Can a man and woman be just friends?
“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.”
...Harry Burns in When Harry Met Sally

Agreed that men are from Mars and women from Venus, agreed that there is friction between the two and agreed that sexual tension and romantic feelings are bound to creep-in between, but can’t the two ever be ‘just friends’? The concept of platonic friendship that arose and was largely talked and written from the time of Greek Philosopher Plato still remains as unclear and confusing as ever.

From Adam and Eve down to the present generation, opposite sexes are always ‘meant’ to draw each other, love, fight, produce babies and that’s about it. Or is it? The notion that the two cannot be plain friends seems to be changing, but the question is to what extent?

With women becoming more career oriented and independent, ‘cross-sex’ social and workplace friendships are definitely on the rise. Even the school time or college friendships are known to become stronger with passing time (that is if they don’t blossom into love). When in a group, men and women mix with one another freely, hang-out, share jokes and get along just fine, but when it comes to one-on-one friendship, it surely does get a wee bit tricky. After all there is but a thin line between friendship and love...

Opposites attract

Yes, even in a friendship it’s the opposite traits that attract men and women to get close. It is a common fact that women love to talk. When in their girl-gang, they talk (read gossip) endlessly about everything under the sun - from make-up to men, from career choices to sexual fantasies, from family to friends and from reel stars to real life issues.

Now turn to men and you’ll find most of them glued to the TV watching their favourite sport, downing bottles of beer, drooling over a sexy woman on a magazine cover or wondering why women are so difficult to understand. This may not be all that men and women do, but it surely does come close. So when men and women mingle as friends they grab a fair share of what they miss out in their same-sex circles.

“I have a couple of guy friends that I am really close to and there is nothing hanky-panky. I guess I like being with them because they are more fun. It’s more chilled out and relaxed. I can say whatever without wondering if it’s going to hurt someone. You know with just girls there is too much ‘khit-khit’ over nothing”, says Garima Sarkar, an engineer. She goes onto add, “Women can sometimes be very bitchy and says things behind your back but men say it on your face. That’s much better.”

She’s not the only one. Shruti Bhatnagar who works in the marketing wing of an MNC agrees, “My guy friend Amit is almost like a relief from my female friends. No ‘rona dhona’, no issues over small matters, just good fun. I know if I pull his leg or joke around, he won’t sulk about it and yes, he’s never judgmental”. Shruti goes on to add, “With him I can bring out my fun side. I can crack dirty jokes, laugh at Hindi abuses, talk about sports etc, it’s much more easy going.”

Ask any girl who has consoled a heart-broken friend over endless phone calls and she’ll tell you that female friends do come with lots of emotional baggage and being with a guy acts as a breath of fresh air at times. The case with men isn’t too different either.

“When I have a fight at home or a problem at work place, it’s difficult to talk to my male pals about it, as I feel they’ll think of me as a sissy. But my friend Archana is a real sweetheart. She listens to it all and is always ready with advice without making me feel small”, says banker Rohit Kapur. He adds cheekily, “Plus, she always helps me out when trying to get a date with someone; trust me she always knows what I should say and do”. Shruti sums it up by saying, “At the end of the day, it’s all about compatibility. If you can click with people it doesn’t matter what sex they belong to.”