Faithful Departed: Nora Ephron

“It’s hard for men to be friends with attractive women,” he said. I wondered if I qualified as “attractive.” In that moment, sitting across from him at a cafe, I decided to let go of my high school beliefs and declare myself as such. Now I could personally relate to what he was saying.

He continued on explaining that when a man is “just friends” with an attractive woman people — himself included — wonder why he wouldn’t want something more with her. And there it was again. The age-old debate (well, for single thirty-somethings) of “Can men and women be friends?”

Up until nine months ago, the answer to that question was a definitive “No” for me. Why? Experience. And because Nora Ephron told me so. In her 1980s classic movie When Harry Met Sally. Harry summed it up this way: Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way. There it is. I wrote it. The word “sex” on a Catholic website. Sorry Mom. (Note I’m not the first — type it into the search box and you’ll get 10 pages of posts on the topic.)

But back to Harry and Sally. His point was that eventually, in male/female friendships, one of the friends will inevitably end up falling for the other. “So,” he declares, “the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.”

Except it wasn’t. For me, nor for Harry and Sally. Harry came up with all sorts of corollaries to the theory he set forth at the wise old age of 22. If one of the friends is seeing someone else, it could work. I tried that. It didn’t work. Then I thought if my friend was married, there’d be no chance he would become interested in me. I was proven wrong — twice.

So sometime after college I declared men and I were not destined to be friends. If there was a man in my life, it was because I was dating him. Or he was related to me. That’s it.

Numerous men tried to prove me wrong — thinking they would be the one to show me that a friendship between us could work. It didn’t. Through no fault of his, though. It was my theory, and I wanted to believe it was true, so I looked for evidence to prove it. I made it so. We do that a lot in life — look for evidence to prove what we believe is true, ignoring anything that may prove otherwise.

Ironically, the year Nora Ephron left our world for whatever comes next is the same year I threw all my theories — based primarily on her movie — out the window.

In the last six months, I’ve acquired more male friends than I’ve ever had in my life. Some I’m closer with than others — just like my girlfriends. I coached one through resigning from his job. Another calls me for advice on the woman he’s currently dating. Some may one day express interest in me. It happens. I’ll deal with it.

“But remember — Harry and Sally ended up together in the end,” some of you might say. Yes, but that wasn’t the original plan for the ending. “You Americans like everything to work in the end of your movies,” said a Frenchman to me on the Camino, explaining why he didn’t like American movies. “They are not like life.”

And so it is that When Harry Met Sally is no longer like my life. And for that, I’d like to take a moment to thank Nora Ephron. When Harry Met Sally caused me to spend a lot of time really thinking about what I wanted from a relationship. It drove me to set boundaries where and when I needed them. And now, I’ve moved on to another phase. A phase where no one movie will drive my life philosophies — but a phase where I will continue to embrace movies for their ability to present an alternative view I might have otherwise not considered.