The When Harry Met Sally Complex

Published January 15, 2013 by auddity

I don’t think the writers of When Harry Met Sally had queers in mind when they proposed that men and women can never be just friends. Sure, we have a reputation of hooking up with our friends, but that isn’t necessarily dictated by gender in our case – queers are gonna hook up with whomever the hell they want. Queer or not, however, we have all been tricked into thinking that we can’t have meaningful platonic relationships, at least not as meaningful as romantic ones. In the movies, we always see platonic relationships that evolve into romantic ones, implying that the truest form of love is romance. Which just is not true.

Look at your life for a second: Have you ever had a mutually supportive, emotionally meaningful, truly enjoyable relationship with someone you weren’t sleeping with? Of course you have. Was this person a member of the opposite sex? For exclusively straight people, the answer may be no, thus The When Harry Met Sally Hypothesis might ring true. But to ask a woman who typically is not attracted to men if she has any platonic relationships with men seems a little ridiculous. So, maybe we should add a queer-inclusive revision to our theory: Can you have a platonic relationship with someone you are potentially sexually attracted to? For me, this question is still laughable. Of course I have female friends that I don’t want to sleep with! Imagine how high school would have gone for me if instead of drawing comfort and sisterhood from my circle of girlfriends, I was just trying to sleep with/date all of them.

But hey, I’m not a lesbian; I’m also attracted to men. So how does that affect our hypothesis? Since I have really only been attracted to transmen thus far in the pansexual chapter of my life, let’s go with that: Can Audrey have a platonic relationship with a trans guy? The answer is yes, but I didn’t always think so. So I see you, When Harry Met Sally, I really do, and you almost got it right. But here’s the thing that no one tells you, The When Harry Met Sally Complex, we are capable of having platonic relationships with people we’re (potentially) attracted to, we just don’t typically let ourselves. And why is that? Are our libidos really that out of control? Possibly.

I have a dear friend with whom I have a completely platonic relationship. He is the single most beautiful person I have met in my 22 years on this earth, and for about a week almost exactly a year ago I nearly blew it by convincing myself I had romantic feelings for him. Why not? He’s cute, he already knew me really well, and I felt comfortable around him, why wouldn’t I be into him? And I am into him. Platonically. Don’t get me wrong, I do love him. I love him like I love my dog or a summer afternoon or a starry night where the moon takes up half the sky and your heart feels like it’s going to burst out of your chest because you have so many feelings but how can they all possibly be directed at one mortal human being who thinks and breathes and cries just the same as you do? Sounds a lot like love doesn’t it? That’s because it is. And it is no less valid than romantic love.

Turns out I didn’t have a crush on this person. Compared to the enormity of my platonic love for him, the word “crush” seems ludicrous. How can a crush hold up to infinite companionship? Thank goodness I came to my senses quickly, for he is still my best friend and I am happily still his. I don’t feel embarrassed that I mistook friendship for infatuation, however, because we have been trained to do so. It’s the way we’re raised; our mothers comforted us when a classmate pushed us on the playground, “It’s because (s)he likes you.” Our earliest childhood memories were of Disney romances, boy princes sweeping girls off their feet, sixteen year-old princesses dreaming of adventure, as long as it ended in marriage. Our friends often aided in this delusion, “You and So-and-so have been spending a lot of time together… obviously the only conclusion is that you must like each other!” In my freshman year a bunch of my friends convinced me that my guy friend was super into me. I was not romantically interested in him in the slightest, but they all said he liked me so I figured it must be true. We all got a huge laugh when he came out as bi right after I came out as gay in sophomore year. There was zero attraction there, but because we were young and of the opposite sex and spending a lot of time together, we couldn’t just be friends.

So when I found myself questioning my sexuality in my junior year and my hot trans bestie just happened to be newly single, I convinced myself that it might be nice to be with him. And you know, it probably would be, but not because we’re secretly meant to be, because he’s a good and decent person who treats anyone he’s dating really well.

I want to try to stop making certain things into things that they are not. Like platonic relationships that do not need meddling. Like connections with random strangers at parties. Like liking the same band as someone and understanding their sense of humor. Like being there for someone when they are emotionally vulnerable. This does not mean that we are meant to be. So When Harry Met Sally, why couldn’t you just let Harry and Sally be friends and support each other as they each went on to do whatever it is they went on to do? Would them not getting together at the end somehow have made their relationship any less meaningful? Would it have ruined our storybook perception of human connection? I ask you friends, with complete sincerity, when it comes to friendship, what’s sex got to do with it?

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2 comments on “The When Harry Met Sally Complex

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