Do Best Friends Make Good Baes?

Love and Sex

Do Best Friends Make Good Baes?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

In the year 1989, India embarked on a spiritual journey. Mohnish Bhel of sanskaari brother fame, proclaimed in Maine Pyaar Kiya, “Ek ladka aur ladki kabhi dost nahi hote”. He was roundly panned for it in the film – but the panning was more because he followed it up with some really bad alliterative dialogue involving “kapkapati raatein” and “bhadakti aag.” However, that same year, when Billy Crystal told his bestie Meg Ryan in Harry Met Sally, “What I’m saying is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way,” we applauded him.

After these two cultural milestones, movie after movie, book after book, song after song, fucked up the concept of a platonic friendship (special shout out to Dawson’s Creek). Popular culture began incepting the idea of sexual-tension-with-opposite-sex in the deep recesses of our innocent minds for the proverbial low-hanging narrative fruit. All because we didn’t call bullshit on Billy Crystal, movie studios and TV programming heads got more stoked about the idea of these “sexually charged friendships” that would later yield Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. That movie turned every mohalla ke perfectly platonic Rahul and Anjali into raging lovers overnight. Then came How I Met Your Mother in which Ted Mosby basically tells his kids over eight seasons that he never wanted to meet their mother because all his life he only wanted to bone his best friend.

A study in the US charted the rise of the best friend – romantic relationships where 80 per cent of the respondents admitted to their partners being their best friends, up from 44 per cent in 1993. Small wonder it found its way to our screens.

The hypothesis that men and women can’t be friends is the most eloquent piece of dangerous nonsense ever put forth, as those with an education and frequent interactions with the opposite sex already know. But those on Spankbang searching for Mia Khalifa and Johnny Big Wood are still hung up on the “best friend will have sex” story. The idea is so deep-rooted in millennials that due to comfort and proximity and all the confusion over grappling with concepts like “friends with benefits” many of us fuck up a perfectly good thing and end up dating our friends. Or worse. Best friends.

In hindsight, when we decided to “go out”, it was as if we checked the emotional weather, saw the forecast for incessant rain, and chose to wear cream pants and a white linen shirt anyway.

Let me tell you a story.

In school, I was only concerned with two things: Playing football with everyone and having sex with everyone. There might have been honourable exceptions but that’s just how most teenage boys are wired. Then I met this girl and she was goofy and smart and artistic. We became friends through a common friend, and by the time summer vacay rolled in, we had been, for about a year, speaking for hours every night, mostly about nothing, sometimes about everything. One fine day we both figured this must mean something more, and a David Archuleta song later, we were dating.

And that’s when we fucked it up. When love and sex went out of the window (as it often does) friendship followed.

In hindsight, when we decided to “go out”, it was as if we checked the emotional weather, saw the forecast for incessant rain, and chose to wear cream pants and a white linen shirt anyway. The muck was as inevitable as the end of every teenage romance. We should’ve remained friends. We were great at being friends.

Writing about the blurry distinction between friendship and romance, American psychologist Rick Zubin stripped the idea down to its emotional core: Liking and loving. The two emotions, he argued, tend to have the same characteristics, differentiated only by intensity. Loving, he argued, is more passionate liking, a bridge 182 people who took his survey later demonstrated.

Popular culture, bereft of nuance and useful insight, thought it would be cool then, to portray the mistake of one confused writer as a rite of passage written in the stars, defacing the institutions of friendship AND romance in its wake.

So, fuck Monish Behl. Fuck Billy Crystal and fuck Rahul and Anjali. The arc does not need to be friend to best friend to lovers to strangers because no matter what you do, there will always be two casualties: your heart and your best friend. Who will you bitch about your broken heart with if your best friend is gone?