Friends and lovers

As Billy Crystal says these lines so poetically to Meg Ryan in the movie "When Harry Met Sally," she looks at him like he's crazy.

But is he crazy? Is there some mysterious reason why men and women can't "just be friends?" Do we always have to be partners in more ways than one?

With Valentine's Day quickly approaching, some friends and lovers tackled this age-old question.

"Men and women make better friends than women and women, or men and men," says Dahlia Lockhart, a public health graduate student. Lockhart was chatting with her friend, Bob Leischow, also a public health graduate student, in front of the Psychology building about this mysterious topic. They've been friends for about seven months.

Lockhart says she's thought about this a lot.

"We're always trying to learn about each other," she says, "and who better to learn from than friends of the opposite sex?"

Leischow seems amazed by her knowledge. "Did you know you were going to be asked this?" he says.

She jabs him in the shoulder laughing, and continues to say that men and women have a lot to gain from friendships with each other.

"Guys, especially, get to explore different sides of themselves. (Their female friends) are less threatening, less competitive."

Leischow says he agrees with her philosophy and adds that once the two people get past any sexual tension in the relationship, the friendship is simple.

"(Attraction) has caused problems," Leischow admits. "I've lost friends because of it."

Cindy McClement, a sociology sophomore, says something keeps men and women from remaining friends.

"I don't think (men and women) can be friends," she says. "All of my boyfriends were (at one time) friends."

Sitting on the grass next to McClement, Randi Johnson, undeclared sophomore, shakes her head in disagreement. Johnson says she has an equal mix of male and female friends and that it has never been a problem.

"I go up to the Snow Bowl a lot (with guys and girls) and nothing ever comes from that at all," she says.

Johnson's best friend is a guy who she says used to like her and she says that they are sometimes mistaken as boyfriend and girlfriend.

"That's because they like each other," McClement cued in, laughing.

McClement's significant other of four years was her friend for a year and a half before they got involved. She said it makes their relationship much stronger.

"We've remained friends with each other and it's worked out better," she says.

Becky Hansel, a media arts and communications freshman, says male/female friendships don't have to end in romance, but it really "depends on the two people."

Experts say that societal forces place men and women in different roles. These roles enforce inequalities between the sexes which make it difficult for men and women to be friends, says Paula England, a sociology professor.

Sex segregated roles for example, in the job market or in gender-specific organizations such as fraternities and sororities make it difficult for men and women to find common interests that spur friendships, she says.

Laura McCloskey, associate professor of psychology, says that college is a good place for men and women to break from typical sex roles and become friends on more even ground.

McCloskey says men often gain things from mixed sex relationships that women do not.

Men of all ages report that they are happier and feel more fulfilled when they have more quality friendships with women, according to a study done at the University of Michigan.

"Men are more competitive and teasing (in their friendships) while women are oriented toward intimacy and self-disclosure," McCloskey says. She adds that men are told not to share secrets in our society, but can open up to women friends and share their intimate sides. However, women can find this dissatisfying, she says, because the man tends to benefit from the relationship more than the woman.

As far as sex goes, McCloskey says that men tend to confuse intimacy and sexuality. This can be a problem in opposite sex relationships, she says.

"If a woman smiles at a man or touches him, it is much more likely that he will interpret it as sexual," McCloskey says. Women aren't as likely to interpret the same actions as sexual, she says.

Hansel's friend, Andy Barnett, a business freshman, says he and his female friends have a different kind of relationship.

"I'm not going to play basketball with them ... but they are easier to talk to." He says it's "definitely an advantage" to have both male and female friends.

Chris Augenstein, a management and information systems junior, says he has more female friends than male friends. However, romance has been an off-and-on issue with one of his close female friends. He says they get closer, grow apart and "then it starts all over again ... and we're back to square one."

One problem they face is when people mistake them as boyfriend and girlfriend. When this happens, sometimes it's tempting to just not explain.

"We kind of look at each other and play the part, then we leave it alone. We don't really say anything about it," he says.

Augenstein admits that he behaves differently around his female friends. By being friends mid

with both men and women he says he gets a different perspective and adds, "It's nice to have a lot of options."

Phillip Faucette, a media arts junior, claims that Augenstein is the "expert" on friendships with the opposite sex. Faucette says men and women can be friends "for a while," but over time it usually leads to something else.

Augenstein, smiling, interjects, "These are only selected cases. Although I have four or five friends that I find attractive, I wouldn't take it any further than friendship."

When attraction is one-sided or is otherwise evident in the relationship, Lockhart says it can strain a friendship. However, she adds that if the friendship is a strong one, it should remain stable. If it doesn't stabilize, she says, the friendship wasn't a good one to begin with.

Although sex and society will try to dictate who people are friends with, it's important to realize, as McCloskey says, that "people can change." Being giving to one another is "not hard to learn."

By the end of the movie, the "sex part" does get in the way. Harry and Sally become friends, then lovers, then enemies, then husband and wife.

And they lived happily ever after ... ?

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