Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Harry/Sally Question

I was thinking about titling this post The Hairy Sally Question and just regaling you with tales of my feminist aunt who believes shaving is a tool of a chauvinistic and oppressive society, but that line is about all I've got on that subject. (Not that I really have an aunt named Sally--wink wink--and even if I did, I'm sure she's as clean-shaven as the next lady, isn't that right non-existent Aunt Sally?)

So, instead, this is yet another post about the old friend from high school and how when I first saw the movie "When Harry Met Sally" I thought the heated debate*over whether a man and a woman can be "just friends" was completely asinine and would never, ever be relevant in my own life. After all, when Harry makes his first big speech on the subject, he is just out of college and his entire understanding of male/female relationships seems to have been picked up at frat parties.

Throughout the movie, Harry's attitudes change and eventually, he and Sally are best friends and he starts to think he's been wrong, maybe men and women can be friends after all. Then, of course, they do it.

Well, despite the fact that Mr. High School and I did spend twenty hours together a few weekends ago, a few of them in his motel room, I really do have a lot of hope for a real long-term friendship for us. For one thing, we're both more practical than Harry and Sally, and one of us, at least, is more married** than either Harry or Sally was. Further, I am nowhere near as cute and perky as Meg Ryan as Sally was and so, I'm significantly less tempting to Mr. High School.

Most importantly, though, we are making our way through actual lives, not a script written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner. Think about that click you have with someone, male or female, who you just instinctively know "gets" you--I'm not talking about someone who's just fun to hang with or someone you can get along with, I'm talking about that level of recognition that you find, if you're lucky, a couple of times in your life. (Or, maybe it happens to everyone else all the time and I've just been living a pathetic and deprived existence...) Whatever it is, whatever label you want to slap on it, I'm pretty sure it's something worth hanging on to.

*The debate can be read in its entirety here by scrolling about a third of the way down the page.

**Some may consider "married" an absolute and therefore not in need of modifiers (like more or less). However, a quick scan of, well, anyone you know, and it's clear that not everyone is as married as everyone else.


  1. Okay, you've introduced the subject, so I'm just going to go with it. Yes, a man and a woman can be "just friends". But I really think it's difficult to be very, very good friends unless the man is gay- and if there was EVER an ATTRACTION between the man and woman, well, you've got a problem.

    I doubt I'm the only one who's been reading this blog and thinking this... I don't want to rain on your parade, but since you're talking about this today, I'm just offering my two cents.

    And I'm speaking from some experience. I had a six-year boyfriend with whom I was at the point of engagement- then I met a guy at work who I thought was awesome. We started hanging out and I was sure we could be "just friends". Five years later, I'm married to him.

    I'm not judging you in any way. If anything, I learned from the above experience to never judge people and assume that you know what's best for them. I think you're smart and hip and way cool. I also recognize a lot of my "rational" feelings in your writing that I had when I first met my husband... who is, by the way, my absolute soul mate and the love of my life and fulfills me in ways the old boyfriend could never have dreamed of. But I didn't know that at the time.

    I look forward to reading your retort! ;)

  2. Steven Wright asked, "How come it's 'a penny for your thoughts,' but you 'put your two cents in?' Someone's making a penny here!"

    But your two cents are definitely appreciated. As I said, I never really expected to have this be an issue in my life and any insight is welcome.

    I'm not completely oblivious to the "dangers," and I like to think being aware of them is a step toward avoiding them. If Mr. High School lived around the corner or our lives/schedules were such that we could spend twenty hours together EVERY weekend, I could see it being more of a problem. As it stands, we talk on the phone maybe once a week and the chances of us arranging another visit in the next six months or so are pretty small.

    As for the "attraction" of the past--I think it's impossible to overstate the I'm not as cute and perky as I once was aspect of this whole thing. Also, Mr. High School is very "old-fashioned" and I don't see him ever being able to cross that line with someone else's wife. For my part, the same thing that made it possible for me to wonder for 20 years what might have been with Mr. High School has also contributed to the loyalty I feel to Hubby. We have been married for 18 years and it's impossible for me to wrap my mind around being with someone else, romantically or physically, even Mr. High School. (Whenever I say this, I sound like a self-righteous idiot even to myself, but I'm really NOT bragging. This aspect of my personality (doggedness, stubborness, addictive tendencies?) has just as often been a liability as a virtue.)

    So, I guess I kind of agree with you that this is a situation fraught with potential hazards, but I also hope that by being aware of the issues, we can work around them.

  3. Mom's Sidekick8/21/05, 10:25 AM

    I think the issues are well-stated here, but perhaps over-thought. A male/female friendship is certainly possible, however the attraction factor limits or expands the "hazards."

    The thought comes to mind that it's rare to find any friend that isn't attractive to some part of our own psyche. Physical attraction does play a part in determining friendships with the opposite sex, as well.

    It is those standards that my wife speaks of (old-fashioned, loyal, stubborn) that define whether you can or can't find a happy medium.

    My poor, stubborn old brain simply can not accept that limitation: I may someday meet a lady that fits the description of "friend" without crossing the lines self-imposed by my marriage. That I haven't yet is perhaps more due to my understanding of the possible stresses, rather than the willingless to think open-mindedly.