A Strange New World

I think I've landed on another planet. My space capsule lay wasted and there is no foreseeable way off this desolate place. Upon my arrival, a space alien, disguised as my metrosexual, 33-year-old friend Tom, meets for coffee.

"So," Tom says without any other introduction, "I was on a date the other night and didn't even know it."
"How can that be?" I ask almost incredulously.
"Well, I met this girl at the cafe. We’ve struck up a few conversations over the last couple weeks. I told her that I dance. And, she was interested in checking out this club that I frequent," Tom explained.
"And...?" I asked.
"Well, we met at the club and danced a few hours. I kissed her on the cheek good night and made sure she got a cab ride home. The next evening when we met at the café, she mentioned how much she had enjoyed our date. A DATE?! Can you believe it? She thought we were on a D-A-T-E." Tom said laughing.

"Duh!" I thought to myself. During this entire conversation, unbeknownst to the space creature in front of me, I am mentally placing myself in the role of said women. Had it been me regularly meeting a handsome guy at the cafe, sharing numerous conversations that ultimately led to an evening of dancing, I, too, would have concluded that I had been on a date. What's so unreasonable about this? Is there something wrong with being on a D-A-T-E?

Later that week, I talked with another extraterrestrial being. a.k.a., "Steve", over a game of cards. We struck up a conversation about his numerous female, "physical friends". I needed him to clarify the definition of this term.

"Physical friends? What do you mean?" I asked.
"You know,” Steve says, "we're just friends, but we're also physical."
"In other words, you sleep with them?" I asked.
"Yeah. It usually only lasts a few months and I always make sure they know that it's just about sex," he added.

Still wrestling with this concept, I probed further.
"You mean to tell me that you spend quality time together as friends, regularly exchange bodily fluids for months on end, but you’re not dating? And women are ok with these relationships?" I could hardly believe my ears.

"Oh, they are NOT relationships. It's just sex. And yes, most women are fine with it. Honestly, I've had maybe three women who've wanted more or been hurt in the end. But, generally speaking, I think it improves the friendship. Besides, I only have one physical friend at a time," Steve offered in way of an explanation, as if this would make it more understandable to me.

After having my conversation with Steve, I discovered that this concept wasn't so foreign. In all forms of media, I began to see the concept of "physical friends" described in all sorts of tasty euphemisms—friends with benefits, hooking up, hanging out, and my personal favorite, fuck buddies. It appeared to me that every one on planet was doing this. My friend, Michelle, a 22-year-old single mother, had been in a 13-month, exclusive "friendship" with Mike, but she was not his girlfriend. Another acquaintance, Jared had no fewer than three physical friendships, all very quietly going on during the same period of time. Yet, he never "dated" any of these women. Physical friendships were perfectly normal and acceptable behavior in this world in which I found myself.

Don't get me wrong. I am not casting judgment. How two consenting adults choose to carry on non-relationship is their business. I am just wondering what planet I've been living on all these years? Or, is it that the world has changed so much since the dark ages, also known as 'the Big Eighties', when I was first single and a young whippersnapper? Back then, a guy and gal who regularly spent quality time alone together were generally known to be "going together". One-night stands and casual sex certainly existed and were tolerated for what they were. But a string of one-night stands with the same person did a relationship make. There were friends. There were lovers. There were friends who became lovers. There were the people who just indiscriminately slept around. It was all very clear and simple back then. Or, perhaps time has colored my memories in shades of roses. I just don't know anymore.

These days, I long for just one person to courageously stand up and say, 'Yes! Even though it's scary and uncertain, despite the fact that chances are slim to none that this will work out, I not only like, but am also I officially and publicly dating said person for better or worse till irreconcilable difference get the better of us or until someone better comes along.' Well, maybe not those exact words, but you get the point.

Until that day comes, I linger in this strange new world and wonder: What has happened to real intimacy? Does it exist or has it been replaced by a fuck buddy phenomenon? Is it really ok to satisfy our craving for physical closeness without a real connection or emotional honesty? I don’t know.

Would someone send a distress signal or search party in my behalf? I'm ready to leave this crazy planet. Houston? Are you out there? Is anybody out there?

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