I was recently at a dear friend’s wedding and one of our dinner conversations at the reception was the question of whether men and women could be “just friends.”
The topic came up because at the cocktail hour, we watched a young lady being continuously trailed by a young man. He got her drinks and fried calamari, helped her with her sweater and pulled her chair out for her. My boyfriend noticed and said, “Wow, that guy is working hard to get a date!” I replied that they were just friends, and had been since childhood.
Next, a couple seated next to us kept whispering and giggling over their entrees. I assumed they were dating. Then someone mentioned that they weren’t an item, they were just friends.
I saw two friendly co-workers at the bar flirting like mad. I saw a very touchy-feely couple who proclaimed to have been friends, and nothing more, for the better part of 10 years.
And then a very lovely young lady got up to toast the newlyweds. It was clear from her speech that she was from the groom’s side. There was much huffing and the eye-rolling from all the bride’s sisters. I asked one sister about it. Her response? “She can’t be trusted. She’s been friends with (the groom) for 15 years and they never dated.”
Hm. “Really … And?” I replied.
“Something’s really wrong here. Nobody that good-looking stays ‘just friends’ with any man!”
I don’t know what her logic was. But I do know this: even if a couple proclaims to be “just friends,” nobody believes it. And many of these “friends” act in ways that true friends do not. Have you ever canoodled with a friend? Me neither.
So, here’s the age-old question: can men and women stay just friends? Is it impossible? Is the flirting between friends somehow different from flirting with two people who are interested in each other?
While it appears to have a yes-no answer I think it’s more complex than that. In the movie When Harry Met Sally, for instance, the answer was a definite “no.” There’s no way, according to “Harry,” that two people of the opposite sex could have feelings limited only to friendship.
But there are countless examples of men and women having platonic friendships. So why does the idea persist that it isn’t possible? Is this stereotyping? Is it a nod to our most base behaviors? Is it just plain ignorance?
For me, it’s very hard to tell. I’ve had friends that are men that I have no romantic feelings for. But I’ve also had male friends that I had crushes on, and vice versa. I’ve seen friendships blossom into romances, but I’ve also seen wonderful friendships destroyed in the effort to become a relationship.
I’ve also seen the murkiest of scenarios: exes who are just friends. Many marry, raise kids together, and then separate and remain just friends, nothing more. However, I have a few exes that usually make it very clear that if they could date me again, they would.
Sometimes long-term friends started out dating, as in the case of a boyfriend I had a few years back. His best friend was a woman he’d casually dated 20 years before. Now, I pride myself on not being a clingy jealous girlfriend, but the truth? Their long-term, post-relationship friendship turned me into a crazy jealous girlfriend. I can’t explain it because I later realized I had nothing to worry about.
So what is going on here? Can we be just friends, or is there always a romantic under current? What experiences have you had or seen that informed your opinion? Please do share!