I think this movie tried to settle the matter, rather crudely, but also kind of hilariously:
Ever since seeing this movie and it immediately becoming one of my favorites, I have always considered myself a “Sally.” Men and women can be friends. I even go one step further sometimes: men and women should be friends.
My beliefs on this subject were further validated by that awesome writer C.S. Lewis. You may have heard of him. He wrote this awesome book The Four Loves and devoted an entire chapter to friendship. You can read it here (page 53). But here are some gems:
– “[Friendship] is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
– “Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
– “Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.”
Guy-Girl Friendships Throughout History and Entertainment
- Henry James and Edith Wharton: The corresponded in the late 1890s and early 1900s. No one would dare accuse them of impropriety then.
- Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway: They were in Paris, the most romantic city in the world, and I don’t believe ever hooked up. 😛
- Hermione Granger and Harry Potter: Yes I know they’re fiction and I was a total shipper back in the day, but it was beautiful to see agape between the two without eros getting in the way ever.
- The Doctor and Donna: again, fictional. But their journey together is one of the most entertaining examples of support for another in need.
Jesus said there was no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. He called us all friends. Friend love is a wonderful sort, because rather than hormones or family ties that bind us to another person, it is our own choice that binds us to someone. And C.S. Lewis even acknowledges that sometimes this friend love can mature into eros, but not every time. And its mere possibility should not mean we make a hard and fast rule to not offer friendship to someone simply because of their gender.
Now, I have come across some advice-givers who caution young women that men and women truly can’t be real friends, unless as the first stage of courtship. Purely platonic relationships with the opposite sex are to be waried and never celebrated (this is the tone I get). I suppose this is because the average age of the readership is like 19 and there is a motherly urge to protect from the complications and potential heartache down the road. But I actually believe men and women can and should be friends. But, I concede that I can be a little Harry about it, too: sometimes the love stuff can get in the way. What I’d like to tell young women is this:
- Know the 5Ws and H about the offer of friendship. Are you both single and it arises out of a common interest (like both of you loving nothing more than on Fall Saturdays than heading down to the alumni bar to have an Oktoberfest and watch your alma mater’s football team)? Does one person have a significant other? How do people react to the two of you? How does he react to people reacting to you (Telling the new bowling team member: “Oh, we’re just friends. Britt was giving me the girl opinion on the ring for Sarah.”) Did the offer come after some failed dates/relationship? If if comes from you, be prepared for him to bolt, but also ready yourself if he says yes. If it comes from him, you may bolt if it’s too hard. But keep an open mind. I once was massively disappointed to hear from a four-date guy that he thought we were better suited as friends. Turns out he was right, and he was how God answered my prayer: I didn’t need a boyfriend; at that time, I really needed a friend like A.
- Communicate: I don’t know why, but so many woes I hear from friends and grown adults would be resolvable if people nearly communicated (“But he should have gotten the hint when I didn’t text back!”). With men in particular, it is always best to be clear, even if it doesn’t sound pretty or flirty or smooth. With guy-girl friendships, you need to be open about what’s going on and if/when anything starts changing. As painful as it may be, communicating issues (I feel your girlfriend doesn’t like me–are we seeing each other too much? I am developing feelings for you and need to run away now) is key to working out a friendship.
- Boundaries: These are especially important if one of you is in a relationship. Romantic relationships will start to change friendships in some respects, but I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive, nor as an unmarried woman, should you have to give up entirely your platonic male friends and never be alone with them ever. Now that A. is engaged, I see much less of him and our emails have a different character. But he is still my friend, and no one is threatened or worried if we were to see a philosophy lecture together that his fiancee would sleep through. But we have to be clear that there is a line and when someone is crossing it.
To answer the question, yes, men and women can be friends, and many times, they should!