Keris Stainton‘s fortnightly column on married life…
One day earlier this week, I caught an episode of Loose Women. They were talking about whether men and women can be friends or whether sex always gets in the way. Since this is also the theme of my favourite film, When Harry Met Sally, I thought I’d address it here.
Of course, this also means I need to include the (slightly abridged) transcript of one of my favourite scenes:
Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: You only think you do.
Sally: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
I’m not quite so cynical as Harry. I do think that men and women can be friends, but probably only if there’s no attraction on either side. I’ve had male friends with whom there was absolutely no chance of anything ever happening. No matter how drunk we got. I’ve also had male friends with whom there was a bit of a spark. A bit of a frisson. A worry that, if I ever did get drunk enough, I might do something I’d end up regretting.
I’m not friends with those men anymore. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just think that, in relationships with that kind of dynamic, either something happens or the friendship peters out. Look at Mulder and Scully. Or Smithy and Ness.
My husband, David has female friends and I’m confident there’s no attraction. No, really. On either side. Although, I do agree with Harry that a man will still think about sex with a woman he’s not attracted to. He’ll think about it. He won’t do it, but of course he’ll think about it. That’s what men do.
To be perfectly honest, women do it too. I have probably wondered what every single man I’ve ever met would be like in bed. From the postman to university lecturers to members of my husband’s family (not my own family, though, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere).
But it’s just wondering. I would never do anything. Neither would David. I’m not threatened by his friendships and he’s not threatened by mine.
At least, I think that’s the case…
Harry: Would you like to have dinner?… Just friends.
Sally: I thought you didn’t believe men and women could be friends.
Harry: No, no, no, I never said that… Yes, that’s right, they can’t be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can… This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted… That doesn’t work either, because what happens then is, the person you’re involved with can’t understand why you need to be friends with the person you’re just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say “No, no, no it’s not true, nothing is missing from the relationship,” the person you’re involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you’re just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let’s face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can’t be friends.