“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” One of the greatest movies of all time, if I do say so. But, is it true? Is there such a thing as a truly platonic opposite-sex relationship?
Some of the best relationships start out of friendship. Think about it; you’ve already gotten to know each other, there is a level of trust and mutual respect that has already been built up. At the end of the day, aren’t our closest friendships basically a relationship without the sex? It only makes sense that sex might creep into the picture every now and then. But does this mean that we aren’t capable of having friendships without the sex?
I have always been more comfortable around the opposite sex than my own. I’m sure I could spend hours in therapy trying to figure out why but in the end, I don’t think it really matters. Growing up, I was never really into hair or makeup or worrying about whether or not I broke a nail. If you know me now, that might surprise you, but it’s true. I grew up playing street hockey with the guys on my block and football. As I got older, those friendships started to change and I couldn’t understand why. I suppose the truth is that, as hormones start racing through your body, tackling the opposite sex to the ground starts to have a different meaning that just winning the game. Things became complicated.
To this day, I look at my friendships with the opposite sex and I’m hard pressed to find one that hasn’t been complicated at one point. We’ve either slept together at least once or one of us expressed deeper feelings towards the other at some point in time. Truthfully, some of my closest friendships have happened out of failed relationships or what was meant to be a one-night-stand. Other than the gays, I don’t think there is a single male friend in my life that has been 100% platonic for the history of our friendship. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t successfully be friends. Maybe back in 1989, the rules were a little bit different for people like Harry and Sally. But here, in 2011, the rules have all been blurred and things don’t need to be quite so black and white.
The complicated part is when we do start to develop these feelings for a friend and it’s about more than just a sexual attraction. When we start to think that we want some kind of committed, romantic relationship with this person, it’s hard to decide what to do. Do we speak up and tell them how we feel and, if so, are we risking damaging the friendship? We are all fragile inside and putting those kind of feelings out there is difficult for all of us. There is always the possibility that the other person isn’t going to feel the same and, even if they do, what happens then if the relationship doesn’t work out? Is it worth risking the friendship to find out?
For those of us in our single and fabulous thirties-plus, our friends are our families. Without a significant other to come home to and odd crayon drawings of nothing to proudly hang on the fridge, we have learned to truly cultivate our closest friendships, to create our own modern-day family of the people we can count on when we’re down, to take our side even when we’re wrong and to always be honest about whether or not we look fat in that outfit. The possibility of losing one of these people because someone had the nerve to want more than friendship is devastating. One of my closest friends in the world is barely speaking to me right now because of this and it breaks my heart. The thing is, we all need to learn that just because someone doesn’t love us the way we want them to, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love us with everything they have. I might not be ready to take the next step in our relationship with this friend but, when all is said and done, I would go to the ends of the Earth for him because I love him so much sometimes I think my heart might burst.
Whether your are on the receiving end or the giving end of these feelings, I think it’s important that we all remember where these feelings came from in the first place and that our friendships are far too important to toss away like that pair of faded black jeans we finally dug out of the back of our closet and won’t admit to anyone. Maybe it’s just bad timing or maybe it wasn’t meant to be and the love of our lives is still out there somewhere. Either way, we need to put our big girl (or boy) pants on, accept it for what it is, and go back to sharing food off each other’s plates when the other one isn’t looking.
As for the “sex part”? Who says that’s always a bad thing?
“They say boys are messy But you know girls just make a mess So we don’t care if we get dirty We’re not here for cleanliness We’re just making friends” ~ Messy, Men, Women and Children