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Why can't we be [just] friends?

Possibility of avoiding more-than-friendly feelings

By D'Nara Cush
On April 12, 2012

  • That Awkward I don't like you that way Moment

 

The phrase "just friends" has been a trying topic throughout the ages. The question of whether or not it is possible for straight men and women to be "just friends" may never have an answer, despite being a frequent center of discussion among both sexes.
 
Does it depend on individual situations, or is it possible to make a solid argument for one side of this debate? 
 
It comes down to this: Is it humanly possible for straight men and women to develop and maintain a friendship without having any kind of thought, by either party, about crossing the barrier into physical or sexual territory or developing more than friendly feelings?
 
The answer is yes.
 
This question has developed as our culture became more accepting of men and women forming platonic friendships in the past century. According to an article in the New York Times printed last week, the bridge of friendship wasn't easily constructed between men and women in Western society until about 50 years ago, because, traditionally, women were often housewives, and men were considered the bread winners of the family.
 
As recent as the 1950s, the common American woman was thought to have a circle of friends consisting only of other women who shared the latest gossip and performed household chores together. From that era, modern society has generated the stereotype of female friends as gossiping hens. While women were thought to indulge in gossip, men were assumed to be busy working and finding mutual hobbies to take part in with each other.
 
It was rare in this time period to find men and women fraternizing together, partially because similar interests between the sexes were frowned upon by society. As time went on, opposite sexes more frequently formed friendships because it became more acceptable for men and women to have similar interests. 
 
Now, sharing interests with your best guy or girl friends is pretty common. From my experience, it seems that most friends of the opposite sex find themselves able to share certain secrets with each other that they may not feel as able to share with their friends of the same sex.  
 
Today, experiments such as MTV's Friendzone demonstrating how friendships between men and women can be taken to different levels with varying results. 
 
In the show, audiences watch as a young woman or man tries to step out of the "friendzone" with one of their closest friends. Sometimes, things work out in their favor when they go on a blind date with their friend and reveal that they have more-than-friend feelings for them. Other times, the feelings are not reciprocated and the unrequited lover often bounces back into a friendly relationship that they were seeking to develop into something more. 
 
Friendzone provides proof that there is a significant amount of people in friendly relationships seeking to step out of their familiar and comfortable place as friends and into something more along the lines a dating relationship. Whether or not the other friend shares these same feelings is beside the point, because it will change the nature of the friendship by crossing the border out of friendship and into a strange limbo, where one friend has stronger feelings than the other. 
 
In real life, this type of revelation can ruin a friendship or make it just plain awkward. When the friend who you have considered a sibling or buddy for years suddenly tells you that he/she wants more from you, you usually have to make the decision of ending the friendship all together, becoming more than friends, or trying to keep the relationship as is. 
 
For this reason, many people consider the idea of men and women being just friends impossible, because there are certain feelings that could always get in the way after an extended period of time close to someone of the sex you are attracted to.
 
I'm not one of those people. I think there can be such a thing as being just friends with people of the opposite sex, so long as there is a line established between the friends that clearly states "we are only friends, nothing more." 
 
A few of my male and female friends disagree with my point of view. But then again, I have many male friends and don't see any secret confessions happening between us anytime soon. 
 
I think having friends of the opposite sex allows you to get advice and points of view that sometimes only come from "the other side." Each friendship is different, and how you handle being friends with the sex you're attracted to depends on if the nature of your friendship and how the friendship develops. 
 
But there have to be unstated rules and regulations to maintaining this type of friendship. Opposite-sex friendships are useful and beneficial and can work as long as both friends have a clear understanding of where the relationship stands. 
 
D'Nara Cush is a sophomore public relations and business major and can be reached at cush1@duq.edu.

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