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When Another Harry Met Another Sally

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Let me tell you how Jenny's boyfriend reacts every time she has a new 'nice' male friend to hang out with. He narrows his eyes, his right hand reaches up to his nose and scratches it as if it is itchy and his face reddens for a couple of minutes. I could almost see the adrenaline fill up his blood vessels.

His alarm bell goes wild! But I can completely understand it. What else do men possess in their lives, more than a smart, attractive, funny and loving woman? If we put golf, wrestling show nights and crappy conversations over a beer aside, of course. To learn that a male stranger makes an intrusion - no matter how innocent it is - into his marked territory is just too much to bear for Jenny's boyfriend. Isn't it funny? Why can't some people just accept friendship between genders? What is the fuss about?

Platonic relationships - somebody told me that gay society invented the term. Is pure friendship with the opposite sex possible in real life?

We wouldn't think twice to say 'yes, there's a wide possibility', if only all human beings were created with the same hormone configuration. But guess what, we are absolutely different creatures by nature. Like John Gray said in his book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. The female group is destined to use brains and emotion to face life while the other group uses the twin heads and huge ego to solve problems. A huge gap in between. Now - a mutual friendship, yes - this means no flirting and no casual sex involved, between the two? It's challenging.

A close comparison to a platonic relationship is two mature Chihuahuas stuck in a box, one male and one female. At first, they get along fine - minding their own private business. Secondly, they grow to like each other, trying to scratch each other's back - being a lady and a gentleman. But the more time they spend together (say, for this breed - maybe three hours?) the more they realise that they both have undeniable biological urges. And it rocks the box. Another description I read from a web site related to this subject is that the temptation to cross the friendship borderline is similar to junk food cravings at 3 a.m. after dancing your butt off in CJ's. You don't need it - but it has an indisputable appeal.

It is also almost impossible for people who are too attractive to have healthy platonic friendships. Why? Well, the luscious information caught by your eye travels through the nerves into your brain. Your brain will react and command an action - which might be transferred to the wrong organ. Have a look at the 'Friends' TV series - I have no idea why they still call it 'Friends'. The producer should have altered the title to ' Three guys and three girls who are trapped in an apartment building and start to sleep around with each other'. No? Maybe that's too long. Why does Monica end up with Chandler and Ross with Rachel? Because they are just too unrealistically good looking to be friends? Which is fine on TV, otherwise nobody would be watching it. I think what the producer wanted to elucidate is that there are too many risks involved in friendship.

Friendships that entail married or non-single people are sometimes easier - as long as they have healthy relationships with their spouses and do not pick psycho marriage breakers as their platonic friends.

Several important factors are the key to a successful platonic relationship. The basic rule is that both parties have to enter the friendship without any hidden agenda. Both of them, or at least one of them, have to possess a strong will and discipline to set the rules and remind the other where the boundaries are. Phew, I am already sweltering here. It sounds more like the preparations to go off to a war instead of a sweet relationship.

A lot of women are also such teases. They need to feel that they are adored - that they are attractive and sexy thus they become flirtatious with their so-called 'male friends'. This kind of women tends to lure their male mates to be on and off lust quenchers. What I particularly dislike is when either the male or the female starts something (can be translated as excessively romantic treatment) then quickly moves back to the friendship zone the next day? It's so uncool and a rather cheap way to confuse the platonic friend on where he or she should stand after the treatment.

It is a completely different story if one of them has a feeling for the other. Maybe initially there is no hidden agenda, but more likely something that grows along with the time they spend together. What can you do then? If it's only one sided, the best solution is just to shut up. If you say the three magic words, it will only ruin the friendship, unless the other one feels the same way - but usually you can tell that beforehand.

Two additional tips if you think you like your partner beyond friendship: One, never take advantage when she cries on your shoulder telling you about her problems with her guy. Don't comfort her too tight in an unfriendly way (sexually fantasizing about her when you inhale the nice fragrance from her hair during the friendly hug is a big no-no). Tip number two, never - I repeat - never get drunk and tell her what you feel. If you do, quickly deny it as soon as you are sober. Or say something nice like: "I wasn't quite myself last night, I probably said some things I wouldn't have said if I wasn't drinking too much wine." That's not too cruel, don't you think?

Finally, I ask myself: "Why do we need to have platonic relationships anyway?" As a female, my answer is simple. Wouldn't it be great to have a good friend who doesn't talk bad about you behind your back, who doesn't borrow your favourite dress then forget to return it, who doesn't borrow your lipstick when he is suffering from a bad flu?

First published in the Jakarta Post.

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