Can men and women truly be platonic friends?
While my immediate answer is ‘yes,’ attraction level is the barrier
“For someone so book smart, you’re incredibly naive,” he told me. “Men and women can never be friends. If a man is friends with a woman, it’s only for as long as he’s with another woman.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. It was impossible to ignore the obvious. I’d considered him a platonic friend and knew he had a wife. So did that mean that if he and his wife ever got a divorce, he’d try to pursue me? Nah, never. Not possible. I shrugged it off and told him we could agree to disagree. After all, my godfather and my mother had been best friends since elementary school. In my mind, platonic friendship was reasonable and realistic.
Even after he blurted out months later that he sometimes wished his wife were me, I immediately changed the subject. I wasn’t going to touch that comment at all. Those two seemed happy, and I definitely was not going to be the August Alsina* in their relationship.
But then there was the time that a 15-year friend of mine actually did divorce his wife. Shortly after, his wife asked him, “So how’s Montie doing?”
His response, “She’s fine, I guess. Haven’t talked to her in a little while.”
Her response, “Really? I just assumed as soon as we separated that you two would date.”
I shook my head. This was the same woman who I’d painted Valentine’s Day gifts for. Being romantically involved with him was about as creepy as being romantically involved with my blood brother. Ugh. Just ugh. (While an exhausting amount of my childhood friends had a crush on my fairly handsome blood brother, I am required by sisterly law to tell him he’s ugly. Look it up. The same rules apply for “brotherly” friends.)
So I pondered on why he told me his ex-wife said this in the first place. I would’ve expected him to gag. Instead, he made a comment about how it’d been “a shame that we were friends all this time.” A “shame”? Excuse me, sir, but where’s the “shame” in that?
I told this story to the naive-friend accuser. He threw up his arms and said, “I rest my case.” Even with these two examples, I stubbornly hold onto the belief that men and women can be friends. What is often overlooked in why it’s easier for some than others is simple: Attraction.
Is lack of sexual arousal the easiest way to remain friends?
Can men and women be friends if they’re sexually attracted to each other? It’s possible, but you two will have a rough road ahead of yourself, specifically if you cannot convince his/her significant other that there’s nothing going on between you two.
As much as I have a love-hate relationship with the show “Marriage Bootcamp: Hip-Hop Edition,” I think the producers and show-runners made an incredibly useful point in last Thursday’s episode. During one particular scene, couples had to learn a fairly risque dance. Once they learned it, they had to change partners and do this same raunchy dance with someone else’s husband or wife while their spouses were looking. As you can imagine, the tension built quickly. Eventually a fight broke out — one verbal and one physical.
While the choreography was nothing more than a lot of booty shaking and far less to do with coordination, the bigger point to be made was that jealousy can only overpower someone who lets their own imagination get in the way. As Dr. Ish Major said, “If you can’t control what you think in any given situation, you don’t have a chance in hell of controlling what you do in that situation.” Just the idea of someone hitting on or being inappropriate with each other’s significant others sent many into an uproar.
Even outside of reality TV, I can revert back to the friend of 15 years. I made an absolute point to be cordial to his wife every single time I saw her. The Valentine’s Day gift was one of many times I did so. Why? Because I wanted her to be assured that there was — in my most Trillville voice — neva eva eva eva eva eva going to be anything between me and her husband.
As far as I knew, we got along swimmingly. But clearly she still had suspicions about something I’d never even humored the idea of (i.e. the “shame” comment). To my absolute surprise, she was quiet about it the whole time up until they divorced. My guess is she was surprised to find out that her hunch was absolutely wrong (on my end anyway) and I kept my Trillville motto going. Now would this have been much harder if the sexual attraction was mutual? My gawd, yes.
When men and women ‘entertain’ the idea of true friendship
Going back to the “Marriage Bootcamp” example, I’ve interviewed a fair share number of entertainers. They are surrounded by fans who cannot wait to make eye contact with them, talk to them, hug them and/or undress them. From an entertainment reporter’s perspective, it’s interesting to just observe a meet-and-greet session. Something about fame makes people get diarrhea of the mouth and start saying all kinds of things that they’d never say to an everyday person.
