Sex & Love

‘When Harry Met Sally’ Will Always Be Relevant

Another writer takes a stab at whether men and women can ever really be friends Read More

By / August 26, 2013

The best thing about When Harry Met Sally (besides everything) is its ability to withstand time, remaining relevant in 2013 as if it were just released. The film’s quintessential point— that men and women can never really be friends— is one that’s continuously iterated by myriad writers longing to get at Nora Ephron’s magical and perfect psyche. The most recent contemplation of Harry’s argument comes from Ann Friedman at New York Magazine’s The Cut. Friedman claims that it’s not that men can’t control their libido around their female friends; it’s that these men might be different people when their female friends aren’t around.

This might sound mean, like I don’t believe women are capable of bad behavior or like I don’t trust my straight male friends. I do trust them. But if I’m honest, that trust is shakier than the one I feel in my female friends. I know the way privilege works: It means my straight male friends aren’t constantly aware of the social capital awarded by their gender and sexuality. So even though I would vouch for all of them, a little part of me is always hoping they’re not acting like a feminist over drinks but being a jerk to women when my back is turned. This, I think, is the nugget of truth in that idiotic, decades-old Billy Crystal line. Something does get in the way of hetero friendship — but it’s not really the sex; it’s the trust factor.

Friedman’s pause is worth considering. It wouldn’t be that unusual to find out that your best guy friend engaged in some nonsense. There are men who behave badly, and, unfortunately, some of them are our friends. But Friedman’s point is different than Harry’s was to Sally. While Friedman thinks men and women’s friendships are hindered by trust, Harry never got into those details. He simply explained that his own experience has led him to believe that he’s always wanted to sleep with his female friends. He’s not really an ideal candidate for a male friend, unless you’re Sally, and you want to sleep with him, too. It’s certain that there are multiple reasons why men and women’s friendships are doomed, but When Harry Met Sally’s reason was specifically about the sex.

Let’s just hope Harry never met any female friends after Sally. We’d like to hold onto at least one of our happy endings.