platonic friendships

is it possible for men and women to have strictly platonic friendships? or is it as harry told sally that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way?

entertainment certainly suggests such friendships cannot exist –see cheers or friends or any romcom to confirm the notion that all men and women eventually sleep together. people suggest you can have friendships with people of the opposite sex, but they’re merely social and not confidants. eventually one (or both) will develop romantic feelings and the friendship is ruined.

quite frankly, i think it’s a load of archaic bull.

i’m a little late to the coed party–i went to a women’s college and spent most of my early life riding horses, which is quite the estrogen-heavy activity. in college, we had a brother school we partied with frequently. friendship was always just a pretext for the inevitable boning (or attempt). many of us had male friends, but none were close friendships.

enter law school. i have a great, albeit small, group of close friends here who are the exception to the law-students-suck rule. one of my closest friends is a boy i call tomtom. between undergrad and law school he was a professional sailor–he’s snarky, old school preppy, and we have a very similar sense of humor. we sit right by each other in the library (we’ve dubbed it the office) and frequently go out in newport. he’s introduced me to a lot of his sailor friends (many are gorgeous, many are fun, while many others are, well, questionable). he’s not just a social friend–he knows a lot of my secrets and about my relationships, we confide in each other as i do with the handful of others i consider close friends.

because we spend so much time together at school, people assume we’re together. i don’t really care about the gossip, but it makes it super awkward when people actually ask, particularly since he got married last year. it’s become routine for people who don’t know us very well to ask “are you and tomtom together?” “uh, no. we’re just friends.” “really? huh.” WHY IS THIS SO SURPRISING? his wife, C, is absolutely lovely and we’re good friends. if she felt uncomfortable about the friendship between tomtom and i, i’d back off immediately.

but here’s the thing: there is no reason for any discomfort. we’re not boning, we’re not going to bone, we’re just friends. why can’t people accept that men and women can be just friends? why does it make it impossible for us to be just friends because he has man parts and i have lady parts? it seems to be a remnant of some past time where the only real interactions between men and women were based on romantic relationships–trying to find or strengthen one. interactions, by design, fostered romance when women were mothers and men worked. but this isn’t necessarily the story today. men and women are equal(ish)–we work together, interact more, and have more opportunity to share interests. why can’t we just be friends without a romantic subtext?

i’m really interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. do you guys think that boys and girls can be just friends? or am i totally wrong?

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19 Comments

Filed under law school, life

19 responses to “platonic friendships

  1. Sarah Jones

    I think they can. I mean, if Bella Swan and Jacob Black can be friends, why can’t anyone else?

  2. Well. I want to believe. But I’ve never personally been in one of these relationships that works. And I’ve had/seen a lot of them go south, especially once one person is in a serious relationship. I dunno. I want to believe so, so badly. I’d love to experience it. I’m just not there I guess.

    Maybe it’s a women’s college thing 😛

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  4. Amanda

    I think it’s possible, but it’s rare. Just because it seems like when you’re really emotionally close to someone, if you’re both available it starts to turn into something more. I have no idea why, it just seems to happen. I don’t have a lot of super close guy friends because most of the guys I know are in relationships so we keep it pretty casual. Still, it’s kind of that brother/sister thing, you know?

  5. Absolutely. I’ve had a male best friend for 10 years, and while we had some awkwardness, we’ve gotten to the point where we’re totally comfortable with it and can make jokes about people’s assumptions about us — though I’ve had other friendships fall apart because one or the other of us couldn’t handle the pressure of it for whatever reason. I think it’s less about the possibility of sexual attraction between two people and more the societal assumptions and… weirdness placed on those kinds of relationships that’s what can make them problematic. Unfortunately, like you said, we have these remnants of a time when non-romantic &/or sexual relationships didn’t really exist between men and women, and I think it’ll take some time for society to overcome that. But so long as both people in the relationship aren’t weird about it and can have a sense of humor, then they can work and be awesome.

  6. jonesie: of course you would reference twilight.

    jamie: i would think that most go south, i’m just trying to fight the battle, one friendship at a time. 😉

    amanda: that’s kind of how i see it. he’s never been available since we met, which probably helps the friendship a bit.

    nelle: THANK YOU! it’s only weird because of other people projecting their assumptions on us. your 10 year friendship gives me hope. 🙂

  7. hubby and i were “just friends” in law school… of course, the entire school (all professors included) saw that we were totally crazy about each other before we did…

    being just friends with a guy is hard. and pretty rare. it’s possible. but the sex thing does typically get in the way.

  8. I’ve never gotten the guy friendship thing down pat. I’m actually pretty darn comfortable around guys, more than girls at times, but it seems like the attraction thing for one person always settles in, and then it’s hard to make the friendship work. That said – one of my closest friends from University is male. We had the awkward time where one of us was interested, and now that thats been done for a while, we can finally settle into a good friendship. I hope it lasts…cause he is pretty awesome.

    I say guy friendships CAN work, just that most don’t.

  9. I’ve never had a problem being friends with boys. Some of my very best friends for almost 15 years are male, and there hasn’t been any weirdness at all. Not to say that EVERY friend I ever had who was a boy didn’t end up with some weirdness of one liking the other, but a LOT of them have never been anything other than platonic. The vast majority. So it’s totally possible, no worries.

