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Monday, February 13, 2006 

Conversations with the girlfriend

I lost out to the girlfriend again last night… well, perhaps not entirely, but to some degree I think I did. Here’s how it went down… SHE: Do you believe that a man and a woman can ever be “just friends?" [Almost immediately the “proceed-with-extreme-caution” alarm in my head went off and I eyed her with suspicion. This was a loaded question and the barrel was pointed at my head] ME: Uh… you have to give me more details. In what context are you asking the question and are you referring to a person or a situation in particular? SHE (laughing): No specific context or reference to anyone in particular. I am just asking in general. This is something that has been bugging me for a while and I just want your perspective on it. ME (putting on my game face): Well, in that case... I suppose that theoretically and under a specific set of circumstances, a platonic relationship can exist. But generally speaking, and in my opinion, I do not believe it can happen. SHE: Why do you say that? ME: Well, platonic love by definition excludes any form of physical attraction or sexual interest, however remote it may be. And speaking as a man, if there is a slightest chance of physical interest or sexual interest, we are basically incapable of just being friends with someone of the opposite sex. We can be friends, but not “just friends”. SHE: I don’t follow what you mean. ME: I believe that men fundamentally develop friendships with the opposite sex when there is an element of attraction present, and in most cases, the attraction is physical. SHE: So you are saying, that for a man friendship goes hand in hand with a degree of attraction. Even if he admires her for intellect or ability, it could manifest itself sexually or physically on some level and that with the attraction being there, a purely platonic friendship is not possible? Interesting point… ME: It is not quite as simple as that. If a platonic relationship is all that we could ever hope to have with a person, like a relative and where a disability or circumstances prohibit us from pursuing anything further than a platonic relationship, then I suppose it is possible. SHE: But when there are none of these present, a man would chance on taking the friendship to another level, whether it is a friend, the boss’s wife or the girl working in the next office? ME: Now you are just making it sound cheap & dirty. Say for instance one does not act on the physical attraction, but we fantasise or have, let’s say improper thoughts about another person, then surely the relationship is for all practical reasons no longer platonic? SHE: In other words, only if the thought of touching someone fills you with repulsion, or makes your skin crawl, yet you share a special bond with that person, then this is the only time this affinity can be deemed platonic. And we all know in real life these cannot feelings cannot exist side by side. ME: In essence, yes. I wouldn't go as far as saying repulsion, but you basically have to feel almost nothing. Even in a so-called platonic relationship there is a degree of hidden sexual attraction. Remember we are speaking in general terms and even if you are best friends with someone, can you deny that they are of the opposite sex and that there are some physical aspects in them that you find appealing? SHE: Yeah I get it. Pure platonic love can only exist in the complete absence of an attraction… provided it is platonic on both sides? ME: Being "just friends" may be a contradiction in terms. There may be an attraction or even sexual tension with a person whom we regard as just a friend. In many cases, the tension and playful flirting is the fuel the drives the friendship. At this point, her sister came to visit and we ended the conversation. I was more than a little relieved at the interruption. She has cleverly (cunningly?) managed to steer the conversation away from providing me with a woman’s perspective on the subject. I think I lost the “debate” when I stated men are incapable of having a platonic relationship. All of the rest was just the gf baiting me while I backtracked and attempted to regain some self-respect on behalf of the male species. She had given me enough rope to hang myself with, and I was doing a splendid job of it, while she planned to move in for the kill at the appropriate moment. (Am I a little paranoid?) All I have to do is to find a way of preventing the subject from ever coming up. And if it ever comes up, I'm letting her do the talking. Nevertheless, I have to admit that it was quite an intense topic of discussion. I wonder what other people think… can a man and a woman have a pure platonic relationship completely devoid of any physical attraction and when do we cross that imaginary boundary?

'Just friends' is a euphemism. With friends from the opposite sex, varying degrees of attraction are always present. it doesn't have to be physical but there's always a lil something-I think it's pretty normal and healthy. I guess it's just our biology.

Here's a quick way to flip the argument:

1. Ask your girlfriend if she thinks a man should be able to be in a loving, serious relationship with a woman based purely on her amazing personality, even if she is not classically attractive.
2. When she says yes, point out that to be friends with someone there has to be something about that person's personality you find appealing, or interesting, or entertaining.
3. Point out that all friendships are therefore potential relationships, regardless of physical attraction, because men are also meant to be hopelessly attracted to a woman's personality.
4. Argue therefore that the choice to keep a relationship platonic has absolutely nothing to do with whether you find that person physically attractive or not. It's a conscious choice not to take things to the next level.
5. Ask her why she's so hung up on the physical. Does she only love you for your body? Would she leave you if you were ugly? Would she?!!
6. Burst into tears.

Oh, wait, sorry, that's girl tactics.

fateglimpse:I agree with you on the euphemism, I'd even call it an oxymoron
Moonflake: You are pretty good at this, aren't you? I 'd hate be Zenstar's shoes. :)
Seriously, you make valid points and it is always good to have a woman's pespective, especialy on issues like this.

Love Moonflake's response.

Now that is thinking like a girl!

Lol, thanks, i try. In all seriousness, though, I'm attracted to all my friends to some degree or another, regardless of whether they're same or opposite sex. I don't think you can really be friends with people if there isn't something about them you find attractive - sense of humour, beliefs, body, whatever, there has to be some reason why you enjoy spending time with them, or you wouldn't do it. But that doesn't mean you either want to or intend to take it futher than that.

Chitty! Happy late valentine's day!

How's life?!

I hope everything is going well with the girlfriend..I hope you two had a great day.

Good luck with her, ya??

XOXO

Rebs

IITQ: It has been a long time sine your last visit. I left a comment on your blog last night, but when I checked this morning it had vanished. Perhaps. I'll just e-mail you?
Monnflake: True... we choose our friend on the basis of the thngs we like abut them. Unlike family, but that is another story.
Rebs: Thanks. Things are well with us.

I think this is going to come out sounding quite rude, but it's not meant to. It's just a couple of honest points:

1. I don't think your girlfriend implied (going by the part of the conversation that you posted) that she was ever going "provid[e you] with a woman’s perspective on the subject".

2. I think there is a fatal flaw in Moonflake's argument, which is, alas, in point 1: the modification of "attractive" by "classically". I hope you can see why I think this, otherwise I'm going to to have to try to explain it, and I'm not sure I can!

3. I do think Moonflake might have something in her 4th point. Webster says a platonic relationship is one which is "marked by the absence of romance or sex", not attraction, physical or otherwise. But then, the OED blows that one out of the water: "Applied to love or affection for one of the opposite sex, of a purely spiritual character, and free from sensual desire. Also of affection for one of the same sex." So there you go :)

Hope that wasn't too rude.

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