Can Girls and Boys Be Friends?

Was 'When Harry Met Sally' correct? Can heterosexual men and women really not be friends? Lundagård's student life columnist Alexandra Bradley reflects over norms and romance.

Since the dawn of time, men and women have lived in homosocial worlds. Meaning men hunted with men and women gathered with women. It wasn’t until the late 19th century which saw a shift in societal dynamics. Women began to gain a voice and many entered into educational and work spaces that were predominately held my men.  Men and women had to figure out how to have relationships with each other that weren’t romantic or sexual.  And more than a hundred years later, if feels as if we are still trying to figure it out.

Pop culture, social media and maybe even our grandmother, will tell you that guys and girls can never be just friends. This is reiterated by the abundance of movies like ’When Harry Met Sally’ (1989), ’13 Going On 30′ (2004), ’Made of Honor’ (2008), ‘Always Be My Maybe’ (2019) … and so on, that suggest one person will always fall for the other.

I have asked the age-old question countless times growing up.

Initially I was a big believer in opposite sex friendships. The radical in me screamed that friendship is based on mutual trust and respect — regardless of sex and attraction. The movies and tv shows were not concrete evidence.  I could have plenty of male friends and we will only ever be friends… nothing more.

Oh, sweet Alex, how ignorant you were.

As I have aged, I no longer agree. If a heterosexual male and a heterosexual female, both single, are friends then I think it is inevitable it will cross at least one person’s mind.

I am not saying we can’t control ourselves. Of course, it is possible to have an entirely platonic relationship. But I just think someone in a heterosexual opposite sex friendship will at least consider taking the relationship to the next level. And even if you justify to yourself that you could never be with them because of a certain bad habit or worse… an ick*! But the question of being with them is still there. Can I see myself in a romantic relationship with them? It’s something you’ve mulled over, and you’re acknowledging as a possibility.

So why do you question your opposite sex friendships?

Well, the answer is simple. You have been socially conditioned to.  A plethora of outside societal pressures trigger you to consider your friend as a romantic option — even though you might not actually like them in that way. Friends may tease you or roll their eyes when you mention your him/her. Your housemates roll their eyes when they see you texting on your phone. Your parents may ask you if your friendship has ever escalated into more All these seemingly passing comments or small actions prompt you to consider your friendship.

Perhaps the human search for love is inevitable. Perhaps this is cute. Perhaps this is sad. But for me for me the jury is out; boys and girls cannot be friends. We are too much influenced by the norms set up by previous generations. Heterosexuals are simply suckers for a good social construct.

If you are someone who thinks they are capable of being “just friends” with members of the opposite sex… I say beware the opportunity (or perceived opportunity) for “romance” which is often lurking just around the corner, waiting to pounce at the most inopportune moment.

* The ick is an instant turn-off. Specifically, when a romantic interest does something that totally repulses you.  Icks include but are not limited to someone putting on a baby voice, someone regularly updating their facebook status, someone with dirty fingernails or maybe someone making noises when after they eat something hot, etc. For the funniest and most irrational icks I recommend the comment sections of TikTok videos aka IckToks™ – take a look at the comments on @brittany_broski.