The Friend Zone

 In Culture, Feature

Can men and women really be friends?


Harry Burns: You realize, of course, that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright: Why not?
Harry: What I’m saying is—and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form—is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: You only think you do.

Do truly platonic relationships between men and women really exist? The question is as old as “When Harry Met Sally,” the quintessential rom-com that brought us, “I’ll have what she’s having.” When you ponder the ancient quest of men and women co-existing in a non-sexual relationship, what exactly are you “having”?

I can safely say I’ve mastered the “men as friends” mathematical equation much like you master not burning yourself when boiling water. It can be hot, you might get scalded, but in the end, you still have all of your fingers. For me, having men as friends is not the Riddle of the Sphinx. I use the KISS method: Keep it simple, silly. First and foremost, I don’t date my guy friends—I’ve never been that delusional. Dating makes things messy, uncomfortable and usually ends up being the worst idea ever—right behind discount bungee jumping.

My favorite XY chromosomes are Igor and Scott, each for vastly different reasons. Scott is a standup guy. I can always count on him through thick and thin. On the other hand, there’s Igor. This guy is pure fun, and I can get a compliment out of him if I deserve it. He’s super confident and a total gentleman. But Igor also has a habit of having very candid conversations in front of me. I think I’ve heard every variation of sex talk from his rowdy band of brothers, which is okay—because I keep the friendship line firmly in place. For others, it’s not that simple.

If simple friendship is out the window, then remember this: Relationships are not based on lying in wait for someone else to realize you have an obsession with them. So, if you’re harboring a crush on your friend (and refuse to tell him/her), you are not allowed to do the following: 

  • Get dismissive and first-grade sulky when your friend goes on a date. k Bad-mouth his or her date and hope the person meets some “Final Destination” sort of fate when you ask how the evening went. 
  • Become a third-stage clinger to keep your friend from dating. 
  • Conduct yourself in a way that makes your friend ask if you’re off your meds.

You want to know how it’s going to end if you can’t keep the boundaries of friendship intact?

Harry: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and the thing is, I love you.
Sally: What?
Harry: I love you.
Sally: How do you expect me to respond to this?
Harry: How about, you love me, too.
Sally: How about, I’m leaving.

If life were a movie, professing your hidden agenda would result in birds chirping and a Disney princess singing of your love. But life is a David Lynch film—weird, hazy, full of strange people and disturbing dream sequences. Rarely does the big reveal work out if only one person is on board emotionally.

So, can men and women be friends? Short answer is yes…and no. Be a real friend without any romantic expectation. If you can’t do that, then go for it. But if you don’t end up with the relationship of your dreams, get over the awkwardness of rejection and give friendship a try.



The Friend Zone



Photo credit: llustration by Sarah Quatrano

Recent Posts