In April of 2008 I published an article that started quite the conversation on Perfectly Turbulent and at times follows me outside the blogosphere.
The “When Harry Met Sally Debate”, essentially my view (and that of Billy Crystal’s) that men and women cannot ever be close friends, they just can’t. Good acquaintances, sure, share a cab, absolutely, but close friends, sorry, no dice. Some way, some how, either party cannot leave good enough alone and someone throws down either the sex card, or the mother of all cards, the loooove card…el trump card.
I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful girl several months ago, Estero, and though we are tragically similar, our major point of contention is that my Harry/Sally theory is dead wrong.
We’ve had a number of discussions on this topic and I always admire her confidence and well thought out points when we debated back and forth, using her bestest of best friends, Dave, as her prime and seemingly unflapable example. Now I must admit, Dave seemed like a contender to shatter my theory, but as I’ve learned in the past, all I need to prove my point is time.
I asked Estero to write a guest post on the topic chronicling her experience and she was gracious enough to do so. Below is the story of Estero (Sally), and her history with Harrys.
Hey Harry…Sally hates you
We met in junior kindergarten, and he had my phone number memorized before I did. We played shoe shopping in my bedroom before school, and he showed me his and I admittedly showed him mine in my parent’s stale, dark garage, which was laced with the smell of fresh cut grass. His name was Robert Allan – my first male best friend. This was the first of a long line of men who I would love like a best friend, a brother even, and who would also love me.
I chose my side and argued to the death. Men and women can absolutely be platonic friends – no question! I had never really been able to connect with women as much as I could with men. I found women friends to be too catty and jealous. Men were easy going and less dramatic, and I also felt they were usually as driven and as independent as I, therefore we had much more in common. Men and women could be grand friends without the prodding of sexual tension and awkwardness. Any sexual inclination I had ever felt for a male friend had always vanished with the flourishing of the friendship – two specific friendships come to mind.
Wayne and I had been close friends for over seven years. We did almost everything together until I moved to Washington DC to complete my second degree. This is also when I met my long-term boyfriend. Wayne had coached me through difficult times, helped me pick out clothing, as he was quite the fashion guru much like myself, and was the person whom I had the most provocative, thought provoking conversations with. We wrote together, laughed together and did a lot of things that my boyfriends hadn’t been interested in, like going to the Opera. I deeply loved Wayne like a brother and couldn’t imagine my life without him. I had even decided that Wayne was to be my “Man of Honour”, as my long-term boyfriend had proposed to me. Shortly after, Wayne finally got to meet my fiance and this is when I began having a difficult time getting a hold of my dear friend. I would call and e-mail, but he was no where to be found. After a few weeks of this, I finally got a clue and realized that he was no longer interested in being my friend. It was a complete shock and quite puzzling to say the least, as I was unable to come up with a reason myself. It wasn’t until nearly eight months of silence Wayne finally spoke to me and confessed that seeing me with Gary had nearly killed him, and that he couldn’t continue our friendship any longer. Why had I not seen this before? I had been completely clueless that Wayne harbored any feelings other than friendship for me.
Then came Dave. I met Dave in DC as a married woman. He and I connected instantly, and I have never been able to laugh with someone like I do with him. I have since left DC and moved to Toronto a single woman, so we have been divided by many miles for the last little while. A few days ago, Dave confessed his love for me and even proposed that I move back to DC and live with him in his newly purchased home. Though I don’t know what will become of the friendship Dave and I once had, I do know that I can never look at him in the same way he looks at me.
There was also Jamie, Bryan, Adam and Miguel. All strong friendships that have either ended for the same reason, or are threatened by sexually charged tension that I know now is alive and well on their end. Miguel and I have had a long distance friendship for years – first when I was in living in DC and once again after I moved back to Toronto, as Miguel, ironically enough, moved to DC. He has been quite frank with me when telling me the only way he can have a platonic friendship with a woman is if she is unattractive, or overweight. He has also told me that the only way he and I continue our friendship is because he doesn’t live anywhere near me.
I have a disgusting ability to walk away from people once I’ve decided to do so. I have done this many times with girlfriends and men that I have either dated, or entered into relationships with. I have never been able to exercise this ability with my close male friends. Losing them, as I have lost so many, has been completely annihilating for me each time – an old wound unstitched by their desire. Ridding myself of the fragments of their companionship that embedded themselves into my DNA has been arduous each time. But each and every time I enter into a new friendship with a man, I fail to see the ending to an inevitable story.
In likeness to Sally in When Harry Met Sally , I once truly believed in platonic friendships. I have always been maddened by Harry’s (and many other men I know) suggestion that sex and the intention of a possible relationship will always get in the way. In my naiveté , I regarded it not as a sweet love story but a dejected sardonic statement on the infeasibility of real, non-sexual friendships between men and women.
Now that I have been ultimately wizened by my most recent events, I have finally come around. The veil of illusion has been snatched and I can clearly see the underlying notion that sex in a male/female friendship is somehow always present. I have had too many male friendships that ended over the clouded and sexually charged struggle between friendship and relationship to be able to deny this anymore. And though I have always felt that each close male friendship I had was true, I know the reality is that they thought differently. They tell the story differently.
I have also come to a more internal realization that I am not without fault. My appetite, in most recent years, for a close male friend is loosely based on the fact that I haven’t wanted an exclusive relationship for some time. With a friend, I get a level of male intimacy without the overbearing weight of a “relationship” in its true sense. Other intimacies are satisfied by the lovely men I enter into relationships with, but the possibility of exclusivity is never an option for me, god forbid!
In life, I believe that we get certain things from many people, things that cannot always be provided by a partner. And even though I still believe this, I supposed it wouldn’t be so bad to attempt to look for all that you can out of a partner, perhaps even an exclusive partner, and find what is missing from a girlfriend. This doesn’t mean I’m looking for exclusivity, but it does mean that I am willing to be more open to the idea, and not go running like hell when a man I’m dating asks me to meet his family. I always thought that when I found that person I liked enough for me to want those things with, it would all fall into place. It seems as though a little effort on my part needs to be exercised in order to even see that person.
A New Year’s resolution in the works.