It was only after I moved to New York that the question – can men and women be friends – even arose. In Denver, my friend group was probably half men (or more?), half women. Their friend groups similar. Gender wasn’t a consideration in friendship, it was more about a friendship connection and similarities. Sure there are some women that had more in common with other women and vice versa with men. Though I tended to hang out with more of the analytics, the techie people, the ones who’s friends spanned all genders.
When I moved to New York, it seemed things here were much more silo’d. I’d often hear from my girl friends, girls and guys can’t be friends, that always ends up in trouble. From the guys I dated they echo’d the same things. It was so foreign to me. However, infidelity isn’t the norm in Denver where it is seems much more common (if not expected) here in New York, so perhaps that’s what drives that. Who knows. Though somehow all of my Denver folks could hang out with people of opposite genders without flirting or trying to get sex. Go figure!
Not to say there probably weren’t exceptions in Denver, but my social circle had a fairly homogenous viewpoint so it’s not really fair to extrapolate them onto the entire society of Denver. Nor is it probably fair to say my New York friends are symbolic of all New Yorkers. Though I do think there’s probably some underlying truth to the cultural differences observed.
As I’ve been thinking more about my speed dating article and the various questions one could ask on a first date for filtering, I think ‘do you think men and women can be friends’ is probably a good one. This way if you feel they can’t, it’s good to be on the same page, and vice versa. When these things aren’t in sync they often can cause unnecessary jealousy or insecurity in the other person or worse case requests for restricting and controlling of your friendships. Neither are fun to navigate, for either party.
So is every guy and every gal capable of being friends. No, I’m certainly not advocating that. However I do think there is a group of us out there that aren’t tempted to cheat (male and female) and can truly have friendships that are all about a meeting of the minds without any regard to the gender of the person. It’s as like you don’t even see gender or race or anything, all you see is this amazing mind before you ready to engage in incredible and stimulating intellectual discussions.
I’m sure for the people that find what I described above super boring and are looking more into ‘having fun’ may not find it as easy to not be tempted. So I really think every person and every dynamic have to be looked at separately as one blanket statement of it’s ok or it’s not ok can’t really work. I will say another question I’ve come up with in the screening process is ‘do you like flattery’. I’ve found those that do seem to gravitate toward flattery and affirmation tend to have higher risk taking profiles, which I tend to wonder if are more likely to cheat. Those with stronger senses of self where flattery is often seen as skeptical or fake and aren’t as hungry for affirmation are probably less likely to risk their current relationship for a night of attention and reassurance.
I think in short, if a person is well-balanced, healthy, with a secure sense of self, they are probably perfectly suited to have friends of all types without it being an issue. If someone is more of a risk taker, doesn’t pay attention to consequences, and struggles with sense of self, they are probably not good candidates for cross-gender friendships. Though something for each relationship to sort out on it’s own.