Can men and women be friends, just friends?

28 Dec


It’s the question men and women have been asking themselves for forever and never more than shortly after the release of the brilliant movie When Harry Met Sally
in 1989. Two very attractive people (Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal) are on a forced road trip together and Harry explains to Sally that men and women can’t be friends because sex is always on someone’s mind. Then, they become friends, disproving his theory before getting together, proving it once more.

So, we’re still in the dark with some of us thinking men and women can be JUST friends (no flirting, no benefits) and those of us who think that it’s never just friendship.

I was one of the ones who thought men and women could be friends, just friends. I count a handful of special men as dear friends, as dear to me as my girlfriends. We care about each other, we amuse each other, we break bread and there is no sex and minimal flirting involved. I’m happily married, my husband is happy with my friendships and we’re all happy as Larry, so to speak.

But here’s what happened to me recently…I landed myself firmly in the shit after I sent an overly affectionate Facebook-hug to a male friend on his birthday and his wife read it and became a little unsettled. It was on their shared Facebook page so even though I sent is as a message, I didn’t think she wouldn’t read it, I fully expected she would.

In my defense, I did think the world was ending in a few, short weeks and I had been sending affectionate correspondence to several friends including my male friends (hi Alf, hi Alex) and all of my female friends. I hardly ever get to see this friend, someone I consider family and the message read something like, “Thinking of you today and now I know why. It’s your birthday. Happy birthday. You’re the best/awesome, I love you lots, have a great year. I hope the girls are well.” I think that’s how it went. That’s basically how it went. My friends and I always joke that when I think of someone they call or I call them when they are thinking of me, like we are all mind-readers. And did I mention I thought the world was ending?

So the shit hit the fan a few weeks later when I was made aware of the discomfort and I promptly apologised, protested my innocence and tried to smooth things over. Then I found out I’d been unfriended by one and blocked by the other. WTF?

I felt like I’d been kicked in the guts. I felt really sad. I really like these two people and I couldn’t believe that after almost ten years of successful friendship just one overly-enthusiastic message could result in such drama. As friends, wouldn’t they assume I had the best of intentions? Wouldn’t they know what I meant? Didn’t they know I am happily married and even if I wouldn’t I have never and would never do anything? Was the message really a proposition?

I am a writer and I do word-vomit like this often but most of my friends laugh it off. They know I get emotional.

Do I have to be more careful with my married male friends? Is friendship between men and women only possible if they are single? Am I living in fantasy land? Are any of my male friendships real?

I really don’t know the answer but I do know I might be a little more careful in how I express myself through social media (for a little while at least). My husband has been telling me for well over ten years I am way too affectionate in written correspondence. Apparently xxx’s and ooo’s are not appropriate ways to end emails and text to work colleagues, in particular bosses, but otherwise it just seems so cold. Can I at least send a smilie face?

I love my male friendships and I love becoming friends with their life-partners too. There isn’t anyone less threatening than me. I mean really. Even if my friend was Daniel Day Lewis and we’d previously dated I would NEVER EVER EVER try anything and I would never expect him to read a proposition into my message.

Did I mention I thought the world was ending?

I think it’s sad that this has happened but I really don’t want to be less expressive with my friends. Life is too short. I love everyone. I love you and you and you and I truly didn’t mean anything by it.

Another of my favourite movies Juno has a scene with the step-mum where she is advising her step-child to be careful with her friendship with a married man, saying it’s different with married men. But Juno is single. I’m not. We all know each other. Our kids play together.

Maybe I’m too influenced by my Gen-Y friends. They don’t seem to have the friendship rules and regulations my generation has (Gen-X, yeah!).

I’d love to know what you think. It may be one of those conundrums that is never answered and that we’ll struggle with for all our days.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

2 Responses to “Can men and women be friends, just friends?”

  1. firstworldbeautyproblems December 28, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    This is gorgeous Jo – you really do LOVE everyone! One of my best friends in the world is a boy and there is absolutely nothing more than friendship between us – we’ve been friends while we have both been single, been in relationships, where we’ve lived in the same state and long distance with one of us overseas. I adore him and I hope I never encounter such an uncomfortable experience as you have by messaging him. I firmly believe we can all be friends – maybe we have to make out intentions overtly clear to save confusion? Because CLEARLY, we just want friends! Gorgeous post again xx


  2. Jo Abi December 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Thank you darling Nicola. Question…is he in a relationship and if so, do you get along with his partner?


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