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May 9 2013

Can Moms & Dads Be “Just Friends?”

By at 9:54 am

mom and dad getting coffeeWe talk a lot here at Kveller about mom friends. Where to find them, how to make them, the care and feeding of… The ritual of proper playground hook-up etiquette has become a mating dance of its own, with questions of when to call, what it means when they don’t call back, and the fear of coming off as seeming too needy.

But, the reality is that, in the year 2013, odds are that the parent you end up hitting it off with by the sandbox, the one you begin looking forward to seeing to help break up the monotony of your day, the one you start fantasizing about asking out for coffee without the kids so you guys can really talk and maybe become real friends with–sans sandbox–could well be not a fellow mom, but a dad.

And then you’re faced with that infamous “When Harry Met Sally” dilemma: Can men and women (and/or moms and dads) ever be just friends?

You’d think I’d be an expert on the subject. I wrote a whole book about it in 2000, When a Man Loves a Woman (though, considering it was a romance novel, you can guess for yourselves what the answer proved to be there).

The fact is I’ve always had male friends. I was the little girl who preferred playing with boys over girls in elementary school (baseball beats dress up). I had guy friends in high school and in college and on the job. And because I work in television, that often meant late-night editing sessions, work-related black tie events, and even overnight, week-long trips to exotic locations like Albany, NY and Huntington, West Virginia. Where my stories would often begin with, “So, it was 2 in the morning and I turned to So-and-So and said…”

My husband has always had women friends, too. Some of them even pre-date me and it’s not unusual, if I’m out of town, for me to call my husband at 2 a.m. only to hear, “Oh, So-and-So is here, we’re watching movies. Say hi!”

Now, it is very possible (and has been frequently suggested) that I am too stupid to live. But, I prefer to trust my husband. Just like he prefers to trust me.

Even when I tell him things like, “I’m going on a date with So-and-So Saturday. He has an extra ticket to the theater.”

“Have a good time,” my husband says. (It just so happens that this particular Dad Friend and I are both musical theater geeks, while our respective spouses are not). Conversely, there is a Mom who likes to pick my husband’s brain for all her computer needs, and they have breakfast and lunch dates to discuss them. “Have a good time,” I tell my husband. And sometimes, if my husband wants to do something I have absolutely no interest in, I beg him, “Can’t you get one of your other wives to go with you?”

Another dad and I, both immigrants, love to get together to discuss the many failures of the US educational system and how not nearly enough is demanded of American children when it comes to studying, chores, and personal responsibility (I wrote about the FX television show, “The Americans,” earlier, and a line from it that had us both laughing was, “My daughter is 3 years old. So little is expected of children here. All we do is sit and watch them play.”) This dad’s wife even observed to me, “He enjoys talking with you so much!” (Was that a passive-aggressive slam? I am utterly clueless about things like that, and have chosen to accept the remark at face value because I like to think the wife and I are friends, too). And I’ve teased my husband, “Don’t be jealous that you’re not the only man I discuss lousy schools with anymore.”

Are we flirting with disaster? Some would claim that proximity breeds temptation. Am I attracted to these dads? I would argue that all friendships, opposite and same sex, are based on some degree of attraction, sexual and otherwise–that’s what the word means, after all. But, I certainly don’t find these dads more appealing than my husband–even if they are quicker to pick up on my obscure Stephen Sondheim and Patrice LaMumba references. Do I flirt with these dads? Not consciously (I’m just not the coquettish type by nature). But, I don’t rule out the possibility of doing it inadvertently. And if I’m the one being flirted with, then I am also too clueless (see above) to notice.

So where does that leave us? Is it possible to have dad friends as well as mom friends without anything inappropriate rearing its head and causing unnecessary complications?

I say yes. But, what do you think?

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