“When will we get

the time to be

just friends, just friends?”

— Amy Winehouse

A few days ago, a friend sent me a New York Times article entitled “Taking a Break for Friendship” (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/fashion/taking-a-break-for-friendship.html?_r=1). It was a personal essay by a widow over 40 who—like me—had thrown herself into the (often ridiculous) world of online dating, and—like me—was writing about her (mostly ridiculous) experiences.

That is, until she stumbled upon someone she desperately wanted to take seriously—and hoped would take her seriously, in return.

Of course, as Shakespeare so aptly noted, ‘the course of true love never did run smooth.’ Accordingly, there were a few hiccups in our writer’s journey. Namely, it would take her on an extended tour of the infamous and dreaded “Friend Zone.” I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s just say it was an interesting take on “he’s just not that into you.”

It did get me thinking, though, about if/how friends can evolve into something more. Conversely, is there a chance in hell of maintaining a friendship with the beloved “Bro/Beau,” if/when things don’t evolve further?

But mainly, it recalled a conversation I’d had with the “Harlem Knight” over dinner. Truth is, I haven’t been able to shake it, since it repeated—almost verbatim—a scene from one of my (and possibly, one of your) all-time favorite films, “When Harry Met Sally” (clip above).

In fact, it’s the entire premise of the film: Can (in this case, hetero) men and women be ‘just friends’, or is romance—or at least, sex—always the endgame (and therefore, the proverbial elephant in the room)? If two people are destined to be together, isn’t the romantic relationship ultimately bettered by a well-established friendship?

I don’t know about you, but I was raised to believe that the best lovers are also best friends. It may be an over-romanticized cliché, but it’s also scientifically proven. (Seriously, check it: http://www.medicaldaily.com/study-reveals-how-friends-are-actually-best-lovers-244401) More important, it’s generally the claim that most happily committed couples make.

However, I’ve yet to become lovers with any of my male friends, and with very rare exceptions, the possibility has never even presented itself. Ostensibly, this is because neither party is in the least bit interested—which is why we’re friends. In fact, I may be friendly with more past lovers than I’ve considered becoming lovers with current friends.

That said, partnering with someone who is simultaneously my lover/bestie is high on my ‘bucket list.’ Truth is, as I become more attuned to my own brilliant-but-neurotic and highly nuanced (read: quirky) nature, I’m not entirely immune to occasionally questioning my lovability. I’m fully aware that I’m not always the easiest to love; but to the slew of new prospects eager to take up the gauntlet, logic might suggest that the best candidates for loving me unconditionally are people who already do, no?

With all of this in mind, is true friendship between men and women even a viable possibility? This was the subject of the surprisingly loaded discussion I had with the Harlem Knight, who—true to his nickname—had a rather “cavalier” stance on the issue.

To paraphrase: The Knight, like Billy Crystal’s “Harry” (and many more before and since), believes that platonic friendship between men and women is a virtual impossibility. That is, at least until the parties in question have “gotten it out of their systems”—i.e., had sex.

*record scratch* I’m sorry. Come again, Sir?

I had to make sure that I was clear on this—since clearly, I’d misheard: Yes, his position was that the sexual tension between men and women was simply too thick to allow for true friendship. Either they had to diffuse that ticking time bomb by breaking one off (so to speak), or let the clock run out altogether. At that point, everyone could move forward; curiosity satisfied and completely copacetic.

Oh, really? Is that how it works? Who knew?

And what does that say about the close platonic friendships I’ve maintained with a half-dozen or so men for the past half-dozen or so years or more (in some cases, many more)? Are they all just figments of my imagination—or worse, waiting games, until opportunity presents itself?

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never crushed on any of my dude-friends. Of course I have; they’re the best dudes I know. But I also know all of them well enough to know how they function—or dysfunction—in relationships. Let’s just say I know where the bodies are buried, and nine times out of ten, have no desire to become one of them.

That tenth time? They probably know too much about my dysfunction *wink*.

Or maybe—just maybe—aside from any inevitable attraction that may arise, we simply value and respect the friendship too much to risk losing each other, unless we’re absolutely certain it’d be the real deal. I mean, there’s always that possibility, right? Right?

