Can men and women actually be just friends?
The number of times I’ve been asked this question, asked it myself, seen movies about it…it’s staggering, really. We can figure out how to get a self-portrait taken by a robot on freaking Mars, but this issue stumps us? Mars=less confusing than inter-gender relationships. Great.
There’s no clear answer, of course, since relationships are like snowflakes. (They’re all individual and special and all that garbage. Also they’re cold and fleeting and fill people with a false sense of nostalgia, until suddenly there are too many and the weight of them is crushing and oppressive.)
Wait, what were we talking about?
Right. Men and women. There are those who champion the sexless friendship, saying oh but of course men and women can be friends without attraction and relationships getting in the way! Those people…are naïve. Sorry. (Sorry you’ve been lying to yourself, that is.) There are also people who say absolutely not, men and women always want to bang no matter what the situation so you’re not just friends, you’re either people who used to screw or people who haven’t screwed yet. Those people are creepy and not really friends with anyone of the opposite gender. They also probably need to get laid. (Just saying. The truth hurts.) What I’ve always believed is that it takes all kinds. Sure, I have friends that I’m attracted to. (No…not you.) I have friends who are attracted to me, or have been in the past. (I know who you are.) But then there are some friendships that are and will always be platonic. And I’m not fooling myself. I’m 100% confident.
There’s no right answer here. But some researchers from The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire wanted some kind of answer, at least. They took 88 pairs of opposite sex friends from the undergraduate population and asked them some questions about their relationship. They asked if there was attraction. They asked if these kids wanted to bang. But they realized, hey, this is the kind of information that ruins friendships! This could be an unmitigated disaster! (See: My Ex Boyfriend.) So they asked them separately of each other, and kept it all anonymous. They also had the pairs verbally state, in front of each other, that they wouldn’t talk about it later. BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY WON’T BE TEMPTED TO DO THAT. At least the researchers are off the hook if things get awkward, though. “HEY, you pinky swore that you wouldn’t talk about it! We heard you! No take backs!”
Anyway, the researchers found out some pretty interesting information. It’s not really shocking, groundbreaking stuff, but it’s interesting all the same. Turns out, lots of the guys were attracted to their female friend and thought it was reciprocal, and lots of the women thought their male friend was “just a friend”…and weren’t attracted to them. Turns out…guys are delusional and women are in denial. Good job, straight people.
Here’s the saving grace for these friendships: we are blissfully unaware of this huge difference, it would seem. So, for my hetero friends out there…yes, he’s attracted to you and no, she doesn’t feel the same way. Let the awkward friendships live on! Please don’t get too drunk and destroy the delicate balance you’ve found.