One of Xandra’s friends asked this question, and I thought it would be easy to answer, but the more I think about it, the more complicated it seems. Keep in mind, that this is all purely my opinion.
First off, I guess you have to define what a friend is. There are acquaintances – people that you see at school or work or church or wherever and you chat with them but don’t go out of your way to see them or talk to them outside of there. There are closer friends – these are people that you would invite to a party or people you would miss if you haven’t seen them in a while and you would go out of your way to see them and they would go out of their way to see you. Then there are best friends – people that you check in with every day, that you know what is deep in their heart and they know what is deep in yours.
I would say that you can have any gender of acquaintance, and you really can’t have a best friend of the opposite sex that is just platonic. So for the sake of this question I am going to use the “closer friend”.
The first issue, from my perspective is that God made you to be half of a whole. God had made Adam in His own likeness, so Adam had a character a lot like His own, then when God took the rib out of Adam and made Eve, he took half of His own character and put it in Eve. When you find someone to spend your life with together, you find wholeness together. For that reason, there is a natural tension and attraction between guys and girls, and it’s a healthy natural thing.
The second issue that I see (again all this is my perspective) is how well everyone is playing their media defined gender roles.
100 years ago, children wore clothes that were easy to wash and because of the difficulty of getting decent clothing everyone wore hand-me-downs, so all the clothes were dresses. On top of that boys didn’t get their hair cut until they were at least 6 and maybe older, so little boys and little girls looked exactly the same. Here is a childhood pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt at age 2 ½.
Enter department stores and their desire to get people to part with more money, so the very first boys and girls section was a ploy by department stores to make parents feel like they were not doing enough for their kids. Boys got pink because it was a lighter version of red, which is obviously a good strong color, and girls got blue because it was a softer color. Pink did not become a “girls color” until the 1930s when chemical dies made it possible to make a color called “Shockingly Pink” that wouldn’t fade. Clothes were launched in that color as was a perfume with the same name that had a bottle in the shape of a woman’s bust.
From that time to this, marketing departments have been working on making you feel like you are missing something so they can sell you more things.
The reason that this has anything to do with boy-girl friendships is because the main target of the marketing machine is teens who are mostly at a stage in their lives where they are figuring out who they are and are therefore the must vulnerable to feeling like they need this “thing” to make them feel more complete or to define them. If the message 100 years ago was that boys and girls need to be recognized separately by colors, then the message today is that you are not sexy enough. In order to make that message stick, they put hyper-sexualized images… EVERYWHERE. And 95% of people or more buy it all, hook-line-and-sinker.
But the 95% crowd is constantly moving toward the target that the media painted and if the crowd ever gets to the level that the marketing departments are painting then they won’t have that disparity to make you feel like what you are really missing in life is a new bikini top and Daisy Duke shorts, and a hot boyfriend, and… So they keep pushing to sexualize and make things even more over the edge so you will keep pursuing the elusive happiness that is represented in those Photoshoped and staged ads.
If you go back and watch TV shows and movies from the 50s and 60s you will see a lot more “just friends” or plots that don’t involve cheating at the first opportunity.
Boys do the same thing. We all hate Axe deodorant, especially when mixed in great quantities with 10th grade guy sweat, but your school is full of the stuff. Not because of the quality fragrance and effective adjustment to body odor, but because the ads say that girls will throw themselves at you, even if you are a comely nerd.
Add in the movies and TV shows about the topic of “just friends” where it is never just friends, or movies about cheating, or “friends with benefits”, or any other movie where the guy always gets the girl or the girl always gets the guy and you have everything stacked against you. You’re a girl to start with, which dudes are going to naturally be attracted to. You are wearing clothes that are designed to get guys attention and get them turned on. And you have a million different media messages the give nothing but examples of making everything about sex.
And you want to be “just friends” with a dude.
I still think you can, but “the cards are stacked against you”. I think that there is always some awkwardness and most of the time one of you actually wants more out of the relationship than you/they are actually saying. But there is value in getting to know different kinds of guys and figuring out the kind of guy that you want to be with long term without going through meaningless relationships and breakups. I personally married my best friend, someone that I had known and been friends with for over four years before we ever went on a “date”. Here are some pointers that I came across and I thought they were good:
1) View your friends as family – There’s a verse in the Bible telling a dude to treat the girls around him as sisters. If a guy intentionally thinks of you as a sister, then his instinct will be to protect you and your honor. And you are not all that likely to flirt or be inappropriate with your brother.
2) Avoid “pair” pressure – as soon as you talk to the same guy more than once, someone is going to ask you if you like them, or if you are going out. Be ready to answer that and tell your friends that say stuff like that to get a life.
3) Alleviate awkward – sexual tension and attraction and uncertainty are all made a lot worse when things are awkward and someone you like but just want to get to know as a friend doesn’t know what you expect, or what to say, or what to do. Doing something as a group, like having a few friends over or doing something in your youth group is a great idea. If the target of your friendship is there in the group, its a lot easier to ease into meaningful conversation if there is a group around.
4) Learn how to converse – there’s no real precedent anywhere in history for the kind of social skills your generation is growing up with, using technology and instant messages, etc. One thing that I have noticed though is that this generation is not great at meaningful conversation or resolving personal conflicts where words are required. When you do get together with others (guys or girls) put away the phones and talk. Being better at talking in general will help you to be better at talking with guys in a platonic way.
5) Don’t flirt – this might seem obvious but if you have a dude that is your friend and you like them and you are goofing around and you start flirting with him in even a joking way, it could derail everything. Draw up some obvious boundaries like no hanging out in a guys house or having a guy to your house when no one else is there.
6) Ask for help – if the dude is really a decent guy and worth being a friend with, then ask them to tell you if they find something you are wearing to be too suggestive or makes them uncomfortable. If they really are decent, and really are looking at you like a sister they will not only tell you if if makes them uncomfortable, but they will tell you if you are sending the wrong message to other guys as well.
Heartbreak sucks! Hurting in general sucks and most of it can be avoided by not jumping into relationships that have no chance, but it will require you to think for yourself what you want in your relationships and not just play the parts you see in the movies. By only having relationships with people that are worthy friends first, you can avoid a world of hurt and your relationships will have a fighting chance.
This is all my opinion – and I am sure there are a million exceptions to all the rules and ideas above, but the conclusions are pretty much the same. You can be just friends with a dude, but it is a bit complicated and most of the time its worth it.