Entertainment reporters are no angels either. I have definitely had to withhold my inner fan during at least four interviews from men I had long-standing crushes on. On the surface, I played it cool. In my head, I was the meet-and-greet fan. Almost all of my interviews ended up published while a few ended up in a “maybe later” pile to be published elsewhere or not at all (usually the PR rep was to blame).
But I distinctly recall one particular entertainer who I thought was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t even control my mouth from smiling when I saw him. I recognized him from an extremely popular TV series and thought he was cute long before his PR team reached out to me for an interview. I was completely professional during our Q&A. When the interview was over and I stopped the tape recorder, he flirted with me and I flirted right back. I noticed his manager kept getting on and off the tour bus while we talked, but I never thought much of it.
It wasn’t until he told me his manager was his wife that the tour bus spying made far more sense. My demeanor changed considerably. All the flirting went out of the window, and we shook hands afterward. Even when I heard a hint of flirting (or a compliment about an outfit or my face) in follow-up interviews, I always “didn’t hear” them. I wished him the best in his career (which is quite successful), and from that point forward, any further contact was as non-flirtatious as possible. If he was not married, it would’ve been far less talking, lots more proving. I won’t even attempt to deny that. But the minute I heard a relationship status change, that was all I needed to hear. His wife is a lovely woman, and breaking up happy homes is not my style. Finito. We could neva eva eva eva eva be “friends.”
Why jealousy from significant others gets in the way of friendship
I’ve been on the other end of an “entertainment” relationship. I dated a rapper once. I give the utmost respect to all the wives and girlfriends who have managed to make relationships like these work. It’s not for me. After a few months, I parted ways with the guy I was dating. I failed completely at following Dr. Ish’s advice.
While I’d like to consider myself someone who is not jealous, my personality and love language — Quality Time and Physical Touch — are in direct competition with someone who lives a touring life. Because I know that struggle first-hand, I would never dare to be the obstacle in any other woman’s way — especially not an entertainer’s. Trying to befriend someone you started off being interested in dating just seems like an unnecessary source of frustration. Why do that to yourselves?
Is it possible for a significant other to feel comfortable with her husband (or wife) on the road or hanging out with a friend? Yes. Absolutely. But it’s highly recommended to befriend that significant other as much — if not more — than the “friend.” Otherwise, you two will constantly be accused of fooling around — even if you’re totally not into him. (And in my case, and to my astonishment, it still happened.)
Are we naive to believe that men and women can be friends?
Every blue moon when I befriend a guy — whether it is a colleague, a contractor or a neighbor — I will sometimes ponder on the “naive” accusation. My godfather, who is married, was in my parents’ wedding. And my parents will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next month. While you will never convince me that men and women cannot be friends, especially when there’s proof right in front of me and my father is clearly cool with my godfather, this isn’t a cut-and-dry “yes” or “no” answer.
If you two are not into each other physically, mentally or sexually, you two can be friends for life. But if you have any interest at all in your “friend,” you’d have to be a glutton for punishment to watch him (or her) date or marry someone while you’re thinking, “It should have been me.” In real life, the Dwayne Waynes of the world who run into a crowd of family members and bust up a wedding get jumped. (That episode of “A Different World” will always be legendary status, won’t it?) While I’d strongly recommend keeping your distance if your heart strings are pulled every single time this “friend” walks in a room, if you can avoid that, friendzone away!
* As much as I joked about the term “entanglement,” I don’t see anything even mildly funny nor cool about August Alsina making a song about the relationship he had with Jada during her separation from Will. Not only was it a private moment that no one needed to know about and at least four years ago, but I also cringe at how Jaden and Willow have reacted to hearing it. When kids are involved, that is when you really need to be more respectful of people’s relationships. Without naming Jada by name, the “Entanglement” song would’ve been fine. With all that snitching though, it just sounds like a jaded lover that is trying his best to break up someone’s marriage.
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