In her carefree single days, it was easy for Jenny to make male friends.
Keeping them, however, was a problem.
The 34-year-old office administrator has experienced the demise of several friendships due to unrequited romantic feelings on the part of the man.
“This wasn’t some kind of super hotness or awesomeness I was working on these guys,” she says. “It’s just what happens when a straight man and a straight woman spend a lot of fun, social, one-on-one time with each other. And it goes both ways.”
When Harry first meets Sally, he lets her know, in no uncertain terms, that they would never be friends: “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
And although Harry and Sally do, in fact, become friends…they also do it. But don’t worry! They eventually fall in love.
And so it goes in most romantic comedies.
Those of us who live in the real world understand that rom-com rules rarely apply. But almost 25 years after the release of Nora Ephron’s iconic film, whether or not (heterosexual) men and women can just be friends remains hotly debated.
Jesse Bud and Patrick Romero’s short film, Why Men and Women Can’t Be Friends, has amassed nearly 7 million views on YouTube. They asked male and female students at Utah State about their opposite-sex friendships, concluding that just about every male would hook up with their female friends, given half an opportunity.
It’s far from a scientific study (especially given the reference population is a group of hormonally charged college students), but it’s mesmerizing to watch.
On romantic social network Zoosk’s recent Facebook poll of 1,864 people, 75% of respondents agreed men and woman can just be friends, but 25% did not believe it was possible due to attraction.
So, can men and women really just be friends?
“The answer is yes, but there are some caveats with that,” says Geoffrey Greif, professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships.
“It tends to be more common when the men and women don’t find each other especially physically attractive.”