The Flawed Premise: How When Harry Met Sally Kept Me in the Friends Column

Warning: Friends with Kids spoiler ahead…read at your own risk.

I think When Harry Met Sally ruined my life.  Well, at least I think it ruined my dating life.  I came to this conclusion after seeing the movie Friends with Kids this past weekend.  The premise is that two friends decide to have a kid together so they can skip the romance sucking whirlwind that children seem to be to a marriage and leave themselves open to romance in their future relationships with their respective “person”.  As in When Harry Met Sally, when the woman voices her love for her friend there is the inevitable break-up of the friendship, followed by the overwhelming romantic moment when the man realizes he was in love with her all along and pleads for her to still be in love with him.

For a good fifteen years I bought into waiting for, as have millions of other women, the moment when a man who has been your friend suddenly realizes he is emphatically in love with you.  It’s what should happen – what I should wait for!  If I can just be a good enough friend, one day it’ll pay off.  He’ll realize I’m the one.  While watching Friends with Kids I realized with horror that the truest moment in the movie, the one that has happened over and over in my own life, is the moment at the woman’s birthday dinner where she spills her secret and he honestly says to her, “I love you. You’re my best friend, but I’m not attracted to you.”

Truth is – in real life – that’s where the movie would end, and it would be a tragedy.  The guy moves awkwardly on and she spends the next year getting over her feelings just to go ahead and fall for another “friend”…always hoping for that When Harry Met Sally moment when the guy will realize it’s been her all along.

This realization made me consider how I’ve approached attraction and dating since viewing that Billy Crystal/Meg Ryan classic romantic comedy.  The thing is, I think, (I’m not a guy so I can’t know for sure) that guys aren’t looking for a best friend, at least initially.  I realize that I have been operating from a flawed premise.  While I may be able to fall in love with a best friend, a guy’s not going to really be my best friend until after he falls in love with me.  I have watched so many guys I’ve been “friends” with that I’ve had crushes on over the years pick/marry the girl that I looked at and thought, “Seriously?  She’s nothing like him.  They’ll never make it.  She doesn’t even like the same stuff he does.  How can he stand hanging out with her?”  What I didn’t see was the attraction that comes from the fact that she’s not like him; the mystery that comes from her otherness.

Once a man has put you in the friend column it’s extremely difficult to get out.  Unfortunately, I’ve been sticking myself into it on purpose for quite a while.  “Hi, let me show you how great I am at talking sports.  Let me listen to your stories about your ex or the girl across the way you want to hit on.  You want to hang out after your divorce but you’re not ready to date anyone yet?  Of course – that’s fine.”  I’ve been pretty stupid. (Caveat – if I wasn’t truly repressing my girly/romantic nature and trying to be his “friend” this wouldn’t have been stupid, but I was.) I like soap operas and romance novels.  I like when a guy opens the car door for me.  I like jewelry and flowers and chic flicks with other girls over football games with the guys.  I want to wear clothes that make him think I’m beautiful and desirable as opposed to non-threatening and laid back.  I want him to like my mind but not because it’s like his…I want him to like it because it’s mine.

Flipping it the other way, I wouldn’t really want a guy that acted like my girlfriends either!  When I look at my successful relationships there’s no question they didn’t start out as friendships.  In fact, only my biggest heart breaks have come from this common romantic comedy formula for love.  So why is it so hard to give up on this silly dream of the best guy friend that suddenly sees he’s been in love with you the whole time?  I’m not 100% sure but I definitely place a good portion of the blame on a guy named Harry and a girl named Sally.

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