The Eternal Problem…part five

As is so often the way, the immediate aftermath of the most recent post on this topic spawned a great deal of further thought – so much thought that another post was clearly necessary…

First off, I’ve been really touched by the number of positive comments this series has received. It’s a subject that’s very close to my heart, so I’m glad that it’s provided food for thought and sometimes a comfort for others that have pondered this question. I even discovered the other day that my mother was distributing it amongst her friends! (Interestingly, her opinion is that men and women can’t be friends – I need to do some more digging as to why.) And thanks too to Danny – quoted in Part 4 – who linked to my posts in his recent article on the subject on Threads. (It’s essentially a condensed version of his own blogpost, but still well worth a read.)

Secondly, less than 24 hours after Part 4 was published, I found myself discussing the question with two male friends who had very different views on how to answer it. One was 24 and has been in a relationship for 5 years; the other is my age and single. When I proposed the question: “Can men and women be friends without it getting complicated?” The younger man answered “Yes!” at the precise moment my contemporary answered “No!”. [Which does beg the question, in what capacity was I having dinner with this guy if we couldn’t be friends? Casual acquaintances? Colleagues? I jest…]

Basically, the younger guy was coming at it from the perspective of being in a relationship and having grown up with lots of female friends – but he did acknowledge that if he now acquired a best friend who was female, his girlfriend might have quite a lot to say about the matter. The older guy was speaking from many years experience in the Christian world and from a position of having to have awkward conversations with several female friends. He now has (an extremely sensible and admirable) set of boundaries he puts in place to try and ensure that he doesn’t hurt girls inadvertently. I was really encouraged to hear him talk about his experiences as it gave me a certain amount of hope in the remaining single Christian men in London…

What was particularly great about this conversation is that provided a perfect basis to clear up a slightly embarrassing situation that emerged the following day. The three of us were having dinner prior to going to a party that the older guy had persuaded us to go to. We ended up staying out far later than planned (particularly as I had an 8.30am start at Vicar School the following morning) and I tweeted something to the effect (at 2am) that the older guy was entirely responsible for this state of affairs – which he admitted to. This tweet – its mention of a single guy and no one else – prompted no fewer than 3 people to ask me the following morning if we were now seeing each other. Because clearly, men and women can’t mention each other in tweets without it meaning something! Happily, both of us found this a totally ridiculous state of affairs and were able to laugh it off and I did not look like a crazy stalker lady (which I am not).

People, I know you mean well, but something that would massively help the complicated nature of male-female friendships is if you would stop jumping to conclusions; making unhelpful comments; or generally teasing people. It creates false hope, anxiety and even more complication which is never helpful!


If you look back at Part 4, you’ll notice that there’s not one but three comments on it from the same author (apparently Blogger now limits the amount of text that can be written in a comment – another brilliant move from the increasingly irritating platform). This particular writer is one of my main sparring partners on this issue, it’s cropped up on his blog a few times, and it’s a bugbear for both of us – but for different reasons. Like Danny, Andy sees huge value in the time you spend getting to know someone of the opposite sex, regardless of whether the attraction you’re exploring is a sexual one or a purely platonic one. On this point, I agree with both of them.

Particularly in Christian circles, society has a terrible fixation upon sex, relationships and marriage. If a girl meets a single guy, the general beliefs are:

1. She’ll be checking him out as potential husband.
2. He’s assuming she’s checking him out as a potential husband.
3. She knows he’s assuming she’s checking him out and doesn’t want him to think that she is.

It’s bizarre. You know what? We can meet members of the opposite sex and not be thinking this way! In fact, Andy (many, many years ago) wrote what I consider one of his best blog posts on the issue of singleness and church. It’s well worth reading, saving and using it whenever you have to deal with such situations. (I work in student ministry – I quote from it all the time.)

We don’t do ourselves any favours.

We need to get better a platonic relationships, of not reading too much into things, of putting boundaries in place to guard our hearts, and most of all, we need to get better at being honest. I know I’m repeating things I’ve said before, but that’s what it boils down to. Different people will have different opinions on how and what to do, but the bottom line is that we need to try and enjoy friendships without getting hurt.


Harry Sally NYE

Finally, something that brings us right back to the original source of the question: When Harry Met Sally. [Ok, yes, I’m sure men and women were having this debate before that film was made, but it’s what prompted the original conversation that resulted in this blog series.] Last week I discovered an article about the film and this question that rocked my world…

‘When Harry Met Sally’ Is Bad For Ladies revealed that the ending of the movie had been changed. ‘Before the question is even asked, we know whether Harry and Sally can be friends; they can’t. They inhabit a rom-com, and so they ultimately have to end up together romantically.’ In fact, Nora Ephron had intended to end the film with Harry & Sally remaining friends, thus demonstrating the reality that she herself had friendships with men where sex hadn’t become an issue, just like many women across the world.

All of a sudden, the basis of my romantic tendencies had been shattered! That scene, right at the end, on New Year’s Eve, when Harry races to find Sally before midnight and utters that speech – that is the reason why I am almost certainly going to disappointed every single year as the clock strikes midnight – and that scene should never have been in the film! Every time I watch it, it moves me to tears (embarrassingly, the last time this happened was on a flight home from Texas – weirdly, the very night Ephron died), it gives me unrealistic expectations and is ridiculously far-fetched.

The article outlines all the ways in which changing the ending has minimised Sally’s side of the argument and makes Harry look like he was right all along – it has something of a feminist rant, which I can sympathise with a bit. However, it concludes brilliantly that:

Its necessarily romantic ending guarantees a massive audience for its thematic question. By simply posing that question, When Harry Met Sally allows the viewer to have the debate in her own life, where the answer is not predetermined.

So here we are, right back where we began, having a debate that will stretch on into eternity…

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