Of Platonic Friendships, Jealousy & Tunics

Growing up, my dad often expressed the fact that men were always looking for sex.

When you just hung out with a boy, he’d outright ask — or at least those eyebrows would, “Did he make a move on you?”

When you laughed out loud that Steve was sooo not that kind of guy, dad said, “Oh, yes he is.”

And when you argued your case, illustrating just exactly how Steve never did make a move of any kind, even when you were literally crying on his shoulder about how some jerk guy had treated you, dad would reply, “Oh, he’s one of them tunics then.”

“Tunics” was the word he used because once, in struggling to recall the word “eunuch“, his mouth mistakenly said “tunic”. We never let him forget it either, so the word “tunic” became synonymous with “eunuch” — and you can imagine our laughter in the 70’s when fashion sported the tunic and there was much flowery talk, including of freedom, used to sell it.

Anyway, dad used the word “tunic” to describe platonic situations.

He just couldn’t understand how any man — even one who respected you — would be able to restrain himself from stealing a kiss or at least giving you one of those long romantic looks which would turn a girl’s belly to goo and let her know that romance was in the air…

Dad’s point was that everyman was looking for romance & sex — unless he was physically unable to perform it. So if Steve wanted to spend time with you, but did not make a move at all, there must have been something literally, physically preventing him from it.

It’s not that dad was a letch — he was, and remains, one helluva a romantic, intelligent and sensitive man. To him, spending time with a woman was about all a man needed to do to feel amorous — especially a single guy whose ultimate love was still waiting for him out there somewhere. Any girl could be The One — or at least a lot of fun.

He even told me about a time when my sister and I were little girls and we went to the mall with him. He spotted a pretty young woman with her own child in a stroller, and he and that woman shared a moment. Their eyes locked briefly, they each noted the other’s children and presumed marital status, then locked eyes again & smiled, as if to say that if they had met in another place and time…

Even happily married people with no intentions weren’t sexually or romantically dead; so why, dad reasoned, would an available guy do the time with an available girl if he wasn’t wanting to do the deed?

Dad was not a whistling wolf. He did not appear as a cartoon sex predator. Yet he said men were always ready and looking… It was confusing, but I had to believe him. Sometimes he was right too. But does that mean that there are no such things as platonic friendships between heterosexual men and women?

CNN recently posed the question in a recent article titled Should your wife have guy-friends? According to recent data, platonic relationships do occur:

Some 83 percent of the people surveyed think that cross-gender friendships can and do exist, according to a 2001 Match.com poll of more than 1,500 members. And a 2006 study by Canada’s Public Health Agency of nearly 10,000 Canadian children shows that they often start early, with 65 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls declaring three or more close opposite-sex friends by grade 10.

But as many of you with such opposite-sex friendships know, they aren’t always accepted — especially by your romantic partners and lovers who just don’t understand:

Jealousy over an opposite-sex friendship can be the result of projection, says Dr. Bonnie Jacobson, a New York City clinical psychologist and author of “Love Triangles: Seven Steps to Break the Secret Ties That Poison Love.”

“People project onto another person something they would do,” Jacobson says. “If Tom says to Sally, ‘I don’t want you to hang out with Harry,’ it’s very likely Tom feels he would violate that boundary [if he were in the same situation], so he imagines his wife will, too.”

I know this is true; I’ve seen it acted out. But what about the guys, like my dad, who really just don’t get it? Not because they are projecting, not because they are jealous jerks, but just because the concept is so foreign to them?

Well, keep those lines of communication open. Listen to his concerns, his point of view, but reassure him too by explaining how it works for you. Other advice from that CNN article includes the following reality checks:

• Be honest. “Never lie about the time you spend with your friend,” Sabatini says. “If you don’t feel comfortable telling your husband you’re going to hang out, then maybe he has a reason to worry.”

• Socialize as a group. “Spend time with both your significant other and your friend,” Sabatini says. “And acknowledge your love for your spouse in front of your friend.”


  1. If you’re in a healthy relationship (and when I say “healthy” I mean happy and fulfilled and secure) there should be no reason to not be open about friendships with the opposite sex. I love my male friends and would be really sad if having relationships with them conflicted with my marriage.

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