“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part gets in the way.”
“That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do.”
“You only think you do.”
“You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?”
“No, what I’m saying is they all want to have sex with you.”
“They do not.”
“They do not.”
“How do you know?”
“Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.”
“So you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?”
“No, you pretty much want to nail ’em too.” —When Harry Met Sally
The past few days this idea has been everywhere. I turned on the Today Show this morning and heard all the reasons why men and women cannot really be friends. It was an interesting discussion because it assumed that at least one of the two involved was in a relationship already. The “experts” talked a lot about trust and crossing boundaries and sharing things with a “friend” that you would not share with your significant other. Perhaps because of the audience demographic, the segment ignored the dynamic of two single friends of the opposite sex. Then tonight, in a very different realm of television, Family Guy talked about Brian’s attraction to Lois, and his unrequited feelings led him into therapy. And incontinence.
It’s such a fascinating relationship and everyone has an opinion on the topic. I think that most opinions depend heavily on whether or not a person has fallen hard for a friend or not. However, the fact that a guy or girl hasn’t had feelings for a friend does not mean that they have not been the object of secret affections. It’s really interesting to look at. I’m sure that there is plenty of sociological or psychological studies that have examined these interactions and feelings. It would be interesting to know just how many co-ed friendships cross the platonic line. I would think a study on this would be near impossible, however, because how often do we risk the friendship and admit the feelings?
I wonder when all of this starts. And when it all ends. I know that for a few of my childhood years I felt more comfortable with and enjoyed the company of boys more than girls. I remember the first friend that I realized I wanted more than friendship from was probably around seventh grade. I’ve crossed that dangerous line time and again since that formative year. It really is a point of no return for most friendships. I have liked guys that I then pursue a friendship with, and had friends that I had feelings for, but I never feel quite the same once the feelings subside. Does it kick in at different times for everyone? I can’t imagine that there is anyone that hasn’t felt the pain of knowing that “friends” just isn’t quite enough.
There is something unique to the male-female dynamic that is different from any other relationship. Whether there is romance at stake or not, my friendships with guys are nothing like my friendships with girls. I love the book Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. The book has so much to offer and opens up so many fascinating thoughts and ideas about why we are the way we are. One of the things that Miller looks at in-depth is love, with attention to romantic love. He writes beautifully about how man was not meant to be alone. God saw that he needed someone around, he need help and companionship. And then he waited. He named animals and that wasn’t good enough. Nothing would do but a woman, made of the same stuff as man, a piece of himself. She was the same, but separate and different. She was what man needed. I’m sure that I should see this as proof for heterosexuality, or providence to keep humanity going. And I guess it could be those things. I think, however, that God knew that guys need girls. There is just an innate need, a hole that is filled, by companionship with someone of the opposite sex. We are not meant to be alone. However, as a girl, I was also meant to complete and complement a guy. Some might think that it’s insulting or demeaning that Eve was made from a piece of Adam, not on her own, to be his companion, to meet his need. I think that is one of the most beautiful parts. Yes, she was made for his solace and pleasure, but she was made because nothing else would do. Women were created to be loved and to love. Perhaps it’s maternal instincts or antiquated gender roles, but I think that is such an awesome honor. God’s plan for me, for my gender, is love and friendship.
“Why do I fall in love with every woman I see who shows me the least bit of attention?” —Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I assume a big part of the problem is that we all like attention. We want to feel loved, feel validated, feel special. When we find someone who makes us feel alive and adored, we don’t let them go. Friends do this, build us up into our best selves. This attention creeps into the parts of our minds that spend too much time making things complicated. We like feeling special. The way we feel about ourselves becomes connected with the way we feel about the friend. Then it all gets messy and lovey.
All of this culminates in the ultimate question: if men and women can never really just be friends, do you sacrifice the love for friendship, or risk the friendship for love? I always opt for the former, but I also tend to ask my self the torturous “what if…” a lot. There really is a choice to be made. You can’t be “just friends” and “more than friends” at the same time. Which do you choose? How do you choose? How much do you risk and how much can you stand to lose?
“How long can I go on like this, wishing to kiss you/ Before I rightly explode?/And this double life I lead isn’t healthy for me, in fact it makes me nervous/ If I get caught I could be risking it all/ Well, baby there’s a lot that I miss in case I’m wrong/ And all I really want to do is love you/ A kind much closer than friends use/ But I still can’t say it after all we’ve been through…” –Jason Mraz, “If It Kills Me”