The great “friends” debate: A guest post

12/27/2011 The Anti-Austen 8 Comments

There is an innocent-seeming video lurking somewhere in the depths of the cyber world. I first found it when about 57 of my friends linked it to their Facebook accounts. Since this video has gone viral among the BYU community, received over 4 million hits on YouTube, and since been parodied by Stephen Jones (which, let’s face it, is the only real way of knowing if a video is a true hit or not), I’m assuming y’all have seen it.

For those who actually stuck to their books during finals week and somehow missed this insightful commentary about the lives and loves of Utah’s young adults, here’s the video below:

At risk of sounding too much like a stereotypical girl, I must admit that I watched this video and came out of it full of righteous indignation. Of course men and women can be friends! Why, just this semester I met a lovely boy named Michael Vaughn (yes, named after the Alias character, because he embodies all the character’s wonderful qualities as well as a fair chunk of his good looks). Mr. Vaughn and I spent, oh, about an hour hanging out at the start of semester, discovered several quirks we both happened to share, and promptly fell in love…with the idea of being each other’s best friend. And yes, we really are just friends. He bemoans the fact that he’s too shy to tell his crush how he feels. I suggest that he invites his charming and mysterious friend, Mr. List, around to do stuff with us so I can get to know him better (read: creep on him from across the apartment while sending him telepathic signals that he and I should in fact become an item soon. Le sigh. I really should stop even trying to deny my creeper tendencies). Essentially, when we met each other, we both really needed a best friend—a safe harbor, if you will—and it was wonderful to find someone else in that situation who was able to be exactly what we needed at exactly the right time.

I suppose I can’t really answer the question regarding “Would we be an item if I’d let him,” because in an attempt to keep both my anonymity and my dignity intact, Mr. Vaughn doesn’t at this point know that I’m guest posting for this blog. While I can’t speak for him, there are several reasons why he would likely conclude that a relationship would not work between us (age differences, lifestyle differences, and the fact that we would likely kill each other within a week due to constant bickering over the correct furnace temperature, to name just a few). Because I’m the author of this blog, I get to claim that he wouldn’t choose to be an item even if I would let him, and that he is my friend purely because he enjoys my company, not because there’s anything in it for him.

Armed with this irrefutable argument, I jumped right into the online debate that was consuming the attention of many of my friends (or friends and boys-who-happen-to-exist-in-my-life-because-they’d-date-me-if-I’d-let-them, depending on which side of the line you happen to fall on).

The first name on my chat list to catch my attention was Not-A-Date. Not-A-Date is an amazing fellow, very amiable, thoughtful to those around him, attractive, and just an all-round good guy. He receives his moniker due to the fact that, despite his many good qualities, he often forgets the Three P’s of dating (“planned ahead, paid for, and paired off,” as chanted by an army of young women girls and, on occasion, Dallin H. Oaks). At any rate, Not-A-Date has plenty of excellent opinions about dating, and I knew he’d be up for a good debate.

Ingenue: Not-A-Date! Have you seen that men-and-women-can’t-be-friends vid yet?

Not-A-Date: Haha yeah! Classic stuff right? It’s so true.

Ingenue: Actually, I couldn’t disagree more.

Not-A-Date: AHAHAHA. That’s because you’re a girl.

Ingenue: No, really. I mean, look at us. We’re friends, right? And that’s all we’ve ever been, right?

Not-A-Date: No way. We fail the test because we’ve been on a date.

Wait… what??

Ingenue: … We have?

Not-A-Date: Yeah… remember that time we saw each other at the basketball game? We sat next to each other, we talked, we flirted…

No, Not-A-Date, we really, really didn’t. My group sitting adjacent to your group at the game does not constitute a date.

Ingenue: Oh. Uhh… that wasn’t really a date, Not-A-Date…

Not-A-Date: Well, but I thought you were cute. And I would have held your hand if you’d let me. So we’re totally an example of why guys and girls can’t be friends!

Oookay. So maybe Not-A-Date wasn’t the best person to broach the subject with. I'm stubborn, so I nevertheless persisted. His view, which emerged after several minutes of conversation, was that if a guy and girl even considered the other as a potential dating partner, at any point during the course of their relationship, then they weren’t “just friends” and could thenceforth never be considered as such.

Well, if you’re going by this argument, I think he has a point. It’s only human nature to size someone up as a potential dating partner when you meet them. But what if you come to the conclusion “It’s never going to happen” in a very short period of time (like, say, 0.0045 seconds), and then go on to have a fun, fulfilling, and highly enjoyablefriendship (yes, I went there) for many years afterwards? Does the fact that you even considered them preclude you from being friends? And what about friendships with engaged or married people? I have met several lovely gentlemen who were engaged or married at the point of meeting. In some cases, while I have met the wife or fiancée, she does not figure largely in my friendship with the man (for example, if I am friends with him at work), so it’s not a friendship between me and a couple. And what about friendships with individuals who are much older or younger than yourself, with whom you would never consider a relationship? Are they impossible? Are the opinions expressed on this video purely those of young Utah-based single adult men thinking only about one facet of their lives and ignoring the relationships that exist in other areas?

