Can men and women be just friends? Yes! Or so they say. I asked a male friend of mine to elaborate on the theory of “just friend-ship” and while he did admit that when he was younger he tried to befriend the “better looking” ladies at work with his ulterior motives, he now says that he can be just friends with a good looking woman. “Friends come in all shapes, sizes, colors, so why not gender?” My girlfriend agrees. She says that men and women can definitely be friends. She believes that this is possible only if they do not allow society to dictate their relationship by imposing the fact that men and women can’t be friends.” Me personally, on occasion I’ve seen the just friends thing in action, but only when either of the two involved are in a deep committed relationship and therefore deeming each other off limits from the start. While I believe that men and women can be friends, I also understand that there is a magnetism between the opposite sex that responds to silent signals of availability that are subconsciously emitted by either of the two.
I had a male friend who asked to be considered no more than that. Yet he found every opportunity to gaze at me across a quaint corner table in Starbucks sipping his frappachino while I flipped through the latest woman’s magazine annoyed at his denial because I felt he was testing me. He only wanted a friend but it was he who conjured up romantic interludes only to end up discretely sliding his arm around me when another male showed the least bit of interest. Are people who label their relationships “just friends” being Freudian? Isn’t the mere notion of putting a title on your relationship with a friend implying that there is more? Now I’m not blaming the whole “are we friends or just dating” confusion solely on him, but my goal in the midst of that perplexing dilemma was to figure out whether men and women can honestly be just friends and if not, why.
My friend, who wanted to remain such, was neatly etching out his career and in kind so was I. But does having and wanting a career mean a flashing red light and flagrant stop sign to all relationships and their possibilities? Why are relationships always viewed as nothing more than a distraction or an upheaval of well thought out goals? Can’t the two individuals erase the expertly defined boundary of friendship, find more balance and learn to manage both work and love equally? Rub their stomach and pat their heads at the same time, if you will.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt I asked myself, if it was me who wanted a friendship and it were him who was telephoning me after 11p.m. on a work night asking me out to a late movie, would I still think we were just melding in the company of each other as we joked and kicked around our thoughts and dreams? Would I still be on the other end of the telephone convincing him in certain terms why I can’t fit emotions and caring for someone into my life right now or would I give up my stance and fall quickly, noisily and hard? They say that most often love catches you by surprise. Love is tricky and it annihilates all of the rules found in books and leaves friendships exposed for what they really are, some of the most opportune ways to meet someone you can get to know from the ground level without wearing a façade.