Why It's Hard to Be Friends With Someone of the Opposite Sex
I am a guy who’s attracted to girls, and my best friend in the world, who is also my oldest friend in the world, is a girl who’s attracted to guys (and girls in her case). We’ve been close for over 10 years. I was her “dude of honor” at her wedding.
It’s a rare type of relationship—I don’t know many like it. But it’s just a guy and a girl being friends, why is this so uncommon?
Well, we spend the first 10 years of our lives publicly maligning the other sex with vicious stereotypes about boys drooling and girls having cooties. And it can be hard to kick that "us versus them" mentality (see: any and all movies in which the guy is super mean because he secretly likes the girl).
Then there’s the fact that a lot of Americans simply don’t think it’s possible to be opposite-gender friends—the central plot line in one of my favorite movies, When Harry Met Sally (“Men and women can’t be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way.”). Don’t get me wrong, sex and attraction do get in the way—a lot—but they don’t have to.
Whenever I introduce people to my (girl) friend, they inevitably ask me, “Have you guys ever hooked up?” No, I say. We haven’t. “So you tried, and she said no?” NO!
People don’t get it. Either I’m secretly in love with her, or she’s secretly in love with me. Or one of us is gay.
“Seriously? How though? How did you just remove sex from the equation? I don’t see how that’s the possible,” you might be thinking. We never made a pact in blood that said, “Ne’er shall our privates meet.” There was no explicit agreement. And because a hook-up never happened, we naturally evolved into a friendship that went deeper and deeper—so deep that humping the air while saying it went “deeper and deeper” out loud wouldn’t make either of us uncomfortable.
To be honest, I completely understand why lots of guy/girl friendships don’t work out over time. First of all, the few decades of our lives, we’re pretty dumb. We may know a lot about physics or My Little Pony, but we don’t know much about being responsible to our feelings and other people. We make friends, lose them, change who we are, fail to stand up for someone who needs help, fail to stand up for ourselves. We try acting close to all kinds of people, and back out when it doesn't feel right. Romantic love is new, and we aren't really sure where to find it: Here? No. With him? Nah. With her? Oh, my friend who happens to be standing right there? Maybe? I mean it did work out in Clueless.
If you’re younger than 22, take a look around at the people you’re closest to right now: you’ll barely see most of them in a few years, especially if they are of the opposite sex. My theory? Men and women aren’t friends often, because it’s hard to have long-lasting friendships of any kind. Sex doesn’t always get in the way, but it can get in the way, and it doesn’t take much to find a reason to part ways.
You want to know the dirty secret that no one tells you? FRIENDSHIPS ARE RELATIONSHIPS. You’re in a relationship with your best friend right now, and it’s surprisingly similar to having a boyfriend or girlfriend, especially if you see each other close to every day. You start getting annoyed at little things they do, you cross a boundary, they cross a boundary. You get in a big fight, and wonder if this is the end, if you’ll ever be a close as you used to be. That’s what a long-term relationship looks like, romantic or platonic.
So, when you're dealing with a friend of the opposite sex, the boundaries are harder to sort through. If you go to the movies with your guy friend and he paid for the ticket: “OH MY GOD HE THINKS IT’S A DATE, HE’S SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH ME I KNEW IT.” If you’re a guy and you help your female friend move to a new house: “HER BOYFRIEND IS SUPPOSED TO DO THIS, I’M JUST A STAND-IN BOYFRIEND, AND SHE’S SECRETLY IN LOVE WITH ME I KNEW IT"—no, you’re a good friend who’s helping your friend. So calm down.
At the end of the day, the real reason there aren’t more opposite-sex friends is because men and women are not treated equally in our society. And the younger the guy, the less likely he is to treat his female peers with respect and equal standing. But, this is one reason I cherish my best friend. Just by loving each other and being there for one another, we challenged the status quo and made people who knew us think differently about what a friend can be. So, if you have a really good friend who’s a different gender than you, know that you’re pulling off something very cool.
Are you shackled by society's rigid lore that man and woman cannot be friends, or are you besties with someone of the opposite gender like it's no big deal?