  10. BEHRLIE

    Yes. Definitely. While V doesn’t count (does he? I mean, he’s gay, so that somewhat takes away sexual attraction, but people think we’re dating…ALL THE TIME), I definitely would rather be friends with the men in my class than some of the females. And it works well, I just feel that you have to ignore what others think. Point in case my friend D, who I love dearly, but he’s just a friend. However, I was told MULTIPLE times these past two weeks that we’re such a cute couple. But he’s fun and a great friend, so it works.

  11. jaime: that’s sweet! doesn’t help my argument, but really sweet. ❤

    rebecca: that’s fair. i hope you two have a great friendship.

    amie: yes! thank you!

    behrlie: i thought about you and V when i wrote this, but he doesn’t count b/c he also likes men. girls are weird, boys are fun. the end.

  12. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I wholeheartedly agree with WHMS (which is, perhaps or perhaps not coincidentally, one of my top 5 favorite movies…) that men and women cannot truly be friends without sex getting in the way eventually (um, Bella totally kisses Jacob in the movie when she’s already promised to Edward) (my husband totally agrees that most men have thought about having sex with just about every woman they know who is not related). While this friends-of-the-opposite-sex thing is pretty much a non-issue in our home because frankly we don’t have friends of the opposite sex (sure, our group is a mixed group, but neither of us is good enough friends with anyone of the OS that we’d hang out with them individually). But here’s where I really probably do sound old-fashioned, and maybe even the jealous type, but my husband and I both agree that as a married couple, there are certain situations we should purposefully avoid so that we are never tempted to go too far, and being too friendly with someone of the OS and/or spending time alone with someone of the OS is inappropriate (even to study, even to grab a drink, etc., etc., etc.). Even if there is nothing there in the beginning, it would be heartbreaking for one of us to get too close to someone else, and perhaps be in a situation where we might be tempted to go farther. I guess I am saying I think the risk is greater than whatever the friendship would be worth. And I would be lying if I said that the fact that my husband’s law school also warned married students of its students’ high divorce rate, due in large part to infidelity with one’s section members (seriously), did not factor into our ever-evolving relationship rules. So anyway. Kudos to your friend’s wife for being a better woman than me!

  13. charlie

    No way, at least one person always wants to have sex and at some point will act on it. You two will get drunk and do something you regret at some point. It’s human nature.

  14. Men and women can’t be friends. I’ve tested the theory. It did not work out.

  15. My best friend in the whole world is a guy, and I see absolutely nothing wrong with it. To me, a friend is a friend — I don’t treat my male friends differently than my female friends, just like my friendship isn’t dependent on ethnicity. My husband trusts me 110% around him; he has come to visit for the weekend on weekends my husband has been away, and there have been no problems whatsoever. Of course, my husband is my first priority and I always share news with him first, but to be honest, my husband loves that I have Mark around to discuss things in which my husband is not interested (e.g., lab issues). I know quite a lot of individuals who essentially give up their friends of the opposite gender upon getting married, and I just can’t fathom this…. I knew Mark before I ever met my husband, so I would never, ever be able to throw away my best friend in the whole world just for some guy I was dating!

    I do think an important part when married is that the spouses are friendly with the other half of the best friend pair. My husband gets along well with my best friend, asked him to be in our wedding, hangs out with him without me, etc., and if my husband were to ever form a close friendship with a female, I’d just expect the same — someone that I consider to be a close friend, as well.

  16. brittany: that’s really interesting. our school never told us that, but i can see why they might want to. i think one reason that tomtom’s wife is so cool with it is because she and i are good friends, also. plus, i’m not exactly a hottie, so there’s less worry there. 😉

    charlie: i don’t think human nature means that everyone everywhere will do a specific thing. do you?

    FT: damn it!

    julie: i know that it really helps tomtom that we can talk law school and when he goes home, he doesn’t have to. and it really helps that his wife and i are close.

  17. LMC

    I didn’t grow up with brother(s). Because of that, I feel I am at a disadvantage when it comes to dating and knowing (*understanding*) men. That may not be the case realistically, but that’s the way I see it.

    I have a few guy friends. None of them have ever been my best friends, but we have been friends for a long time. I depend on them – rather, I depend on my friendship with them – to understand *or try to understand* how men think & how their minds work. But I really ought to just believe that I’m never going to completely understand men, even though they are the simpler sex. I appreciate the few guy friends I have, because they have always been honest to me.

    One of them, Matt, befriended me in 2002. In the beginning, he had a thing for me, but I wasn’t interested in him. Later, I had a thing for him, but he went off to college in MS & I to VA. The feelings subsided, and we remain friends. This November he will marry his gf of 5 years. I’m invited to the wedding, & I would go if I had $ for airfare. I admire Matt for the wonderful person he is.

    In most of my experiences with guy friends (there haven’t been many), I am interested in him at some time or he is interested in me. But weeks/ months later, the feelings pass (or there might still be attraction, but not enough to act on). If he is a decent person, I am usually interested in maintaining a friendship with him. Long-distance friendships take effort (as you know). lol If he cares at all about me, he stays in contact with me.

    By the way, this is a great blog topic. I love reading other ppl’s input. In short, I depend on men to keep me balanced. And I need some men in my life, especially when I’m not dating one. They are more matter-of-fact than women. They see & say things as they really are. But some of them have big egos, and that can also get in the way of a friendship.

  18. LMC: thank you, that was very insightful. i so value my male friendships because they’re just so straightforward. no pretenses, no drama, just pure friendship. and because i rationalize/compartmentalize better than most women, i find men to be relaxing.

    i have so enjoyed everyone’s commentary. it’s brought out some very interesting thoughts. <3.

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