This summer, The Globe and Mail's Dave McGinn takes the pros to the movies – people whose real lives are flickering up on the big screen – to see where summer silliness and reality intersect. In this instalment, he tackles Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis's new comedy Friends With Benefits, about two friends who ... well, the title explains it all.
The benefits in a friends-with-benefits situation might seem appealing, but it's almost impossible to remain friends, says Cheryl Anne Meyer, co-author of The Red Flag Rulebook: 50 Dating Rules to Know Whether to Keep Him or Kiss Him Good-bye. Meyers, 27, walks us through the emotional minefield that is Friends With Benefits.
Do you think this would be a good date movie?
It would be a very awkward date movie. First, there's all the sex, and then there's all the romance. And if you don't know someone well, you're just kind of like, "Okay, well, that's not us yet." Go to horror movies on dates, don't go to that kind of stuff.
What's the difference between friends with benefits and what I believe relationship experts these days refer to as a booty call?
A booty call is strictly a physical event. There is no friendship, or possibly even interest between the two people. Also, the booty call is not a good idea unless you are sure you're emotionally unattached. I'm sure someone still gets the short end of the stick, so to speak, in the booty-call situation. One party may possibly have feelings for the other. However, there would be no hanging out playing video games or going out in public in the booty-call scenario, where friends with benefits could have these additional perks.
If a guy suggested to a woman that they become friends with benefits, would that be a red flag?
Having a man ask you to be friends with benefits is definitely a red flag. In fact, it would fall under a couple of red flags: "Commit-a-phobia" would be one, "Mr. Hot and Cold" would be the other. The red flags are only applicable to a man if you're looking for a serious relationship. And if you want a relationship and he wants to be friends with benefits, I would suggest losing his number. Don't expect the friends-with-benefits scenario to blossom into a relationship. That kind of thing only happens in the movies.
Can you ever make a friends-with-benefits situation work?
It depends on your age. The older you are, the more mature you'll be about the situation. You'll be able to say, "This is all this is," and not be so emotional about it. It also depends on how long you've been friends for. If you've been friends for a long time, you are friends and there is never going to be anything more than that. But when you just meet someone, there's always that opportunity to date.
The two main characters aren't just friends, they seem like great friends. Should you only pursue friends with benefits with what I'll call B-level friends?
If you're best friends with a guy and you add sex to that equation, why wouldn't you just date?
Who is looking for friends with benefits?
I think any dude is up for that, if they're single. But friends with benefits could be equally bad for a guy who likes a girl. Women are also capable of being emotionally unavailable. And men can be the hopeless romantics. I've seen men get hurt by women who are emotionally unavailable too. But I still think men are up for the friends-with-benefits situation more often than women, even if they might get hurt.
If you are going to go into this situation, should you have ground rules?
Oh, definitely. You'd have to lay down ground rules, for sure. It's like the Seinfeld episode – no kissing on the mouth, staying over is optional, things like that.
And can you have a friend with benefits and be dating at the same time, or is that a big no-no?
It would be difficult to date other people and be doing that. The minute you started seriously dating someone you would have to stop. I wouldn't think you could be emotionally attached to someone else while that's going on.
Do you think there's anyone in the history of friends with benefits who was in the situation for a while and they're still friends, and it never got awkward but it never developed into romance?
I feel like there's a rare case where that could happen, but I don't think it happens most of the time. I think most of the time you don't talk to the person any more, or you slowly go your separate ways.
Can you ever bring your friends with benefit friend home to meet your family?
That seems really weird.
And do you think it helps to forge the friends-with-benefits agreement by swearing on the Bible, as the characters in the movie do?
You can go ahead and swear on the Bible all you want, you can't control how you're going to feel afterwards.
If one of your friends of the opposite sex suggested you two go see Friends With Benefits , should you be weirded out?
Yes, you should be.
This interview has been condensed and edited.