Dear Di

Dear Di
Image: Hailey Otten/Fulcrum
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Sweet state of Alabama

Since starting university, I’ve only had female friends because, as a single straight girl, it feels like guys only look at me as either a potential hook-up or just not at all. Can men and women ever really be friends?

Cootie Catcher

Dear CC,

Ah, the age-old question: can heterosexual men and women engage in friendship without, say, getting engaged? Will whatever friendship they formulate be tainted by an ever-lasting and all-too-thick sexual tension?

Truth is that, at this age, most of my current male friends swing for the other team. Lately, I’ve had trouble finding men who don’t objectify me. Since leaving my high school, I’ve been startled by the middle-school-dance-style line in the sand between men and women. It can be tough navigating it amidst the predominant hook-up culture that tends to leave me feeling like a piece of meat. 

Growing up, I had a variety of male friends and no problems with it. In fact, it was a lot of fun. It never felt like: this could be a potential friend if only I could get over the fact that he is male. It was just: these are my friends. If a few of them had different pronouns, that was simply none of my business.

I’m still friends with a few of them to this day. Having known each other so long you’re just shy of being family, sexual tension feels like moving to the sweet, sweet state of Alabama, if you know what I mean.

New male friends? Call me an optimist, but I do think it’s doable. Yes, making them can be hard. I blame that on the innocence that high school seniors presumably toss in lockstep with their graduation caps, as hook-up culture ramps up subsequently and the divide between men and women seems to grow as a consequence. It doesn’t help that male-female friendships are too often devalued by the antagonization of the term “friend zone.” 

However, I do think it’s quite achievable and worthwhile. Set your intentions from the get-go, be honest and communicate, prioritize mutual respect, and treat it like any other friendship. You and he will be better off for it.

Catch friends, not cooties, my friend.