Let’s say you’re not searching for your Mr. Darcy. Maybe you’ve already found him. Maybe you’re taking a break from looking. (If that’s the case, believe me, I get it.) But is it possible for men and women to just be friends? A complex question many have asked, and many will continue to ask. It usually boils down to attraction. While the laws of attraction are by no means set in stone, each person has them.
Over time, we gather a collection of acquaintances, friends, and colleagues. By mere default of toleration, each of these people sustain attractive qualities, even if said people aren’t necessarily physically attractive to our specific tastes. In Clueless, Cher didn’t immediately fall for Josh. His flare for flannel certainly didn’t capture her heart (though Paul Rudd is kind of a Baldwin); it was his personality. More often than not, it’s the unique things (sense of humor, wit, ability to juggle, etc.) that make a person attractive, rather than just their physical features–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the phase “but his personality makes him cute,” when describing a crush who was particularly un-photogenic to a friend.
In these sorts of situations, Facebook really can be the devil. You’re trying with all your might to make a case for your new crush so that your friends approve (or maybe feel jealous), and all his tagged photos make him look like a complete and total spaz.
Nevertheless, these acquaintances are the people we choose to spend our time with. It’s only natural that a nagging question claws at one person or the other’s brain: Is there something more here than friendship?
It’s so easy to build up a relationship with someone in your head. Take it from someone who spent years fabricating relationships out of a few text messages and a hug here and there. Just because a guy pays attention to you on occasion doesn’t mean that he’s actually into you. Maybe he’s bored or in need of validation (guys get insecure too). In some cases, maybe his girlfriend is out of town and he’s looking for something to…do.
Try growing up with an older brother who had the most adorable best friend. I’ve known the kid since Kindergarten, and I swear he’s gotten more attractive by the year, the epitome of what tall, dark, and handsome should look like. (And he knows it, too.) I might see him twice a year, but you better believe I think about him at least once a day.
Austen too understood the concept of a one-sided infatuation; take Caroline Bingley and Mr. Darcy, for example. (She had an obsession with her brother’s best friend, too). Instead of accepting that Mr. Darcy preferred Elizabeth and her “fine eyes,” Miss Bingley poked and prodded him, jeering him into notice with pointless comments like “you write uncommonly fast.” I’m sorry Caroline, but no one cares that you were quite in raptures with his little sister’s design for a table.
The trouble is, and I’ll borrow a quote from Austen (because, who else?), “we are all fools in love.” It’s so easy to be lead astray by the simplest of smiles. Really any form of true decency from a man these days can be misconstrued. Now I can’t speak for the complex inner workings of the male brain, but a few common questions immediately come to my overanalyzing female brain:
He just touched my hand; did he mean to touch my hand? He paid for my coffee. Wait. Was this a date? Is it too much to send him two smiley faces in a row? Does that change anything? Or does it change everything?
Defining our relationships is hard. It’s even harder when you can’t really talk about it. We live in a society that struggles with verbal face-to-face communication. Difficult conversations are held via text messages, rather than in person. Dating is reduced to swiping right. You can now order your Starbucks on the app and never even have to deal with the line–the latter is more of a positive than a negative against humanity, but it remains a way to escape dealing with physical people. People who aren’t as perfect as Instagram would have you believe. People who misspell your name on your coffee cup. People who, unfortunately, may not be that into you. We need to stop avoiding other flawed beings, because if you look at yourself in the mirror, you’re not so perfect yourself.
The whole conversation boils down to the simple fact that there are only a few things in our lives that we have absolute control over. In regard to relationships and love, we can only express how we feel, and desire with all our hearts that our feelings are reciprocated. I can only hope that when the time comes to express those feelings, your words are as eloquent as Austen’s.
I don’t personally believe that men and women can be just friends. This is because I’ve never really been able to have a guy friend who hasn’t confused kindness and comradery with signals. I spend my time sorting, looking for my very own Mr. Darcy, and sometimes I’m not met with Wickhams; but rather Mr. Collinses–a perfectly amiable sort of fellow, but as Elizabeth makes very clear, a little ridiculous in his effusions of love.
While I can appreciate the sentiment and am grateful for the compliment, I’m unable to accept a Mr. Collins in place of my Mr. Darcy. A girl should not be forced to settle for anything less than her perfect man–and this girl wants a British, tea-drinking, fictional character from a book written in 1813.
As I go forward in my search for Mr. Darcy, I now not only have to avoid the Wickhams of the world, but also the willful desires of the ever undesirable Mr. Collinses of the world.