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I Have Always Had Platonic Male Friends

“Can men and women really be ‘just friends’?” That’s one of those evergreen topics; it never fully disappears from blogs, movies, popular media, or everyday conversations.

Even aside from the heterosexist bias, the question has always baffled me. I have always had close male platonic friends, starting in childhood and continuing through every stage of my life. Even as an adult, I never experienced male friendship as overlaid with any weird interpersonal dynamics.

You could say that’s strange, and maybe it is. But I count it as something very positive about my life, even if my evolving understanding of it is marked by some epic cluelessness.

I now think that my lifelong ease with both men and women as friends is part of my story of being single at heart. I have never been interested in marriage or even romantic coupling. I tried out the coupling part, a very long time ago, because I didn’t realize that staying single your whole life, and loving it, was a thing. I kept thinking I was just slow at getting bitten by the marriage bug.

If, deep down, you just aren’t interested in romantic coupling, then the world does not sort itself into potential romantic partners and potential platonic friends. Everyone is a potential friend, and their gender or gender identity just doesn’t matter.

When I arrived at my first university job, one of the female grad students remarked about how nice it was to have a woman in the social psychology area of the psychology department. It wasn’t until I was driving home later that day that I realized she was referring to me.

I had thought so much about that job before I accepted it. I had visited for a few days and spent almost all of that time with the people from the area of the department that would be my home base. I read all about their work. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a member of that area group in that department.

And yet, it was not until that graduate student said she was happy to have a woman on the faculty in the social psychology group that I thought about the fact that I was walking into an area group comprised solely of men (five of them, at the time).

See, I told you there was epic cluelessness involved.

Now, I am acutely attuned to ways in which social categories such as gender, race, age, relationship status, ability, and so many more, matter. I learned that from personal experiences as well as my study of singlism, the ways in which single people are stereotyped, stigmatized, marginalized and discriminated against.

But the lens of prejudice and justice is different from the lens of friendship. As friends or potential friends, I will always love having both men and women in my life.

[In the picture, that’s me – back row, far right — with the rag-tag softball team at Vassar, around 1974.]

I Have Always Had Platonic Male Friends

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2020). I Have Always Had Platonic Male Friends. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 8, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 May 2020
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