In the history of, well, history, there has yet to be a shortage of decidedly divided topics. Betty or Veronica? Gryffindor or Slytherin (any Harry Potter fans out there, Bleu?) Past a simple “this or that” mentality, there also exists a plethora of other controversial topics we so often broach such as milk or cereal first? I’m serious, this can tell a lot about a person. And, one my personal favorites from the archives, can we really trust people who don’t eat cake? Obviously I’m kidding about cake (I’m really not, though), but it’s always surprising to see the differences in opinions and mannerisms, especially when dealing with matters of gender. So naturally one of the biggest topics of debate still stands: can men and women really be just friends?
When asking friends for their varying opinions there were some emphatic yeses, hard nos, and gentle bouts of yelling — you know, where the person is clearly upset and heated, but tells you they’re fine while whisper-shouting — ending with a hug session. The thing is, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has never had romantic feelings for a friend, have had a friend have romantic feelings for them, or were a victim of cheating resulting from a “just friends” relationship. Of course, this isn’t the case with every friendship. But, I’m sure almost every single person in existence has dealt with either an external or internal experience on the topic. Ultimately, when questioning if men and women can really be platonic friends the chorus of dueling “yeses” and “nos” are, undoubtedly, neither right or wrong. Realistically, there is no definitive answer. And yes, I know saying this almost seems like taking the easy way out.
Ask human being at any given time if they think men and women can be friends and their reaction will most likely be a product of their own experiences. Shocker, right? But, it’s true. In the grand scheme of things men and women can exist as platonic friends, but the key here is that they’d both have to want it. Both the man and the woman would have to respect perpetual boundaries and drawn lines in the sand, as well as each others’ partners without crossing any emotional or physical intimacy lines. And while, obviously obtainable, the perpetual part is where the lines can sometimes cross. Humans will never feel the exact same way about a person over time. In my opinion, the longer a friendship lasts, the higher the chance those lines in the sand are wiped away.
Many may disagree, but I believe with age our friendship circles begin to dwindle, so that only the truly fortified relationships remain. And, in this survival of the fittest portion of existence, our friends are more trusted and highly regarded. With that trust, we usually share more intimate knowledge without feeling as though a boundary has been crossed, because intimacy and trust can so often look like the same thing. On the other end of the spectrum, I feel the exact opposite about physical boundaries. Physical boundaries have a higher chance of being crossed earlier on because in said early friendships you don’t have much to lose by going for it.
Once someone has had a negative or opposing experience with men and women existing as friends, it’ll always be difficult to form an unbiased opinion because first-hand experience will naturally persevere. So, while this makes perfect sense, these instances tend to fuel negative assertions on the topic, although sometimes it may warrant the bias.
When forming an opinion, the list of variables including if friendships involve one-on-one hanging out, couples friendships, childhood friends who feel like family, friends who aren’t physically attracted to one another etc., can all add to the varying arguments on opposite-gendered friendships? To me, it’s neither a yes or no. It’s a hard “maybe” because character traits are never one-size-fits-all, and neither are friendships, no matter what they look like in the moment. What feels normal to one person, doesn’t necessarily have to be the same for everyone.
In the end, if you’re questioning a friendship with the opposite gender, communication is key. If that’s not your thing, that’s fine too. Everyone has a right to seek out what makes them comfortable. As long as it doesn’t enter into oppressive territory, the goal should always be to decide for yourself the friendships you want and the aspects of your own relationships you’re comfortable with. If it changes, that’s fine, too.