Growing up, I was sometimes a girly-girl, who loved wearing frilly dresses and tiaras and playing with an endless array of Barbie dolls. I had no brothers, and all my friends were girls since I attended an all-girls school.

I remember always wishing for an older brother, or at least having the opportunity to attend a co-ed institution. My only experience with what guys were expected to be like was through movies and television shows.

So, my thoughts about my personal life were basically me imagining a highly romanticized version of a Prince Charming who I’d end up meeting in the future. Or at least an attractive, witty, smart, kind and thoughtful guy who managed to walk the fine line of treating me like a princess, while challenging my worldview at the same time.

In terms of what I imagined being friends with boys would be like, I imagined them to be protective, kind, loyal and willing to beat up anyone who broke my heart. Essentially, my male friends would take the place of the big brother figure I so craved while growing up!

My experience studying at Creighton was my first proper encounter with male friendships in general. While the quest for my Prince Charming is halted for now, I do enjoy my male friendships since they help enrich my life and provide me with a whole new perspective.

This brings me to the point of this op-ed. A perpetual question that has been often asked in our heteronormative culture is whether or not men and women can be friends? I thought drawing on my own experience, I’d attempt to answer this question myself.

In the all-time classic romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally” the two main characters Harry and Sally engage in a debate about whether men and women can truly cultivate platonic friendships. While Sally thinks men and women can be friends, Harry vehemently disagrees. He utters the classic dialogue, “no man can be friends with a woman he finds attractive, he always wants to have sex with her.” Basically, the argument goes: the ever-present element of attraction and romantic tension tends to stop a man and woman from truly being friends.

I definitely believe, after having branched out my social circle, that guys and girls can be friends. Whether or not attraction is present between the two parties is absolutely irrelevant. A person could find an opposite-sex friend attractive, acknowledge it and just not do anything about it. Or it could be that there just doesn’t have to be attraction present in the first place. In either instance, it is possible to just prioritize the platonic dynamic over a potential physical or romantic arrangement.

Male-female friendships are a joy to behold and should be seen as such. Since males and females are socialized to have different perspectives, I have found that many of my best discussions have been with my male friends. My constant tendency of viewing the world with rose colored glasses means I am often at odds with their practical grounded perspective, and am also often out-numbered!

But never once have I not felt heard or respected or valued while speaking my mind. I am teased all the time, but I am loved and protected by my guy friends every step of the way.

Every time I go out with someone, the people I ask first for their opinion are my friends since they usually give the best advice, as they understand the guy’s side of things as well. Do I take the advice? Probably not, but that gives them the satisfaction of telling me they told me so; it’s a win-win situation!

Can it be frustrating to be challenged on every opinion? To feel sometimes like we belong to two completely different worlds? To be teased for wearing flowers in my hair and bringing fancy hats on camping trips? To have the guys I date be judged under a microscopic lens? It definitely can be!

But unfortunately, as annoying as it is admit, their fond teasing does help me grow. Thanks to my friends, I now know how to set up a tent, throw a punch, not let things get to me easily and learn to stand up for myself.

And at the end of the day, I love having guys as friends! My male friendships ended up being better than what I imagined they would be. For all their rough and tough exteriors, they are all secret softies, even if they don’t want to admit it!

And since I know they read my articles, and I’m sure they’ll have a ton of opinions on this one as well, all I want to say is: men and women definitely can be friends, and my dynamic with my own friends is a testimony to it. So, appreciate your opposite-sex friendships. To paraphrase the popular sitcom “Friends’” theme song, they’ll be there for you, because you’re there for them too!

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