CAN MEN AND WOMEN BE FRIENDSCan men and women just be friends?

Does hanging out with someone of the opposite sex put you at risk for falling in love?

Do we choose not to hang out with the opposite sex because we are worried about hurting our significant other’s feelings? Or is it that don’t we trust ourselves to keep things platonic?

Is everyone on Dancing with the Stars sleeping together?

Is the male-female friendship something the next generation has figured out better than we have?

Bob and I have been best friends for 20 years and we both know how lucky we are to have our friendship. It developed organically and with permission from our spouses.

Here’s how we met.

I was 35 and he was 40 and we were introduced at a birthday dinner for a mutual friend.

We sat on the couch at that party and shared biking stories; we compared our average mph and distance, bike routes, gears, pedals and technology. Trust me no one else wanted “in” on our conversation back then.

When we made a time to train together our spouses were thrilled we would no longer be riding alone. And with our spouses’ encouragement, Bob and I became fast friends and regular biking partners.

One ride turned into regular mid-week 6 am quick 20 mile loops. On the weekends we would head out for the big distances logging in 40 to 50 miles.

We pedaled and we talked. The miles cemented a friendship that we each coveted. Both entrepreneurs, we shared our “shop talk,” and brainstormed when needed. When I was selling my publishing company, Bob was instrumental in helping me work though the negotiations, and the nightmares that come with selling a business. And then he sold his – and there was plenty more miles to talk through.

I loved our training rides. We shared our life stories, work challenges, parenting issues and pushed each other to ride better, further and faster.  As time went on, it turned out that we were friends with biking benefits.

After long rides, our spouses sometimes met up with us for coffee or brunch.

All the while, I had no idea there was gossipy buzz going around our tightly knit “bikersphere”. It turned out there was “talk” of our motives for training together. My girlfriends wanted to know if there was anything between us. One close friend told me she would never be okay with her husband spending weekend mornings riding with another woman. But Bob’s wife was totally cool – she even called me Wife #2.

After about 5 or 6 years of riding on our own, Bob’s wife Roberta started to ride as did a few other of our friends. We formed a great little biking group. Even though our one on one time diminished, our friendship has gotten even stronger.

Bob got me back on my bike 2 weeks after I lost my husband (that was 10 years ago)– he knew how much it would help and he encouraged me all that summer to keep going.

When I met my now husband Bill, Bob and Roberta embraced him completely and we even started riding as couples. Bill, who was not a biker, was brought up to speed by Bob and they are now not only biking buddies they are best buddies.

It always surprises me how often the topic of male – female friendships raises eyebrows.

I believe our kids are ahead of us when it comes to figuring out this gender blend thing. Maybe Title IX, with its emphasis on equality of the sexes in higher education and college athletics programs, has enabled our boys and girls to share hockey rinks and playgrounds without a second thought. Or maybe it’s just that time has caught up with our desire to be more of a community. My guess is our kids won’t be whispering about male-female friendships when they’re older; they’ll be celebrating these relationships.

The truth is, our friendships are precious and by allowing the gender gap to fade, it does feel better as we move forward into our next phase as BA50’s (www.betterafter50). This is a time when our connections should expand, our playmates multiply and our lives feel fuller.

If I’m being naïve, please don’t tell me. And please don’t tell Bob. We’re still having too much fun.



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