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GETTING PERSONAL | TELL

Hands off, pal o' mine!

September 02, 2004|Laura Shin | Special to The Times

Recent events had me thinking that being single ruins friendships.

Now I'm not talking about the drifting off that happens when married pals tuck themselves into their gift registry sheets every night at 10. Nor am I talking about jealousies that happen over that Brad Pitt look-alike who flirted with you and your friend. I'm not even thinking about the people whose whine-about-men-o-meters break before your first beers bottom out.

I'm talking about those male friends who want to jump your bones.

See, I love my guy friends. And, it turns out, some of them love me too -- just a little differently than I love them. You could say they'd like to be more expressive about their affection.

One honest bloke confessed to me that he pretty much only befriends women he's secretly attracted to. Or, that if he spends any amount of time with a girl, he ends up hoping to spend some of that time with her between the sheets.

Long after he told me that, his girlfriend broke up with him, and when he later came to L.A. for a visit, we hugged. That became a stroking of the back. That became a circling of the waist and that, two days later, became a painful discussion full of fretting about our friendship.

Which isn't over. Just really weird.

Then there was the hookup that became a breakup. An acquaintance I worked with in New York and I both moved to L.A. separately and started hanging out. Once every six weeks or so, then once a month, then once every other week, then once a week, then we stopped altogether. Guess what happened.

Sometimes friendships can be salvaged. My womanizing friend who confides in me all his exploits -- and there are many -- once asked me if I would let him play doctor. His outrageousness had always been a source of comic relief in our friendship. And his request was motivated purely by curiosity, not by visions of romance dancing in his head.

Confronted with my hysterical laughter, he changed his appeal: Would I at least give him a peek?

While our friendship came with many benefits, this was not one. Thankfully, comedy was.

Even gay friends aren't immune. Several years ago, one of my gay friends and I started going out together so much that one night he said, "Laura, you're my straight girlfriend." Another time, he told me he became fascinated with women's breasts for about three weeks after seeing me wear a low-cut dress for my birthday party.

I was the cause of a gay man's obsession? Where, oh where, did platonic friendships go?

I conducted an informal poll of my guy pals, only to learn a simple fact to which I was oblivious: All men are secretly attracted to their female friends. "No new insights there," said one girlfriend's brother.

For guys, friendships either heat up into romantic sparks or exist because those sparks were doused. But there are always embers. Some men are just more forward about fanning them into flames.

As I looked at my male friends in this light, I considered telling them they were being cut off. But then I realized that many are exes or former crushes.

In fact, they were all pretty attractive men who, under different circumstances, I might want to get closer to.

Until then, however, I'll keep my expressiveness to myself.

Laura Shin can be reached at weekend@latimes.com.

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Next!

Are we on? Or are we off? Let me check my messages.

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