The Platonic Male Friend (PMF)
Recently, a very close male friend of mine passed away. Indeed he could have been described as part of my ‘inner circle’ if I did have one. We had a special bond, and a unique relationship. Truth is each of us has a unique type of relationship with everyone in our lives. We have our social friends, our weekend friends, our family friends, our professional acquaintances, and our fair-weather friends. The categories are endless. There are those friends we can vouch for, count on, depend on, and even those friends who we have endless spats with. When I mourned this friend of mine, many of my friends understood the outpouring of grief and sense of loss. They understood how big an influence he was in my life; he had become a mentor of sorts, a guiding hand, and constructive voice when I needed it.
Occasionally he was a prick in my conscience with regards to decisions I took. On the other hand, some could not understand how members of the opposite sex of a certain age could share such a special bond, and yet still maintain it on a strictly platonic level. Platonic love is defined as the type of love that is chaste and non-sexual. In fact some definitions go as far as saying that ‘with genuine platonic love, the beautiful or lovely other person inspires the mind and the soul and direct one’s attention to spiritual things’. My late friend did just that. In fact the concept of the ‘platonic’ traces its origins to a work, titled the Symposium by Plato, the philosopher, and in it is defined as the idea of good which lies at the root of all virtue of truth. Thus at the very heart of the concept of the ‘platonic’ is this element of ‘truth’.
So how do we recognise and value these platonic or ‘truth’ friendships without getting our emotions twisted? Well the PMF is the kind of guy who cherishes you, and loves you for who you really are, and expects no favours in return.
The PMF is in a unique spot. He can give objective and constructive advice about your relationship challenges, without getting emotions tangled. He inspires your mind and soul – not your body – and provides a kind of brotherly, fatherly, and protective love to a woman that is not threatening to her current or future love interests.
Your PMF is not afraid to hug you or hold your hand, because he knows that you know that you’re just platonic friends. Neither of you ever frets about sending the wrong signals to each other, leading each other on, loving each other too much or not loving each other enough. You receive your PMF’s love freely and without hang ups because you know it’s coming from a genuine and pure place. In public, amongst friends, you’re not afraid to rest your head casually on your PMFs shoulders, because all your other friends know that he is just that; a friend. He, for his part, is comfortable and bold enough and confident enough to do this around your other male and female friends, because he has nothing to hide. When you find yourself in a relationship with another man, your PMF is still as protective, but he holds back enough to give you space to nurture your new found romantic love.
Indeed, your PMF won’t let you rest your head on his shoulders once you’re dating someone, because your PMF respects the new guy enough to know that no man would want his woman to do that with another man, not even with a PMF! Your PMF gives you advice about the male psyche. He helps you see things from your other half’s perspective, but can also give you tips on how to spot a guy who is just a time waster. When you break up with your other half, your PMF remains an ever reliable shoulder to cry on. He is there when you need him, but will run a mile if he thinks he’ll be an impediment to your love life. In fact your PMF will never cramp your style!
So, what happens to your PMF when you get married and start a family? Is he just wiped away from your friendship circles completely? Well most times he moves on, and perhaps finds love with an amazing woman too. More often than not you’ll find that your PMF’s other half is actually very similar to you in terms of personality. How come you ask? Well, your PMF has spent so much time with you that he’s come to recognise a good woman when he sees one. Your PMF is now drawn to a certain type of woman. You’ve rubbed off on his tastes, you see. At other times, the very best of PMFs will become your hubby’s good friend too and join your hubby’s inner circle. Since your PMF has helped shape you into the woman you’ve become, it’s likely that your hubby will find good ground for a friendship with your PMF. They now have something in common; YOU! Just in different ways perhaps.
In societies that have come to over-sexualise close friendships between men and women, innuendo is seen in every nook and cranny of interactions between men and women. In light of this, the above PMF scenarios may sound more like ideals than reality. But at the very heart of the matter is the fact that many cannot accept the ‘platonic’ part of the PMF. More often than not, even our own friends or family find it hard to believe that we have PMFs. Many also assume that our PMF is probably gay, erroneously concluding that the only genuine type of friendship between men and women is the one where one or more of the party is homosexual. Some PMFs may indeed be. But there are scores who are not. It also plays into the baseless assumption that all male-female interaction is inevitably and eventually romantic or sexual.
This notion misses a deeper and more curious aspect of gender; that women give and receive love in a very different type of way to men. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have PMFs, know and understand that the love they (PMFs) give is very different, but can be just as wholesome and pure as the one we receive from our female friends.