Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Can men and women ever REALLY be just friends??

I know, I know. Excuse the clichéd question above. Very 'When Harry Met Sally' (but then this week is the anniversary of Nora Ephron's passing, so allow my indulgence). I, for one, have always answered it as enthusiastically as a cheerleader at the homecoming game, with a resounding 'YES.'

I have some amazing male friends in my life - several of whom I've known since we all still peed our pants (actually one or two of them drunk, still do). They're like brothers - we've gone through the 'you can't play football with us because you are a girl' stage; the 'ok, let's snog each other at house parties while our parents are out as let's face it, we don't know anyone else to snog' stage and the 'how are we friends when you treat your girlfriends so badly' stage and are now in the 'I'd love to open another bottle of Waitrose's pick of the month, but I've gotta call you a cab as the kids get up at 6 am' stage.

My other male friends have come from my days of working in telly - most of whom I met when I was single and a lack of chemistry meant we were only ever mates. One guy was my surrogate boyfriend for about 3 years (he even bought my tampax for me, let me cry on his shoulder at midnight when another boy broke my heart, brought me cookies and treats when I was down).  He was SUCH a great friend, that everyone wanted us to get it together.

I tried. With a mixture of vodka and willpower I closed my eyes and let him kiss me. Nothing. Nada. It was like kissing a deal squirrel. So, he accepted that the hand of friendship was all I was offering and all was fine - until he met a girl who HATED me. Off  he ran, up the aisle and down the divorce court with her and our friendship didn't survive.

I'm not sure I've ever had a friendship with a boy I actually fancied (since Jeremy Hall rejected me at the tender age of 12, for my much prettier friend Wendy)... Those were the pre-dental work days, when I had yet to discover the joys of make-up and hair bleach.

A quick poll of my work mates, revealed that most of the women have at some stage or another, been friends with a guy who claimed to be totally down with that. Just before aforementioned guy then tried to stick his tongue down the their throat. Inevitably the friendship crumbles. Obviously this happens the other way around - I've known many women who have been hopelessly in love with their best mates only to watch teary eyed as said best mate coupled up.

Is the rule as simple as, you can be friends, as long as neither of you wants to fiddle with the other one? (For want of a better expression?) Or, in even the most platonic of platonic friendships, is sexual attraction still the big elephant in the room? Is there an argument that all male/female heterosexual friendships are based on some for of attraction or another? OR is the very existence of only friendship symbolic of a complete lack of attraction?

The mind boggles. Is it easier to make these friendships, when one of you is already in a relationship? Therefore negating the chance of the new budding friendship being anything other than that? Funnily enough I've not known many friends, who post marriage, have started new friendships with someone of the opposite sex. Which frankly, is odd. Are you never supposed to have another male friend again, after wearing your white frock?

The other day I read an article where 2 buddies (both single) decided to date for 30 days. (What is the difference between hanging out and dating? Or is that another discussion entirely?). Anyway, they were 'committed' to the dating. They knew, inevitably, they'd have to have sex... part of this dating ritual.

They are now a couple.

Turns out, they fancied each other all along, which begs the question, why didn't you just shag to begin with and not have to do some hokey experiment to justify it? Maybe that is proof, that in between every great male/female friendship lies someone who has a secret crush and is probably masturbating regularly thinking about their 'best chum.'

I want to believe in Ephron's film, that Sally was in fact right, men and women CAN be friends - and Harry was  horribly wrong, and also, a sex pest.



LauraIrina said...

Somewhere I read that in order for a friendship to stay platonic the man needs to be slightly attracted to the woman while the woman needs to be slightly repulsed by the man, sexually. It was some sort of a big case study from the US. Men needed the attraction to want to even hang out. (Gay men in the study were the exception, they were friends with women they didn't think of as attractive.)
Sounds harsh though..

Katy Regan said...

I definitely think they can be friends (hey, you can even have a baby with your friend and it'll be fine FINE I say) It's like any friend: without sexual attraction in the pot, you need to really like them, to find them interesting, to not have a 1950s spouse who has a problem with it. Saying that nobody can be friends with someone of the opposite sex because they'll always fancy them, isa bit like saying all gay men fancy all men, I reckon anyway. Great blog CM xx

Anonymous said...

Oh hell no! At least not in my experience (and I have over 40 years of it). Even with gay men there is a certain "curiosity" that maintains the relationship. For a male/female platonic relationship to be successful one party must remain eternally hopeful, (hopeful that the relationship will at some point involve a romantic or sexual encounter), and the other party must remain totally oblivious or completely indifferent to the attraction. But when a spouse or significant other enters the picture, they most certainly will not be oblivious or indifferent. Then, only one of two things can happen: either their relationship will end or yours will.

Anonymous said...

I used to have plenty of male friends pre-marriage, a few of which eventually turned into relationships or died when no relationship happened, but most of which ended with either their marriage or mine. Don't quite understand why. I stay in touch with a few, but it's definitely distant and usually our wives/husbands are involved, we would never meet up without our spouses. I also think you're right CM, its hard to make new friends of the opposite sex post marriage, I find guys either make it very clear they want to have sex with you early on (which makes any friendship somewhat fraught), or its true that there needs to be some degree of sexual motive on the guy's part, and if they think you're married so there's no chance, the motive to pursue a friendship isn't there. As an aside, I once had a terrible crush (well hidden) on close male friend I was travelling through the middle east with, we both hooked up with other people in a group we travelled with for a while, and one night I talked in my sleep confessing my feelings for him (we were all sharing a room so the whole group heard) - woke up to everyone looking at me strangely, especially him - awkward! Thankfully he was gentleman enough not to mention it again, but if we shared a hotel room after that he always made sure it had 2 single beds!

Crummy Mummy said...

Am loving all your comments people... I love the idea the man has to be slightly attracted but the woman repulsed! What if you both have an attraction - can you still be friends anyway - just parking the lust so to speak?

LOVED the tale of talking in your sleep and him finding out - how cringey!!

Isn't it odd we have all these friendships with men, then marry and have only the one? It is true, I wouldn't really meet up with my school mates who are male, without their spouses and yet - why not? We are like siblings...

Who made the rules that marriage ends friendships, or is it simply put that a friendship with the opposite sex, will ALWAYS have a sexual frisson to it???