When Yoshi Met Mario: The Case for Cross-Gender Hetero Friendships, Sans Benefits

fistbumpillo blue 300dpi When Yoshi Met Mario: The Case for Cross Gender Hetero Friendships, Sans Benefits

Illo: Lori Nelson.

“Meg Ryan really fucked up a lot of people’s relationships,” I was saying to my best friend, Seth. “I mean, back when she still had her human face.”

“Billy Crystal has just as much blame,” Seth replied. He reached for a canapé. We were at a cocktail party, and we’d parked ourselves by the kitchen.

“Crystal’s a douche canoe,” I said.

“His career should have begun and ended with My Giant,” Seth said.

A brunette we both vaguely knew sauntered over to compliment Seth on his tie.

“Me!” I said. “I found that tie!”

I did. I’m actually a little intimidated by the brunette, so I was eager to demonstrate my prowess as a picker-outer of men’s neckwear. The three of us talked about male apparel and about a trip to Los Angeles Seth and I were planning. Then I casually mentioned that Seth and I needed to submit our deposit for the summer house.

“So,” the brunette asked while glancing subtly at my hand, “are you two, like, married?”

“No,” I replied quickly. “Seth is my best friend.” I didn’t want to cock-block. Best friends never cock-block.

The brunette’s eyes narrowed. Seth is not the nebbishy sort of guy one might refer to as a “best friend” out of pity. He’s not Harry from When Harry Met Sally, and he’s certainly not Duckie from Pretty in Pink. “We have T-shirts,” Seth interjected. “They have Mario and Yoshi from Super Mario Bros. on them. They say, ‘Besties.’”

“I’m Yoshi,” I elaborated, “because Yoshi is a dinosaur who can fly. And breathe fire.”

“Yeah, but Mario owns Yoshi,” Seth said. Ouch.

“Oh, my God,” said the brunette. “You guys are just like When Harry Met Sally.

“Noooo!” we cried in unison. In the Rob Reiner romcom—basically in every romcom—the male-female friendship is depicted as extended foreplay, an excruciating detour on the way to true love. Our friendship is real. No, really!

I can no more imagine sleeping with Seth than I can imagine an Italian plumber screwing a dinosaur. Nothing wrong with being a plumber. Nothing wrong with being a dinosaur. It’s just that dinosaurs have to be with other dinosaurs.

Which, thank God, Seth gets. “If we were going to hook up,” he pointed out, “it would have happened the first three or four times we shared a hotel room.” Instead, we tend to fall asleep side by side, the light of our iPhones glowing in our hands.

Some boyfriends have been skeptical. I once dated someone, a hedge fund guy, perhaps a lover of 80’s movies, who, after finding out that Seth actually wasn’t gay, wanted to know when my friendship with him would “taper off.” I can only imagine he was taking a cue from the AskMen article that claimed, “If her best friend is a guy—her very best friend—you’ll probably need to phase him out before she will ever be totally committed to you.”

“When are you planning on cutting all ties with your family?” I asked the guy, because Seth was a little like that for me.

“Never?” he replied.

“Wrong,” I said. “You cut ties if they get bit by zombies. That’s the lesson of every horror movie, right there.” Horror movies being a far better approximation of reality than romcoms.

With that, I blew him away with a sawed-off shotgun, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Thank goodness most of my boyfriends—and Seth’s girlfriends—have been less threatened. The smart ones seem to understand the power that comes from befriending the best friend. Seth once dated a girl who would shower me with baked goods. Years later, I still occasionally suggest he give her a call and rekindle the romance. Seth likes blondes, I like blondies.

It’s other women—dating prospects, like the brunette at the party—who seem most annoyed by the friendship, seeming to feel I’ve misappropriated my friend because I’m not trying to get him into bed.

But I maintain that men are good for more than that. One friend, a female (I have some of those, too), speculated that what I get out of male friendships that women don’t provide is “positive feedback, either in terms of flattery, flirtation or compliments.”

But even if all of that is part of the appeal, is that so wrong? Getting a little male attention via a platonic friendship usually beats hooking up with a random guy at Joshua Tree.

To some women, it may also seem like I’ve crossed over some gender divide—ditched the Barbies to roll around in the mud. That instead of hanging out at puce-walled bars drinking bubble-gum martinis, I prefer to spend my time with men slamming down scotch while plotting corporate takeovers.

Not quite. But I would rather dodge mushrooms with Mario than hang around in a castle like Princess Toadstool. The guys out there know what I’m talking about.