Strong friendships between men and women are sometimes difficult to understand and accept.
When a man and a woman hold hands in public, automatically they are assumed to be lovers. Friends are friends and lovers are lovers.
Very few people are physically affectionate with their friends.
People find it difficult to dissociate love from sex. If two people express love and affection for each other, it is assumed that they are lovers.
The truth is fairly simple: two people like each other, are comfortable together and a special bond of friendship has developed between them.
But even if it works, friendship between two people from the opposite sex is still taboo, lest the two become the talk of the village.
In Zimbabwe, this kind of relationship has become common, with the youths finding solace in the form of relationships with the opposite sex.
Ambuya Nakai Muchemwa (82) from Wedza still disapproves it and blames opposite sex friendships on cultural imperialism.
“I had never heard of it, that a man and woman will be just friends with no strings attached!” said Mbuya Muchemwa.
She added: “A woman should befriend a woman and a man should befriend a man.
“I don’t know what is wrong with this current generation, but it’s not good at all.
“During our youth it was taboo to be found walking hand-in-hand with a boy in the name of friendship,” she said.
But three quarters of the men in a survey carried out by this reporter believed men and women could be friends without any hassles.
Kudakwashe from Budiriro, a married 44-year-old electrician said: “I am more comfortable with women. I don’t have to prove anything to them, especially if I am not in a dating situation with them.
“They give better advice than guys. They are easier to talk to. Guys are always trying to figure out who is the big dog. Whatever it is, the guys are always competing. They compete about how much money you make, what college you went to, what your skills are. They try and ‘one up’ each other. Women don’t do that,” he said.
Marshal, a 40-year-old married teacher, focused more on the positives of a female friendship, rather than on what he was avoiding in male friendships.
“I have a lot of relationships female friends that are non-sexual in nature. To maintain those, I am open and honest with them.
“When they want to talk about their relationships, I can tell them from a male perspective about how a man is thinking or how he should be treated.”
However, about half of the 10 women interviewed said they had platonic male friends. Chido, a 36 year-old single Catholic who counts men among her friends, said men are better friends as compared to fellow women.
“I have a close friendship with a man whom I have known for 11 years. I maintain it with phone calls. It is a little like my female friendships in that we talk about a whole range of topics, but we don’t really do the social types of things I do with my female friends,” she said.
Carol, who is engaged, is a 28-year-old beauty therapist said she used to have many male friends before she engaged.
“I have had many close male friends, but I don’t have any right now. I don’t know if that comes from having a significant other,” she said.
She added: “As an adult I have had a number of very close male friends that I have lived with, not in a sexual way.
“I have found these friends to be very supportive, understanding, and validating.
“Maybe that is just the kind of guy I am attracted to as a friend. The difference is the physical aspect. You are not afraid to hug your girlfriends,” she revealed.
This therefore means platonic friendships are possible as revealed above but most think they get complicated when physical attraction and lack of transparency comes into the picture.
They also get complicated when people are in a committed relationship with someone else.
Many people interviewed about relationships said they were friends first and then became involved.
This is the scene set in many movies where friends come to find each other in the end.
This would be contrasted with people who go to dating websites or those who meet someone at work, the park, Facebook, or in a bar and are immediately physically attracted to them — friendship is not the primary motivator.
Regis confirmed that he is now in a relationship with his Facebook friend.
“We were friends before chatting on Facebook and whatsapp, but in the end, we found ourselves in a relationship,” he said.
The point is that the majority of people believe a friendship between the sexes is possible.
The majority of people also know what their own parameters are and when those friendships are safe as friendships and when boundaries might be crossed.
In that case, the friendship is at risk, and a marriage or partnership (if one of the friends is in one) may be in jeopardy.
So, it is possible to be “JUST” friends with people of opposite sex and it depends on one’s maturity, mindset and one’s need at that particular time.
“We can talk about our thoughts; our feelings but you cannot say the same thing about the person of opposite sex. You never know what your friend is saying you among his or her group of friends.
“As far as my personal experience goes . . . I have a lot many “Female Friends” from different cities, different countries, from different age groups, married-unmarried-singles and now gender hardly matters to me.
“We discuss our experiences, go out for dinner, movies, and picnics and also comfort each other if there are any issues at professional and personal fronts.
“But I can say how I feel, what I think and I cannot say with any suret what they feel and think,” said Lazurus, a flamboyant Chinhoyi businessman.