…What She’s Having

I find myself thinking a lot lately about When Harry Met Sally — or rather, about the film’s central question: can men and women be friends without sex getting in the way?

I’ve made several friends over the past year or so, most notably The Confidante and The Voyeur (my many years of French classes still hold sway, it seems), but there were others, too. I’m not sure that any of those friendships were untouched by some level of romance, but I’m processing on the fly, so let’s write it all out…

  • The Confidante — our relationship is the closest thing to what I fondly remember having with my closest guy friend from 7th-12th grade. While The Confidante and I kicked things off by going on a date (and yes, there was kissing involved), and we have since had some decidedly pointed and awkward conversations about “us,” our time together feels comfortably platonic. I wonder sometimes how either of us being in a serious dating relationship will impact our friendship. It’s one thing to say that you trust your partner to spend alone time with their opposite-sex friend, but it’s another to walk that out. For what it’s worth, I want to point out that WHMS is The Confidante’s favorite movie.
  • The Voyeur — I hardly have to go into this, as there is ample material here. Basically a month’s worth of posts in January (starting with this one) if you care to dive in.
  • The Fool — even though we did sleep together a few times, I never considered him a serious contender. For the better part of 3 months, though, we texted daily and developed a friendship. When several days passed with no word from him, I checked in to make sure he was ok. Turns out that he had started seeing someone, which apparently precluded our remaining in contact.
  • The Hermit — as I mentioned in my last post, we revived contact after about 6 weeks of post-break-up silence. Initially, he regularly sent sexually-charged messages, but I wasn’t having it, and he eventually toned it down….that is, until a few days ago. “I’ve had a hard day and it’d be nice to enjoy your company.” That’s when I decided to break the bad news that I was dating someone. And that was that. No word since — very unusual for him. It appears that the whole “let’s be friends” thing didn’t mean the same thing to both of us.

I know that some of my missteps in navigating male-female friendship are rooted in my people-pleasing ways, which lurk in my periphery, rushing occasionally to the foreground to remind me that I’ve still got work to do. The best example of this is getting back in touch with The Hermit at all — an unnecessary and ill-advised choice that directly contradicted my assurance to him that he could take all the time he needed and that the communication ball was in his court. But my impatience to know how he was coping without me prompted me to reach out when I should have kept my arms locked to my sides. I didn’t miss him as much as I missed being the sun in his solar system.

If our identities are anchored in how needed we are within a community, I had drawn excessive gratification from being his touchstone. I had been a one-woman show — the sum total of his community — but I wasn’t dealing well with my own obsolescence; hence, my prematurely resuming contact when it didn’t really serve either of us well. So, yeah, I’m actively in trial and error mode.

For Harry and Sally, the answer to the film’s question was ultimately “no.”

I’m still on the fence.

Not content to merely accept at face value Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s conclusions (as fantastic as they are, RIP Nora), I’m stubbornly hopeful that I can maintain meaningful friendships with men. Trial and error have taught me a lot already, namely that 1) staying friends after a breakup and 2) expecting a friendship to transition seamlessly if one of you begins a serious relationship are both seriously shortsighted.

Anybody care to chime in with sage advice on the subject?

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