The movies would lead us to believe that at some point a pair of opposite gender friends will have a revelation and realize they are in love. Then the movie ends and they presumably live happily ever after. I mean, we don’t write songs about a man and a woman being great friends their whole lives. But this is cinema and song, so how do this play out in real life?
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It’s a question as old as time, always coming into play after a breakup and between friends. This is a question with no simple answer, but of extreme importance, especially at a high school, not to mention around prom. It has ruined relationships, created new ones, and sometimes done nothing at all. Can boys and girls be just friends?
When Buffalo High Schools students answered this question, there were some very absolute answers and some who weren’t sure, but everyone had an opinion.
Some people were absolutely firm in their belief that men and women could never hold a purely platonic relationship without it turning into something more, even if for only one person.
“The only way a man and a woman can be friends is if the man doesn’t find the woman attractive,” said Junior Devon Bainey. “If they’re both attractive and they have a steady relationship then the guy will develop feelings for her first, then eventually if that continues then the woman will develop feelings after that.”
This view is supported in an article by Psychology Today, which states that, “Within the boundaries of gender generalizations, the vast majority of heterosexual men will invariably have a ‘reflex’ [of] sexual desirability upon seeing a female. In general, then, one can say that men are very sexually ‘reflexive’ while women are more sexually ‘reflective.'”
This means that men’s first reactions and interactions with women are often that of a romantic nature, but women are more biologically apt to see men as only friends, which plays into what is often a gray area of misread signals, or one person feeling something the other doesn’t, and a simple friendly relationship becomes more complicated. Lending a point to this side of the argument, Psychology Today says, “Men often misread women’s friendly signals as invitation for sex and why so many women are shocked when a male ‘friend’ comes on to them sexually.”
“I think men and women can be friends, but for me personally, even though I know that we’re just friends, I’ll sometimes question the relationship,” said Junior Hope Mueller. “Sometimes something will happen where I think, ‘If I liked this person would our relationship be different?’ I feel like if you’re already questioning your relationship as just friends, then somewhere down the road one will start to feel something more.”
This also begs the question, can a friendship recover after one person has more than friendly feelings?
“Personally, I think it depends on the two, if you weren’t that close to begin with you don’t have much to fall back on, but if you were closer to begin with and it’s worth something to both people then you can recover it if you both try,” said Mueller.
The world seems to think men and women can have platonic friendships, but not if they’re “close” friends of the same age. When googling platonic male/female friendships very few articles come up with the idea that it works, and they seem to contradict themselves. So what’s the deal? Are we over dramatizing this whole thing or is it reality? Some students think we’re all being a bit too dramatic about this and it’s completely possible and are firmly on the other side.
“I think they can because just because you’re close with someone of the opposite gender doesn’t mean you want to date them or have feelings for them,” said Junior Carlie O’Malley.
Agreeing with O’Malley was Junior Tyler Maxson, who also addressed the issue of how the public views this type of relationship.
“I’m just friends with a lot of girls. If you don’t care what other people think, and you shouldn’t. Then it’s a lot easier,” said Maxson.
Many relationship experts according to another article highlighting this side of the argument say that at one point in time we were not able to be platonic, but that we have moved past that and today’s culture better lends itself to platonic friendships.
“The belief that men and women can’t be friends comes from another era in which women were at home and men were in the workplace and the only way they could get together was for romance,” said Psychologist Linda Sapadin.
Some students seem to agree with this too, acknowledging that our culture has a lot to do with how we view friendships between men and women and that time has changed that.
“In the last fifty years guys and girls can be friends, but before they couldn’t because the guy was courting the girl and then they would get married,” said Maxson.