Monday, October 15, 2012

Navigating “The Friend Zone”

I read a number of blogs and on occasion they hit me with the same reason I write my blogs: that thought that someone else out there thinks EXACTLY the way I do so therefore I can’t be that incredibly screwed up.

Case in point: The Friend Zone – a blog post written by 21-year old college student Jamie Cattanach that recently appeared on the Well Written Woman website. You can read her post HERE and come back or just read on and you’ll get the gist of it. 

Still with me? OK. Here goes. Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Guy meets girl (or girl meets guy). For whatever reason – maybe it’s a common interest, mutual friend, parallel careers – they hit it off, but not necessarily in a romantic way. They joke around, share stories, maybe even go to movies or buy each other a few beers. To an outsider, they may look like a couple, but to them, they are of the same gender – allegedly.

So how does this happen, this platonic perpetuation between two people of the opposite sex? What separates a budding relationship from “you’d make a great friend even though you happen to not be a girl/guy like me”? And is it truly possible to have one of these where the man and the woman are both on the same page? 

According to Billy Crystal, it’s not possible. This scene from When Harry Met Sally explains it better than I could:

To summarize, “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way. No man can be friends with a woman he finds attractive. Even if the man finds the woman unattractive, he still wants to bang her.” (That’s Billy talking, not Meg Ryan. She is looking mortified and slightly thunderstruck at the thought that all of her male friends really want to sleep with her.)

I am of the opinion that it is possible to have friends of the opposite sex with no ulterior motives; however, these friendships are probably pretty unique. Most of my friends in high school were male and I liked it that way. Males weren’t gossipy, they liked sports, they had way less drama and I always felt like I was being looked out for. Even when I had a boyfriend, I had male friends (which in some cases didn’t sit well with my boyfriend, which I can understand, since some of his girl “friends” were very attractive and very single and that didn’t sit with ME very well.)  But I figured that my male friends were truly my friends because they knew I had a boyfriend yet still wanted to hang out with me. I can’t imagine they were hanging around waiting for me to end my relationship so they could come in and pick up the pieces – especially since I have ended relationships and never saw any of my male buddies rushing in to fill the void. 

Conversely, I can look at a few of my friends and CLEARLY see that the guy or girl they are friends with is head over heels for them and they just don’t see it, so maybe I’m missing something on my end. On one hand, I’d hate to wreck a friendship; on the other hand, hey, look how Harry and Sally ended up. And don’t they say the best relationships start as friends? 

I know having friends of the opposite sex can get even more taboo if there is a marriage involved. I am friends with one of my best friends’ husbands and I feel lucky to have him as a male friend. She is my primary friend, and I would never tell him something I hadn’t told her, but he does offer another side of things, from business to relationships to just basic male human behavior. Maybe I assume that friendship is “safe” because he is married and his wife is one of my dearest friends. However, I have heard horror stories about married men and “female friends” and married women and “male friends” so I can see the other side. No worries here, though. 

As much as I think that having friends of the opposite sex is an extremely rewarding opportunity that can offer an entirely different perspective on things, I understand that of the male/female friendships out there, probably very few are without one side (or perhaps both) wishing it was “more” (I’m talking two single people here). And that to me seems sad. It goes back to my wish that at times people would stop pussyfooting around each other and just say what they feel and get over it – life’s too short to wonder what could have been if we would have just spoken up. That goes for friendships, relationships or marriages.

So what’s your take on this? Is it possible for men and women to be “just friends”? And do you think there’s usually one side that’s more vested in it than the other? Let me know how you navigate the Friend Zone.

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