Archive for November, 2009

Can men and women be ‘just friends’?

when-harry-met-sallyA few years ago, I went to the wedding of a good friend – a good guy friend – and somewhere between the exchange of rings and that first slice of cake realized the family and friends of the bride were giving me the stink eye. 

Why?  Apparently because I didn’t have the good sense to realize I was having an affair with the groom. News to me, of course, since we were strictly buddies (I often referred to him as the “little brother I never wanted”). But to anyone familiar with the movie When Harry Met Sally – which apparently included the entire bridal party — we weren’t friends at all, because men and women can’t be friends, the sex always gets in the way.

The old opposite sex friends thing is a long-standing dilemma and has made for many such scenes and stories. I was even interviewed about it recently by freelance writer Mark Amundsen for an article that just went live on  And I’ve written about the topic myself for

Personally, I’ve always felt that you can be “just friends” with a guy and have a raft of sex-free straight friendships to prove it.  Of course, I’ve also had a handful of friendships with men where there was some kind of spark, a spark that was sometimes allowed to flare up. And other times, tamped back down (because of boyfriends, girlfriends, or because having sex with a friend is just “Ewwww,” as one source puts it). 

But it’s not always about sex.  The real issue with opposite sex friendships – or any friendship, for that matter – is intimacy. I know now that that was what was really bothering the bride and her posse all those years ago. I wasn’t in bed with the groom but I was in sync with him. There was a closeness between us and that closeness was threatening, something that finally hit home when the bride icily handed me a piece of wedding cake (I felt like she’d frosted it with her gaze). Not surprisingly, she served up an ultimatum about the friendship to her husband shortly thereafter.

So what do you think? Have you had opposite sex friendships that stayed spark-free? Or is there always something brewing in the background? And what about the other relationships that come into play – the girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives, the confused family members and friends who don’t quite get it (“So you’re not dating, you’re just spending all of your time with him or her?”) Have your sex-free friendships come under fire by a romantic partner? Have you ever had to give them up?

As always, would love to hear your thoughts.  After all that talk of cake, baked goods gladly accepted, as well.

Fairy tale romance or fauxmance?

knight-in-shining-armor (2)We’ve all seen the personal ads, heard the familiar phrases. Brainy blonde looking for my knight in shining armor. Investment banker in search of his queen. Prince or Princess Charming, where the hell are you?

From televised tripe like The Bachelor to essays in The New York Times (where a writer recently lamented that she “would love to experience life as a pampered princess, at least once”), you’ll find some single people clinging to dreams of royal romance as desperately as some folks hang onto their bad high-school-hair.

I’ve got a new piece out on (the same folks who publish the slick, sensational Singular Magazine) that discusses the pyrite-like allure of fairy tale romance and what life was really like for kings, queens, princesses and those handsome knights in shining armor.

According to social historian Stephanie Coontz, most royal unions were nasty, brutish and short – especially on love.

“Princess Diana’s situation is typical as far as the historic tradition goes,” says Coontz, author of Marriage: A History and director of education at the Council on Contemporary Families. “Once they got the woman to give them their heir, the king or prince went back to whomever they really liked.”

Princesses were usually pampered by their sycophantic servants rather than suitors and those dashing knights weren’t exactly handsome heroes (or all that hygienic).

For the full story behind the “happily ever after” stuff we’ve been reared on all these years, click here.  Warning: reading this story may be hazardous to your Disneyesque  ideals of  romance.

Do you ever get ‘scared single’?

scared-singleA buddy and I went to see “Psycho” the other night at the Seattle Symphony. It was fabulous seeing the Hitchcock classic in all its gory on the big screen. Ditto for hearing Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant score being performed live.

The only problem was coming home after the movie. Alone. In the dark. In the middle of a slashing rainstorm.

Jumping out of the cab, I flew up the stairs to my apartment, locked the doors, and desperately surfed the channels looking for a mindless comedy. But it was the day before Halloween and the TV was practically squirting blood.

I finally settled on the campy 1958 science fiction thriller, The Blob (starring Steve McQueen!). But even a handful of wacky teenagers trying to defeat a monster that looked like it belonged inside a Hostess cherry pie couldn’t keep me from thinking about Norman Bates careening around a corner with a butcher knife and a bad wig. Such is the power of being “scared single.” 

It’s happened to me before, most recently when I stayed up until 3 in the morning watching some bad Ewan McGregor film about a serial killer who steals women’s eyes (click here for the Single Shot column I wrote about the whole ordeal).

I use a lot of self-talk (and a little bit of closet-checking) to get through my scared single moments. How about you?  Do you keep a baseball bat under the bed, a can of Mace in your makeup bag?  Or have you given up the ghost entirely and gotten “scared married”? 

What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

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November 2009