just friends?


The idea that men and women can’t be friends seems outdated to me as a person living in the twenty-first century. After all, through the course of my life, most of my closest friends have been male. It’s something that seems as normal as owning a dog as a pet or eating rice every day.


Despite that, I’ve been confronted with several situations in the past two years during which I lived in South Korea in which I’ve realized that that’s not normal for everyone. I have been told that it is weird for people of different genders to be friends as adults. It’s even stranger to these people that my different-gender friends that I have are not people that I’ve known since childhood or even in my youth, but men that I’ve met recently.


But it wasn’t just that it wasn’t a part of these people’s experiences – it’s that they weren’t comfortable with it. This led to some of my friends lying to their girlfriends about my presence when we hung out together, even in groups, or cancelling plans out of fear that they would upset their girlfriends. Their girlfriends saw my friendships with their boyfriends in a sexual context. As a result, I felt like I was something that was being hidden, like our friendships were illicit and morally wrong. This is not limited to a cultural misunderstanding, as one of my Korean friends expressed distraught when one of her lifelong male friends told her that they would have to stop being friends once he was married.


My question then is this – at what point do we dispose of our friends because of their genders? Is it during our teenage years when we have our first boyfriends and girlfriends? Is it after university when we are seen as “grown-ups