Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just Friends? Harry and Sally Were the Exception, Not the Rule

One of the most embarrassing moments of my life was when, while catching up with some friends at our local coffee shop, I stated that my friendship with so-and-so was “strictly plutonic.” As in the planet Pluto. Obviously God did not equip me with built-in spell-check or the common sense to stop talking while I am still ahead.

I was unfamiliar with the word “platonic” because it didn’t come up in conversation often. Even though I had many friends who were male, both gay and straight, I was never put in a position where I had to justify those friendships. I took it for granted that friendships like these were completely normal.

This topic became one of great concern for me when I noticed the most recent cover of US Magazine. It crucifies Jon Gosselin (of TLC’s Jon and Kate Plus 8 fame) for being out late with one of his female friends while his wife was out of town.

TLC loving housewives everywhere began sharpening their pitchforks. His response to the allegations? “Yes, I have female friends -- but that is all she is. I'm not going to end my friendships just because I'm on TV."

Sigh…where to begin. Can a straight man and a straight woman be friends even if one of those individuals is involved in a committed relationship? OF COURSE THEY CAN.

Are there circumstances where it isn’t okay? Possibly.

First there is the brother/sister friend, where two straight individuals of the opposite sex meet and form a friendship with no romantic or sexual attraction whatsoever. Harry and Sally can quit their whining because this IS possible, although it is admittedly rare. More commonly one will be attracted to the other but the person does not reciprocate and both parties decide they are able to continue as friends. The important thing is there was never any physical relationship established. These friends should not be attacked or questioned. If you have a problem with your significant other having this type of friend there is something deeply wrong with you. Trust me, they are a saner happier person because they have this friend to give them valuable opposite-sex perspective. You have probably avoided a lot of nights on the couch because of this person so instead of being jealous you might want to send them a fruit basket.

Then there is the amicable break-up friend . Two people date, break up, and decide not to throw objects at each other or post embarrassing pictures of the other person on the internet; as a result they are able to remain friendly. These friends are tricky to read because you know there was attraction present at one time. What’s to say it won’t come back, or that it isn’t still there? Jealousy may be understandable in this case although it still doesn’t justify your attempts to control every moment your other half spends with this person. We are adults and can feel things without acting on them.

Then there is the new friend, a friendship established while one person is dating someone else. Friendships like these are the worst because you have no idea whether there is attraction present or not; you aren’t a bloody mind-reader. All you have to go on is what your boyfriend/girlfriend tells you is true. Yeah, good luck with that.

Basically I think in almost all cases platonic friendships between men and women should never be questioned as inappropriate because first and foremost we are all human beings and we thrive on relationships, both romantic and non-romantic. I would not be okay with one of my male friends breaking off our long-standing friendship, not being able to spend time together just the two of us like he does with his male friends, just because his new girlfriend demands it.

That’s because the problem isn’t the friendships being maintained; it is the severe lack of trust present in our current dating culture. Lack of communication = trust issues = jealousy = calling your boyfriend 20 times a day in order to ascertain his exact whereabouts due to the off-chance that he MAY be having a cup of coffee with a girl he dated in second grade. Dirty scoundrel.

Can you blame us? I wish it was easier to be a trusting person in our society, but guess what? If you don’t have trust and respect in your relationship, you don’t have anything. That is a fact. At some point you have to trust someone. Trust is established by genuine communication so if you have a problem with one of your boyfriend/girlfriend’s friends, here’s a novel idea; TALK ABOUT IT.

Also take comfort in the fact that you are ten times smarter than his second grade girlfriend. She probably pronounces platonic “plutonic.”


  1. I have some serious problems with this post. The most glaring and obvious one is that you list Pluto as a planet. »»{o.0]««
    J/k. I wish that our society wasn't so sexualized and that the simple friendships we all enjoyed while in our younger years could continue to exist today without anything more than that.

  2. Hear hear. Of course in hindsight I am upset that John was INDEED having an affair with that woman, but regardless...people should not have jumped down his throat from the beginning. Innocent until proven guilty.

    I feel like so many of the problems we face with relationships today could be avoided if our culture was not so freaking sex-obsessed. Now only if TV and print media would catch on....