Personally, I choose to have a little more faith in men than that (potentially highly edited) video chooses to show. I believe that men and women are absolutely capable of being friends and caring, honestly and truly, about the other person without any thought to “What can I possibly get out of this relationship?” While obviously relationships can and should develop out of friendships (*sends telepathic hints furiously in the direction of Mr. List*), I don’t think that’s necessarily what all friendships are predicated upon. And if it is… perhaps we should start focusing on caring about the individual rather than what they could potentially do for us. Seeing them as a child of God instead of just a potential trophy wife or husband. Because, even though LDS culture is so marriage-focused, isn’t the pure love of Christ really what it’s all about?

Well, I’ve opened the gauntlet. Feel free to post your thoughts and impressions about the video below, and we’ll all have a fantastic debate. Meanwhile, I’m off to go make lava cakes with my friend Mr. Vaughn. If he unexpectedly takes me in his arms and declares his undying love for me ‘midst the mixing bowls and preheating oven, I hereby promise to eat all my words and invite y’all to the subsequent wedding.

The Ingenue

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Katrina said...

So, I'm still very on the fence about this. The first time I saw the video, I was with one of my guy friends. I feel like he keeps sending me "friends vibes" but then I was floored when he adamantly disagreed with me by stating men and women CAN'T be just friends. Grrrrr! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ask him more at the time, though I really want to know how he explains our friendship, but that's another cunnundrum for a different day.

However, my theory is that it depends on the people, the situation, and the timing. So I guess that's my 4 cents, since I definitely put in more than just 2 cents. Lol

jenerator said...

I have a boyfriend and my best friend (who is a guy) has a girlfriend. We are admittedly not as close as we were when we were both single, but that's likely largely due to the fact that we were living less than 50 yards away from each other all summer and working together every day. Either way. I think men and women can be 'just friends' but it is extremely rare. My friends have always been guys, and several of them have said, "No, I wouldn't date you, because of _____ [insert good reason here]." Whatever, in the end, my forever best friend is going to be a guy.

Anonymous said...

While I am a girl who does have good male friends, I lean more towards the "can't be friends" side of things. This is mainly because, in my experience, even with male friends there's always interest (of the romantical type) on one side or the other. Also because those relationships should (if you're a respectable sort of person) tone down A LOT once you or the other person becomes involved in a serious relationship or gets married. You shouldn't have a best friend of the opposite sex at that point. No matter how platonic it is for you, and you think it will be forever, there is always the heightened possibility of misbehavior and (again, in my experience) it's better to just avoid that altogether.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the "must be more" side at all. I think it's fair to say that a majority of my friends are guys, yet--sad as I am to admit it--I've only been on one date during my time at BYU. If that was true, I think someone would have done something...right?

I guess I don't really know. It's just hard to believe that there would be any interest from my guy friends, especially since I'm pretty close to some of them. What level of friendship is this talking about, anyway? As in, a friend you only see in classes or work, or a guy you spend time with on a regular basis?

Lauren said...

Ingenue, your writing is fabulous. Thanks for sharing your awesome insights. I think we might have a new Anti-Austen writer on our hands here.

Ingenue said...

Thanks everyone for the insights! I think there are some really interesting comments here.

Katrina, ignore the calendar on your wall/phone/computer because it turns out No-Fear November is still happening! Talk to this man... I can't wait to see if he's interested in you :)

Jenerator, I think we have a lot of the same views about things. I'm glad you've been able to keep up your relationship with your best friend even when you're both in romantic relationships. That's exactly how I aspire to be (when my Mister comes along!).

Anonymous #1, your comment about how all friendships with the opposite gender should be toned down when one becomes involved in a serious relationship really stuck out to me. Much as I adore Mr. Vaughn... the thing is, I would definitely have to monitor the time I spent with him were I to become involved with someone else. Not necessarily because anything would happen there, but because there's still the environment of temptation... and as we're told, even the best boy and the best girl can succumb to temptation when they put themselves in the wrong environment. Definitely some food for thought.

Anonymous #2, I was classifying my male friends as someone with whom I could have an in-depth, deep discussion about my life. Someone I trust enough to confide in. Not just any acquaintance that I'd say hi to, but someone with whom there is some bond of confidentiality or intimacy. I agree with what you said... if there's that sort of level of trust between me and my friend, I would have thought any romantic interest would have been expressed (by either side) had it been there. And it hasn't. Ergo... friends! Hurrah! :)

And Lauren, thankyou so much! What a way to make my day :)

It simply can't be done!

Well that's not entirely true, I don't believe men and women can maintain a stable friendship with out HONESTLY addressing their romantic feelings towards each other. I'm sure there are girls out there saying "Oh, we've TOTALLY done that!" But 90% of you are wrong.

To be honest, the only girls I can honestly say I've been 'just friends' with are girls with whom the dating was attempted and quickly failed. Once that is behind you, then you can be friends. But even that, in a way, supports the idea that men and women can't be friends.

The Charmer said...

I know a boy named Michael Vaughn. We went on a couple dates once. I wouldn't really consider us friends anymore.

That's all. Haha.