When friends of the opposite sex get complicated

Earlier I wrote about how I have male friendships. I have a lot of male friends. In fact, I would say that I spend more time with my male friends than my female friends on a regular basis. I have very affectionate relationships with a few of my closest male friends. Huge hugs when I haven’t seen them, a quick kiss on the lips occasionally (no tongue, of course!), and lots of “I miss yous or I love yous.” Nothing is better than a big bear hug from a guy friend I haven’t seen in a while.

I have a friend, B., who I have been close with for more than 15 years. We survived high school together, even dated for a few months senior year until he cheated on me and broke up with me (yep, he cheated, and he dumped. In my defense, I didn’t know he cheated until after  the breakup.)

B comes in and out of my life based on how much trouble he is in. I have seen him through divorce, custody battles, drug habits, job loss, homelessness and jail time. To say life hasn’t always gone his way is quite an understatement. He borrows money from me that we both know he’ll never repay, he disappears when he’s on a bender and he even wrecked my car once.

Why do I keep him in my life? He is one of the nicest, most genuine, and most charming people I have ever met (in fact, I’m convinced he’s survived on his looks and his charm thus far in life.) He has the best intentions of anyone I know. I can go months without talking to him, and when I call him (if his phone hasn’t been turned off) he always calls me back. Especially if I tell him I need him.

He is probably truly the only person I know who can cheer me up when I’m upset. You know that nagging feeling you get in your soul when something is really breaking your heart? He will ask me what’s wrong, and I will either tell him or tell him I don’t want to tell him, and he will listen and then he truly has the ability to take my mind off of whatever ails me. Literally, 5 minutes with him and he has me laughing so much I’ve forgotten all about why I was upset.

He pays me back for the favors I give him in his own ways: With massages and lotions (he’s a massage therapist when he’s working), with promises he probably can’t keep, and he did give me the last $10 in his wallet for gas the day he wrecked my car.

Finally, the point to this post

B has been dating M since last summer. M and I have met a few times and we get along just fine. She calls me occasionally when she can’t find him, and vice versa. I know she’s had to put up with a lot, and if you read what’s above you know why.

I called M yesterday because B’s phone was turned off. I left her a voice mail that I wanted to reach B, and she called me back with his new number. We chatted for a few minutes, talked about her job and other small talk.

B called later that day from M’s phone. I picked it up, expecting it to be her, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear his voice for the first time in months. “Hi!” I said. “I’ve missed you!”

He was happy too. “I’ve missed you too! How are you? What’s up?”

“Not much,” I said. “We should hang out – I need some B time.”

“Aw,” he said, and then we started to talk about when we might both be free, when suddenly, the phone went dead. Assuming a dropped call, I waited for a second then called back.

M answered. “Hi M!” I said. “It’s Melissa. I think I lost him.”

“Hey,” she said. “He’s right here. But wait – I need to ask you something. I’ve been stressed out for the past 3 hours … and I just need to know: What did you mean by ‘I need some B time?'”

“Um,” I stammered. … “I just meant … that I wanted to hang out with him …”

At this point the conversation got a little hazy because I was in shock from the initial question. But she started rambling, again about how she’d been stressed out for 3 hours (I talked to her 5 hours before that. Is the first phone call what she was referring to?), about how some girl had “dicked her over” a couple of months ago (I got the impression this girl may have had a fling with B), about how she just wanted to make sure that my intentions were good with him …

I composed myself enough to say, “M. You know I’m married, right?”

“Well, yeah,” she said. “But you know how people are! That other girl had a boyfriend!”

“Yes, I do,” I said. “I am really sorry that happened to you. But I promise you, I only want to hang out with him – as friends …”

“Whatever,” she said. “Here’s B.”

B picked up the phone, said, “Umm … lemme call you back in a minute.” He sounded angry.

He called back later and apologized profusely for what M had said. “She’s just stressed out,” he explained.

“I am so sorry if what I said caused a problem,” I said. “When I said, ‘I need B time,’ I meant that I wanted to see you … not that I wanted you to jump my bones!”

“Oh, I know what you meant!” he said. “Don’t apologize; it’s not your fault at all.”

We talked a few minutes more, about where he was living and his recent jail time and my job and how Jeff is doing. He mentioned that we should all hang out but he was vague about when, leaving me to believe this conversation is going to be a problem for a while. To be honest, I am a little nervous about seeing her after all of this – so the thought of “all of us” hanging out kinda freaks me out a little. I ended the conversation with B honestly – I told him I was a little freaked out now, and I wasn’t sure I would feel comfortable calling him, so he would need to call me when he could.

I have a pit in my stomach now when I think of him – and I keep going over my words, “I need B time.” Was it too much? Is it my fault she’s uncomfortable now? If she didn’t know me at all I could maybe understand how that could be misconstrued, but she knows me and I don’t understand why she would have a problem with me. I didn’t know that she was listening to our conversation, but I am not sure I would have changed my words even if I had – I certainly didn’t mean anything malicious by them. I mean, we tell each other we love each other … !

But I do understand. I don’t know if she knows B and I dated (I mean, it was a zillion years ago, but I happen to know it’s also why his ex-wife didn’t like me.) From what I heard tonight, it sounds like he may have cheated on her a couple of months ago. And he’s not exactly Mr. Reliable. I feel that her problem is likely not with me or my words, but with him. Yet, it still stings. I know she doesn’t know me well enough to really trust me, and he certainly is not to be trusted (I found out the hard way myself!) but it hurts she thinks I would be bold enough to call her cell phone and talk so nicely with her if my intentions had been anything but pure.

I say all this to highlight some of the issues opposite-sex friendships can have that same-sex friendships (well, those in straight relationships, anyway) probably wouldn’t encounter. As great as they can be, I guess friendships with exes or even just people of the opposite sex clearly comes with its own set of challenges.

The worst part is – this pit in my stomach is usually something I would call B about to help cheer me up.