January 5, 2011

Friends With Benefits | What Is Normal?

It seems that every blog entry lately is tied to me reading something that sparks an idea inside my mind. Yesterday, for example, I was reading an interesting piece from Psychology Today (hey, there’s not much to read in a hospital other than four-year-old Cosmopolitan magazines and children's books.)

The writer was dishing on words that her patients use that make her cringe. She’s a relationship therapist and was outlining that there are “red-alert” words that would require her to involve other professionals and then there were these “orange-alert” words that caused her some concern. Primarily she was discussing when she hears her female patients use the words “soul mate” … as in “I just found my soul mate on eHarmony.”

I can agree with that, because I am highly skeptical of the whole Internet dating thing. Too many people I know have ended up in brief relationships that came with more baggage than Paris Hilton going to Europe for the summer. Personally I feel that I have found mine; and did it the old fashioned way before Craigslist, AdultFriendFinder, eHarmony and Another Boiling Kettle Of Fish (or whatever the psycho fish one is called). It was no easy task and certainly no mirage of perfection. I think it is our imperfections that help create the path to our real inner selves - our souls.

The positive point to her argument was that relationships take a tremendous amount of hard work; and to have the expectations of perfection can set some people for failure. They suddenly realize that after a few weeks that this soul mate has some bad habits, quirks or irritations that take the shine off the beacon. They forget that relationships are multi-dimensional, not just superficial moments in time.

It was just a fleeting comment in an early part of her column that set me going on this: the phrase “friends with benefits.” And I know she wasn’t talking about acquaintances with a good dental plan. No, she was very directly talking about the dangers of having friends that share an intimate knowledge of you … that carnal knowledge of lust, passion and sex.

Like many others I have chatted with about the “Lifestyle” (as many refer to it as), there is a bigger issue with the perception of what “friends with benefits” truly means. In addition, there is an unhealthy obsession by many people with the others who actually enjoy those benefits. Like I mentioned in an earlier entry, this "lifestyle" remains one of the last great taboos in our culture. But for me, I see the pressure of the preconceived notion of what is “normal” is a bigger candidate for “orange alert.”

In Western society, we are expected, conditioned and raised to believe in a solely monogamous life … now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating anything like Sister Wives for all of us. I have no interest in polygamy and such. But what I am saying is that I feel it is unhealthy to be critical of some people’s free choice to pursue pleasure, desire and intimacy in the way they want as consenting adults. I like to see myself as advocate for curiosity and experimentation among the consenting. That doesn’t mean I’m some deranged sex criminal that needs to be locked away in some room with spongy wallpaper. It just means I believe our standards and expectations for our dreams and realities have changed while social mores have remained stagnant in some areas.

What is “normal” anyway? The white-picket fence, station wagon and 2.5 kids? I hope society has evolved from that 1950s mentality. There was a lot of dysfunction going on behind those tidy screen doors and fried chicken after church Sundays.

On the surface, I bet the majority of you would think I am the dictionary definition of normalcy. Other than an occasional dabbling in a slightly edgy desire for new fashion and killer heels, I would be willing to bet that most would never pick me out of a crowd and say “There, that one, she likes girls and plays with married people … she’s abnormal.” But that’s what makes it all so exciting and worthwhile to keep those “friends with benefits” close by!

Besides, they own the hot tub …

And OK … tomorrow I’ll give you a sexed up entry just to keep your mind going. Feel free to give me some ideas.


Snake said...

Great post Andee . . . Not too painful, right?! :) I feel pressure to match it with an intelligent comment . . . Not sure that's possible at this moment . . . More coffee? Maybe . . . I don't believe in soulmates . . . I love hot tubs . . . I have long since given up on defining "normal" as it applies to most things, including me . . . OK then, more coffee!

H said...

very well stated, the cartoon seems to be right on.

There is no normal, there can't be were all way to different to live by one set of standards.

Great post