“…men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” Harry Burns.
That’s the premise behind the movie, When Harry Met Sally that plays out with hilarious side-effects. Harry later goes on to clarify that it would work if both of them were in relationships with other people, but otherwise platonic friendships between men and women are not possible.
I call BS. There are some great platonic friendships in fiction. Harry and Hermione (even though JK Rowling now admits she should have had them end up together), Meredith Grey and Alex Karev from Grey’s Anatomy, Watson and Holmes from Elementary. Okay, so maybe there aren’t a lot of examples, but that’s too bad. There should be.
Movies and books are filled with examples of straight/gay opposite-sex platonic friendships, but that’s not what I’m talking about because in those cases, any sexual attraction will never be reciprocated. What’s so great about a platonic friendship with a member of the opposite sex is a perspective you’ll never get from your girlfriends (or guy friends if you’re a guy). And let’s face it, your boyfriend/husband/girlfriend/wife will never give it to you straight if s/he thinks your affection is on the line.
With The Union series, I created several close platonic friendships for my protagonist, Evan Taylor. These include Lisa and Colin from the Union and Sonia out in the Ruins. Evan is slow to trust, so I knew her circle of close friends would be small. In The Ruins, Evan’s friendship with Colin evolves and the two become closer, needing each other in order to survive.
It might seem implausible for two teens with raging hormones to keep their friendship purely platonic, but I believe it’s not only possible, but logical. And I think it’s an underserved demographic in young adult fiction. There are a lot of friends-to-lovers stories out there, but that’s not what Evan and Colin are about. Their love for each other isn’t muddied with sexual attraction and all the pitfalls that can introduce.
I met my best male friend thirty years ago this summer. Our friendship developed over years of spending time together in the same group of friends. We saw each other through dozens of new relationships and breakups, marriages, children, and even a couple of divorces. He was there for me when I needed a place to crash after one of those breakups, and I was his best man at one of those weddings.
We were often single at the same time, and I won’t say we were never tempted to see where things might go, but we never acted on it because the friendship was always more important. And although we’re both more settled now with our respective families and don’t see each other as much as we used to, when we do get together, it’s as if no time has passed. Because that’s how it is with best friends, male or female.