"Can Opposite Sex Friendships Keep Sex Out of the Equation?" by Madam Q
It is an ongoing historical debate. Can women and men be platonic friends without the complications of sex? According to Billy Crystal’s Harry, in When Harry Met Sally, the answer is emphatically, NO. Sex always gets in the way. He comes close to adding an addendum to his original answer, explaining maybe it could happen if both are involved with someone, but then quickly recants by rationalizing that the significant other might question it all and possibly become hurt. So what’s my take on it all? My answer is yes, in very specific instances, but mostly no even though I’ve had the opportunity to experience a handful of adult platonic male friendships.
In my mid 30s, I was a single woman who hung out with a bunch of single guys. At the time, I preferred their friendship over female friendships. I found women were too competitive, too manipulative, too interested in shopping…the guys were transparent, simple, and fun. The charter guys were coworkers but the pack grew by way of friends of friends and so on. Only one had an on again/off again girlfriend, but she was a non-issue. The guys and I quickly became running buddies. My apartment was the cheapest hangout and was open 24 hours. During this period in my life, we went clubbing, went to strip clubs, played cards until 4am, listened to Enigma and Big Head Todd and the Monsters, drank, watched sports, smoked herb, laughed, busted each other’s balls, debated, argued, made up, and had each other’s back. It was a fun time. Some mornings, I’d wake up to find my living room floor resembling Jonestown without the vats of Kool-Aid…bodies everywhere all still fully clothed. I won’t lie. There was one or two that I would have loved to fuck, but did not because the sex wasn’t worth jeopardizing the friendship. There was one or two that I was physically attracted to, but it wasn’t mutual, so I kept my mouth shut. And there was one or two that I did sleep with and regretted it before the sweat dried. It was a wild, crazy, fun time in my life. We grew up, got married, and moved on. I still communicate with two of those guys (never had sex with either), but the friendship is just not the same. I miss those days.
The other platonic friendship I had was with a gay man, HLT. We graduated from high school together. I was him, but with tits; he was me, but with a dick. We talked religion, men, philosophy, sex, food, men, sports, family, and men. We’d light patchouli incense, get loaded, make a food run to find a marked down cake that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTTY (because Scotty’s mom forgot to pick up Scotty’s cake), devour the entire cake, and then talk men again. On two different occasions, HLT suggested we should fuck. Both times, I laughed in his face and told him to put the bong down because he’d had enough. I just wasn’t attracted to him that way, even though he was an attractive man. My husband at the time was insanely jealous of my relationship with HLT even knowing that HLT was gay. The marriage lasted 8 years, the friendship with HLT much longer. One day, HLT and I had a falling out that seemed too deep to repair, so we parted ways. I mourned that friendship more than I mourned the broken marriage.
I am always keenly aware of my level of communication with single men or married men. I have a tendency to over analyze it to spare me a lot of bullshit or headache or heartache down the road. In these scenarios, trouble could be on the horizon:
I’m involved/married, he’s single or I’m single, he’s involved/married: If there is constant communication, even if it’s non-sexual type stuff, it still eventually leads to problems. The significant other might see or hear something that plants a little seed of doubt which soon leads to the growth of a massive oak of insecurities and hurt feelings. I can think of a hundred scenarios when this might happen. Excessive texting to each other is a big no-no. Hiding how much you communicate with each other is another. Freud says there’s a little truth and a whole lot of suppression to all jokes. So, in the comfort of an innocent, fun friendship, one of the two might cross the line and say something flirty turning it into an ongoing whirlwind of innuendo. Suddenly, jealously rears its ugly head and lurks around the corner. Even in the most solid of relationships, the single party involved can easily become an unwelcome third wheel.
We’re both single: This scenario is not as convoluted, but still isn’t as simple as it should be. In lonely times, people get weak. Friends with benefits who often engage in booty calls to each other can work with it to a certain point. I personally run fast from “FWB” situations or squash the notion early on. If there’s already a friendship and there’s enough physical attraction to bump uglies on a lonely night, then where’s the missing link? Seems to me the unspoken message is, “you’re good enough for this, but not that.” Who’s using who? Someone’s going to get their feelings hurt when you really look at the truth of the situation. When one of the two becomes romantically involved with someone new, it can easily get nasty. I believe that one person having more emotional feelings and physical attraction for the other is usually the case…and that’s a doomed situation no matter which side of the fence you’re on. If two single people have a great friendship without sex, because they aren’t physically attracted to one another and it’s a truthful representation of the relationship….it might work, but it’s rare.
We’re both involved: Run, Forest, run. Talk about a shit storm in the making!
Man’s best friend, that furry, four-legged creature might just be the only true relationship you can have with the opposite sex. Having a bitch boxer or rat terrier as a confidant won’t cause any headaches between you and the love in your life. You can leave the house with your buddy and not be questioned, unload all life’s problems and not be judged, and give hugs that you don’t have to explain. Wait a second…let me take that back. Now that I think about it, husband #1 used to bitch and moan because I gave more time and affection to our dog. But, I can explain. Max, the dog, had more sense.
The differences in men and woman are never more evident than in this age old discussion about male/female friendships. It’s complicated and situational. I don’t believe there are textbook rules on platonic friendships with the opposite sex and my personal experiences certainly don’t warrant anything worthy of being written in stone. If you are unsure about it all, ask your significant other what the rules are and just adopt those. It will save you a whole lot of ass chewing and grief. However, if the answer is “sure, it’s okay”, beware and tread lightly. It’s most likely not the whole truth.