The Crucible

We can’t be friends, or Can we?

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By Briana Johnson-Sims

Photographs “Forbidden” and “She’s Got a Way”  By Alison Nicole Eicher

There’s really no easy answer to this question. As a young black female I’m not particularly lacking in the male friend department. There are a few guys I say hi and bye to, a few I like enough to wish Happy Birthday to, and a few more that I could stand hanging out with on a regular basis. And I don’t have a problem with that. However, as a young black female – in a relationship- it’s interesting to consider the nature of my male friendships today.  

 Ladies let’s sidebar for a moment, shall we? How many guy friends do you have? Now subtract all your exes. You were more than friends once, it’ll likely happen again. Now subtract all the guys that only text you because they are on the waiting list. You know those persistent guys that hang around because your smile and style are on point. Oh, and definitely don’t count the guys that only text you when you’re taken because we’ve all heard about the thrill of the chase. Finally, disregard every guy you’ve ever [even secretly] had a crush on. Yikes! I don’t know about you, but my finished list ranges from brothers to cousins. 

 You know what’s truly bad about this, though? It seems everyone has some need for heterosexual friendships.Make no mistake, I love my girls. We laugh ‘til we snort, pray together and occasionally share gossip. I wouldn’t give up my sisterhood or my girlfriends for anything. But when we love too hard, or personalities start to clash –or it’s that time of the month- it’s time to switch things up. I’d be lost without the guy friends who think that sports are more serious than their outfits, the guys who make you experience Superbad and not just Maid in Manhattan. 

Even more, what would a world be like in which guys only hung out with guys, and women with women? Boring. Not to mention culturally sub-par. Where would guys turn for all the answers to their embarrassing girl questions? We’ve seen the tragedy that occurred in Two Can Play That Game. A man and a woman seek out their sex for advice on relationship problems. Tell me that movie wouldn’t have been completely different if Morris Chesnutt’s best friend, Tony, was Tonisha. 

I think about these things and imagine a world in which men and women understand  each other, and value their platonic friendships as just that. In this dream men can have deep conversations with female friends without their girlfriends getting jealous. In fact, jealousy and insecurity are completely irrelevant because everyone can tell a friendship from a “friendship”. And then I hear Usher’s song “You Make Me Wanna” in the background…and the vision falls to pieces. 

The reality is that genuine hetero-friendships are rare. Kind of like penguins in the United States. They’re a treat to see, you admire their tenacity, but you probably don’t own one yourself. If you can think of a couple guys that you don’t see “that way” and vice-versa, kudos! But a conflict remains for the many cases where hetero-friendships aren’t all hugs and daps: the line between male/female friendships and sexual relationships is too ambiguous. So if you’re in a relationship, do you have to friendly interaction with the opposite sex?

Heck no! Can men and women just be friends? A lot of the time, maybe not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth aiming for. The world has never been black and white or even grey for that matter. If you spend your life worrying that you’ll end up like Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs in Brown Sugar you’ll miss out on some enriching life experiences, and great friendships. If you want to keep it platonic with someone that’s more than a friend, go for it! Just keep the flirting to a minimum, please.

This entry was published on March 2, 2011 at 4:48 pm. It’s filed under Features and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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