We're Just Friends. Really!

What Harry told Sally was wrong. Platonic friendships are not only possible; they're flourishing

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Michele Greenberg, 33, has found plenty to love about Michael Gould, 38, whom she met 15 years ago when they worked together in a Massachusetts mall. He's open-minded, good-looking, fun to be around, and he has a great sense of humor. Not only did she and Gould grow up in neighboring towns, with a similar cultural and religious background, but they also share the same interests--trying new restaurants, seeing movies, going out for drinks with friends. "We're really comfortable with each other," she says. "I can tell him intimate things and he'll always give me his point of view. There's never any jealousy between us."

Which is a good thing, given that Greenberg is married to someone else. She and Gould have always been just friends. Over the years, they have helped each other through tough times and analyzed the drama and dilemmas of their respective romantic relationships. When Greenberg got married in 1998, Gould was in her husband Paul's wedding party and signed their ketubah (the Jewish wedding contract) as Greenberg's witness. Although she admits to seeing Gould somewhat less since she got married, Greenberg knows they will always be close. "We're like a sister and brother," she says. "He's completely integrated into my life. I know I'm part of his family, and he's definitely part of mine."

Whether they've worked together, gone to grad school together or played in the same Free to Be ... You and Me--era sandbox as children, today's twenty- and thirtysomethings enjoy more platonic relationships than any previous generation. According to a 2002 survey by American Demographics/Synovate, 18-to-24-year-olds are nearly four times as likely as people over 55 to have a best friend of the opposite sex. Among adults ages 25 to 34, more than 1 in 10 said their best buddy is a member of the opposite sex.

The vast majority of young adults seem to see such friendships as a natural thing: a 2001 Match.com poll of 1,514 members found that 83% believe men and women can be just friends. Until recently, such friendships, when they existed, usually faded away after one of the pair got married, at which point cozying up to pals of the opposite sex no longer seemed appropriate. Today, people not only form more cross-sex friendships, but they also include their best mates in their weddings and maintain the friendships long after the wedding day.

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