressed. Of course, the only man she could never fully seize was Ashley, but, even by the end, she got her chance. Now, I am not justifying Scarlett in all the chaos and broken-hearts she caused, but I do beg the question: maybe there is something we are missing. Maybe Scarlett didn’t manipulate every man in her purview just for the sake of it. Perhaps she reigned in every man she could in order to keep her options open so that she would never have to be alone.
Scarlett O’Hara faced the same issues that many of us face here at UNC, despite the appalling male/female ratio: we are constantly surrounded by guys. I don’t mean that we attract men from all corners, but rather, for whatever reason, we are better friends with the guys than the girls. There may be many causes of this scenario, but the general conclusion is that we don’t associate with our female compatriots because we like spending time with guys instead. At first glance, this is a great scenario: guys aren’t catty, they can do all the heavy-lifting, and you have someone to walk you home late at night. They are protective and caring and will follow you in your shenanigans if only to make sure you get out of it okay. I appreciate this- I really do. But, as with everything good in life, there is a constant caveat: Guy/girl friendships are inherently unstable. Go ahead and read that statement again: Guy/girl friendships are inherently unstable. There are many different facets of this conundrum, but, as I sit here brooding to Alanis Morrisette, I want to focus on the age-old quandary that can explain this apparent instability: Guys and girls can’t just be friends.
For those of you who oppose this, I bite my thumb at you. I myself am a recent convert to this appalling notion, but I cannot deny life-experience. So hear me out: Blessed are those who have not seen and believed. You’ve heard the stories before. Maybe you’ve seen the recent YouTube video of interviews in Utah that showed women running away when they discovered that their best guyfriends may be interested in them. Let’s face the facts: there’s this little thing that happens when guys and girls get together. It’s called attraction. It doesn’t happen between everyone. It may happen when you first meet and fade through time, or it may suddenly creep up on you when you weren’t expecting it. Either way, when two people of the opposite sex get together, it is quite likely that at least one of them may experience a hint of attraction. This may not sound like much, but, like the stubbed-out cigarette that starts a house fire, this little hint is all it takes to cause calamity.
Let me tell you a story, illustrated by the lovely graph nearby. Point A: guy and girl meet. They slowly become friends, and their friendship deepens and grows stronger in an array of ways: exponentially, piece-wise, linearly, take your pick. As time passes, and they become closer, something happens, they reach the Critical Point (Point B). This is that time when
you are constantly texting, hanging out daily, and always thinking of things you want to tell the other person. Maybe you’ve shared some secrets and opened up in a way you didn’t quite expect. Because of this, we could dub this the Point of Vulnerability or the Point of No Return. At this point, there is only one way to continue to get closer to this person, and that is by dating. If you are both interested in each other, then congratulations! You may proceed to Point C. For the rest of us, this is where things get ugly. Quite likely, one person will become interested in the other. When the other person learns of this, either by a direct confession or through the grapevine, that individual will likely panic. Maybe they don’t even like each other, but perhaps there is that slight hint of attraction, and this is enough to scare them. One person thinks the other wants to take the friendship farther than he/she wants to go. All that matters is that, because of this curse of attraction- be it real or imagined- one or both of the parties will freak out.
This leads to Point D- the Crash. Again, this can be logarithmic, piece-wise, linear, or a direct nose-dive, so long as it entails losing months of deep, personal interaction and trust. No more texts, no more hanging out, and you may have to fight for him to walk you home. This is not the only way to get to the Crash. Maybe the guy got a girlfriend, and no respectful girl would stay that close to a guy when he’s already got a girl on his arm. This shows another inherent way in which guy/girl friendships are incredibly sticky situations. Ideally, when
you hit Critical Point, you would plateau out to Point E, so that you friendship maintains its depth without the romantic chaos. However, Point E will likely only be reached if you became friends with a person who is already in a stable relationship. Or the guy or girl is gay so there is no potential for attraction. Yes, I can use this graph to prove the necessity of gay best friends. Now the Crash is not necessarily the final endpoint. The friendship can be built back up again, if both parties try, if only to reach the Critical Point again and face the same fork in the road. This creates a sine function. Likewise, you lucky few who made it to Point C, you can still crash. You may hit rock bottom, or you may try to join back in this masochistic loop.
Of course, there will always be a few exceptions to these rules. But the few exceptions do not mean the rule is worth throwing out because, for those of us who are not exceptional, this is our bleak fate. So what does this mean for us and for our dear Scarlett? Let’s give her a break- she was only fighting for survival by clinging to as many guys as possible in hopes that there will be at least one who has approached but not yet hit Critical Point. Instead of judging her, let’s turn our attention to the heart of the matter and try to overcome the calamity that occurs at Critical Point. Maybe you, like Rhett, frankly don’t give a damn and will just let the chips lie where they fall. If this ignorance-is-bliss mantra works for you, then more power to you. But, for those of us who would prefer to build our bomb-shelters before the missiles are launched, it may behoove us to take a look at a few alternatives to disaster. 1) You could avoid becoming friends with the opposite sex, but we all know that running away solves nothing. 2) A wise friend suggested we communicate better so we know where each other stands. This could work if you don’t mind awkward DTRs (determining the relationship conversations). Or 3) we could strive to keep our relationships free of romantic interludes or mixed signals. This means don’t excessively flirt, tease, manipulate, or flash that sultry smile we all pretend we can’t do. Note, I said “excessively”- after all, we are
only human. It is in our nature to unconsciously attract or lead on. I’m not here to fix us as people, I’m only trying to advise on a small issue in the realm greater human problems.
We could argue back and forth the woes and bromides entwined in this system: “love like it’s not going to hurt” or “boys stink” or whatever other things you tell yourself to make you sleep better at night. The point is this: getting really close to a person of the opposite sex (becoming friends with a capital “F,” if you will) is dangerous; still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the risk. Sure, some friendships are destined to be gone with the wind, but for those who strive to reach Point E, remember that tomorrow is another day!