But the Knight seemed pretty confident in his stance. I like confidence, so I probed a bit further. After all, following his logic would mean that either he has no female friends, or that he’s already had sex with all of them…

(ding, ding, ding, ding!)

Yeah. Apparently, he’d managed to get that whole sexual tension thing out of his system with most of the women he now calls “friends”.

Processing this information inspired a whole new set of questions:

Like, are these women really friends, or were they once romantic hopefuls who just didn’t make the cut? If so, was the act of “getting it out of his system” also the moment he lost all romantic interest and became capable of firmly placing them in the “friend zone”? If they were truly friends to begin with, why wasn’t the introduction of intimacy impetus for a romantic relationship with any of these women? And, though he’s calling them “friends,” is the feeling mutual? Did both parties lose interest? Are these friendships even really platonic—or does “friends” actually mean “friends with benefits”?

Most importantly (since we were on a date): Should something actually develop between us, would it be fair to assume that any woman I might encounter within his social circle has likely also been intimate with him? (Sidebar: Should the scenario be reversed, I wonder how a man would deal with that concept…)

Bottom line: As much as I liked the Knight, did all of this mean I could simply be setting myself up to become another of those women-“friends”?

I know, I know: cart before the horse. A horse I may now have trouble working up the desire to ride, given this new wealth of information. Because as much as I value openness and honesty, it’s information I might’ve been better off not knowing—at least, not on a first date (when I can still run for the hills, without looking back). That’s hard to admit, but true.

Although, according to the Knight, even that might not be a deal-breaker—at least, not sexually speaking. He also posits that women are much more casual about sex with men they don’t view as viable long-term options. By contrast, they’re inclined to make a more serious candidate wait.

Because…”The Rules”? Steve Harvey? Who knows? I just know it doesn’t currently apply to me. I’m not sure that it ever did. But at the moment, I’m just not in the mood to have sex with anyone I can’t take seriously—or who doesn’t take me seriously. Simple as that.

Perhaps I just haven’t got time for the pain anymore (shout-out to Carly Simon). Or maybe it’s because, as the iconic (and exhaustively quoted) character “Carrie Bradshaw” once said:

“…It just gets harder as we get older, because we’re not dating wildly inappropriate people anymore, you know?”

Yes, I do know. I also know that Carrie was still a few years shy of 40 when she recited those lines, and that it doesn’t necessarily get any easier. I may have far fewer options than I did a decade ago, but I’m increasingly choosier, nevertheless.

Hell yes, I want a lover. I also want my lover to be my friend. Matter of fact, I want him to be the kind of friend who’d never settle for just being my lover—or the type who’d happily settle for just being my friend, once we’ve crossed the threshold into intimacy. I guess what I’m really wanting is that ever-elusive “real deal.”

Frankly, that’d be the best benefit I could possibly ask for.

 

  • Rah One Love

    That sounds like a great date. That’s really what dates are for: figuring out who you are actually with, what that person has to offer and how that person feels about what you can offer.

    I’m positive there’s a real deal out there for you and I’m pretty sure the way you’re going about dating (very open about what you’re looking for and how you’re looking, also very perceptive of the men you come across) you two will meet up and recognize each other.

    • Mai

      You know what? It WAS a great date. I still find the Knight quite likable; mainly because he WAS so honest about who he is and how he thinks, even if I don’t agree.

  • Yes!! I’m a new reader thanks to Butta! I love your perspective on this. I am a 39 year old widow who is dating and everything you’ve written resonates with me! Looking forward to following you on the regular!

    • Mai

      Thank you so much for joining me! I hope we can offer each other some comfort on an often uncomfortable path…

  • Elizabeth Graham

    I think your boyfriend should be your best friend. In dating some may not make the cut but, they may have qualities that put them in the friend zone. I always reevaluate my friends in the zone. There are some that I look to as a brother, I don’t reevaluate them. But the others could be Mr Right, but not right now.

About the author

Who me? I’m just your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow a cup of sugar?

But seriously: I’m a musician, model, writer, all-around creative and devoted auntie. Like you, I’m just out here in the universe, trying to make it happen…whatever that is.