It’s an age-old question, and we still haven’t gotten our answer.
When Harry Met Sally is a classic for a lot of reasons — its beloved ‘80s actors, witty dialogue, cozy autumn vibes, New York City setting, and imaginative storyline always keeps us captivated. But even more than these things is the burning question the entire plot explores: Can a single man and a single woman be just friends?
Sally insists that it’s possible, citing her many male friends that she only ever kept it platonic with. Harry disagrees, stating that every single one of her guy friends had wanted to sleep with her, and immediately would have if they’d ever been given the chance.
Sally is alarmed by this proclamation, disgruntled by the thought of having been viewed romantically or sexually (or both) by every guy friend she’d ever had — and she refuses to believe it’s true. Sally stands her ground and maintains her opinion, even asserting that Harry would only ever be a friend to her.
And yet, Sally and Harry end up together by the end of the movie, seemingly disproving Sally’s stance — or at least, causing us to question it, and even err on Harry’s side of the argument. So can a single man and a single woman just be friends, or will feelings always get in the way?
Both Sally and Harry Make a Good Point
There are plenty of male-female friendships that are only ever platonic. But there are also countless friendships between single men and single women that drifted into romantic territory, even if just fleetingly.
Heterosexual men and women are hardwired and biologically driven to be attracted to the opposite sex, making the chances that at least one person is attracted to the other relatively high, says psychiatrist Dr. Soroya Bacchus (which means that if you’re both unattracted to each other, everyone wins).
But both Sally and Harry are correct from their own sex’s perspective: Women are more likely to want to stay friends (especially if he’s already involved with someone else) and men are more likely to begin wondering if his female friend is a romantic option (even if she’s already in a relationship), and perceive signs of attraction from his girl friend where there really aren’t any.
Our Different Approaches to Friendship May Affect Things
It’s easy to look at guys and think, “Why do they have to make everything difficult? Why can’t they be around a woman and just see her as a friend?” However, we have to acknowledge that women have a particular way of relating to their friends that men don’t. We tend to want to sift through problems, are comfortable with physical contact, like to cry it out, and have good, long heart-to-hearts with our friends.
Women have a particular way of relating to their friends that men often interpret as romantic interest.
Men, on the other hand, typically don’t engage in friendship this way. He may see his female friend relating him to this way as a sign of particular interest, like we’re treating him more like a boyfriend, causing him to develop feelings and feel “led on” when we say we want to keep things friendly.
But Mature Guys Can Be Just Friends with Women
That being said, Harry’s pronouncement that men will always want more from their women friends is an immature, troubling way of relating to women, and it should be taken as a red flag if a guy is incapable of having female friends that he doesn’t end up trying to pursue.
If a guy is both mature and friend-material, forging platonic relationships with women really shouldn’t be out of the question — even if he can acknowledge that there are attractive things about his female friend.
Along with that, if he was lucky enough to grow up around sisters or other female family members, he should be well-versed in communicating and spending time with women without getting tangled up in romantic feelings for them.
So, we have our answer — or at least, what should be the answer. Men and women should be able to stay just friends, and if both parties are mature and respectful, I think it’s totally possible.
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