Originally posted June 2004

Credits: For all those who've been part of my emotional relationships. If you helped, thank you for your encouragement, patience, and kindness — you know who you are. And if you were part of the problem, it would be inappropriate to name names. ;-)

I've been teasingly told my previous Firestarter column, What is Love? was entirely too cheery, and written mostly from the woman's point of view, i.e. someone who's never been hit with the dreaded line, "let's just be friends."

Interestingly, this is not actually the case — due to the anonymity of on-line role-playing I have indeed played a male character in an on-line chat room, who was politely told by a female character who mistook his intentions, "Let's just be friends."

This was particularly entertaining to me because while I was a woman playing a male character, the female character was being played by a young man. To further add to the amusement value of the moment, he'd just been unhappily confiding to me, previous to our role-playing, just how much he hated receiving that line.

He was sheepishly amused when I pointed out to him that his female character had just used the line on my male character — and, he said, far more understanding of how easy it was to use that line to create or keep one's distance politely. It made him appreciate more how women might react in similar situations.

However, that's not the only way the question has come up in conversation, i.e. 'why do women say "let's just be friends"?' I've also often been asked, "why do I keep hearing that phrase?" So I'm going to answer both questions in this Firestarter article, and add a hopefully helpful conclusion at the end of both sections.

If you're only interested in the 'why do they say it?' version, continue reading, as that is covered first. If what you'd really like to know is why you keep hearing the phrase, please feel free to jump to that section.


First of all, this is not a phrase used only by women. To assume so would be both sexist and inaccurate, as my example above demonstrates. Guys will use it too when it benefits them to do so.

Second, I've heard the phrase referred to as 'the break-up line.' Even when it's not used that way, most people who get told that consider it to mean, "I'm not interested in sex with you."

This might not be such a big deal if people weren't quite so obvious sometimes in their visual assessment of potential sexual partners. Those who do this — staring as they assess someone's sexual potential — are giving warning with their behavior of exactly what their expectations are.

Treat people the way you'd like to be treated. If you don't want to be sized up like a side of beef, then don't do that to someone else. It would certainly be nice if there were more focus on the entire person, and less on how sexy they look, or how long until they'll give sexual favors.

Similar Posts: