This is a response to Vol 9 Larry 2 ("I dare")...
I wish to adress my response primarily to Larry (I knew I could count on you for a good argument!) but also to Suzanne and Roger. All three of you made excellent points; let's keep this going!
But first a brief aside: all Archipelagoans who have not already done so should take a field trip to see "When Harry Met Sally," a well-written movie on this very topic of friends and lovers (which I think supports my view)!
It seems clear that this debate hinges on the definition of "close friend." Roger suggests three levels of friendship, casual, good, and close, and seems to agree that CLOSE friends of the opposite sex will eventually become lovers. Suzanne points out that special relationships can sometimes develop after the sexual part has ended. And since every relationship, sexual or not, is unique and complex, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between simple categories like good vs. close.
Even so, I still challenge your position, Larry. I would wager that your female friends are just "good," not "close." If, heaven forbid, you and Diane had a big fight, would you feel comfortable about spending the night with one of your female friends, just sitting up and talking and then sleeping on her couch? If not, why not?
You mentioned that some of these friendships had once turned sexual. Isn't that always a possibility? And doesn't that fact create certain pressures and constraints not present with your male friends?
I, too, have a number of good female friends. I enjoy their company and value their opinions. I can talk to them about my personal life and even in a few special cases seek comfort from them in times of trouble. But these friendships go smoothly largely because I am living in the middle of nowhere and see them only every now and then. If we were going out drinking night after night or spending all our spare time together as close friends can do, sooner or later a sexual tension would develop.
I will go even farther! In the best of my female friendships there is already a sexual tension of sorts, and that's one of the things that makes these friendships so rewarding. The tension is faint and distant and easily controllable, but it's there and I'm glad of it! I feel a tenderness and an excitement that makes these friends special. I am glad that I am a man! I am glad that she is a woman! Vive La Differance!
I wish to emphasize that I am all in favor of friendships between people of opposite sex. I simply accept the limitations that come with such friendships. Were I happily married I would not mind at all if my wife went bowling with a male friend or had long conversations with him from time to time. But I would be concerned if she wanted to spend the winter in a cabin alone with him! And I would expect my wife to grant me the same considerations WITH THE SAME LIMITATIONS.
While I'm at it, let me toss in additional question. Suzanne wisely points out that "men aren't women and women aren't men. Both tend to have different expectations and priorities in any relationships they might have." This makes sense to me. But don't these different expectations and priorities further constrain the depth of mixed gender friendships?
I find that my women friends are great to talk to as long as we talk about relationships, or maybe about writing (which is also largely about relationships). But when I want to talk about math, or computers, or the crisis in physics, or even politics in most cases, my women friends quickly become bored (my male friends become bored less quickly). Several of these women are politically active, but even there our conversations tend to founder because they are more interested in immediate practical considerations while I enjoy theorizing about opposing philosophies.
So I guess I am suggesting that men and women TEND to have fewer interests in common and this further limits the depth of their platonic friendships. Am I wrong?