Tuesday, July 26, 2005

How To Kiss-Off That Friendship

Here's the problem, guys:

Say you meet this woman whom you really like. In fact, you have a bit of a dilemma because you'd also like her as a friend if sex and romance weren't in the cards, but being a guy you'd thoroughly enjoy something more. For me, it’s one of those fork-in-the-road decisions, and not because friendship can never blossom into romance. In fact, on the highway of platonic friendship and romance, one can navigate the change from the friendship lane onto the sex and romance lane with only a slight change in gear. If the spark is there, it can happen. But conventional wisdom tells us that the converse is not necessarily true. If you commit to the romance express lane, you can’t decide to go back to the platonic collector lane. You must obey that solid white line. The only way out is the off-ramp.

As a guy who has savoured his platonic friendships, I’ve faced this quandary over the years and I must admit I’ve probably chosen to go into the fast lane more than a few times knowing there was bound to be an inevitable traffic jam on love’s expressway after which I would be forced to take the next exit. Fair enough. I considered it the romance-friendship axiom that I would continue to challenge on occasion because, well, I'm still a guy. And man cannot live on platonic friendship alone.

Reflecting upon the failed romances and successful platonic friendships under my belt, I also realized that the axiom was not necessarily a hard truth in my case. I could attest to having a few former romantic partners that continued to be close platonic friends. However, there were other relationships from my past that more than proved this axiom. It now became a matter of comparing the hard statistics.

About one in three women with whom I have shared a relationship – be it friendship or romance – I have successfully continued an ongoing platonic friendship. Of this fraction, some relationships stayed strictly platonic; others started as platonic, became romantic and then reverted back into platonic; finally, some started as romance and became platonic. The next test was to determine whether keeping the friendship strictly platonic bettered the chances of maintaining a lasting friendship. I calculated roughly the same one-third proportion. There was no difference.

The statistics also highlighted that there was no point in pondering the fork-in-the-road decision as the notion of sex or romance did not necessarily wreck the possible friendship and, in addition, romance did not even appear to worsen the odds for friendship. What the data told me seemed clear. My first observation regarding friendship is that most of my relationships don't last anyway - platonic or otherwise. I will not continue an ongoing close friendship with about two-thirds of the women I meet. Secondly, one cannot ignore fate. Platonic friendships fade for a whole bunch of reasons, and the complication of romance is probably not even in the top-five list. People move away, get married, change their social habits, have families, etc.

Having fundamentally disproved the theory, I was still not comfortable with its conclusion. While I could not deny the statistics, I knew there was some aspect of the romance-friendship axiom that certainly held some truth for me. I had kissed-off many possible friendships over the years so to speak. With a wealth of data in hand, I drilled further to see what other gems of wisdom I could gather. This is where I stumbled across what I refer to as the First Base Paradox to the axiom using the familiar baseball analogy for sex.

While carrying something beyond a strictly platonic relationship (i.e. getting on base) did not show any measurable effect on whether a platonic friendship would last, there were measurable effects depending on how far around the bases I got -- the big revelation being that if the relationship made it to first base, but no better, then there was little to no chance for a lasting platonic friendship. Moreover, of the relationships that made it past first base, more than 60 percent became lasting platonic friendships when the courtship fizzled. And this is the paradox. While there seems little chance for friendship if the relationship gets only to first base -- which supports the original axiom -- getting past first base almost doubled the chances of a lasting friendship compared to keeping the relationship strictly platonic.

Unfortunately, the First Base Paradox has created a new predicament for me, particularly when I meet that great woman I want both as a friend and romantic partner. If I feel reasonably confident that I can make it past first base then I almost double the chances of a lasting friendship out of the ashes of a failed courtship. However, if it only gets to first base, it's all but game-over.

Of course, trying to convince that potential future platonic friend that it would be best for the friendship if she allowed me to move immediately to second base won't be easy. I may have to limit myself to statisticians. That's the other problem with such a paradox.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What were you expecting? A Spanish Inquisition?