Opposite-sex friends: Impossible!

The temptation will land you in hell, says Steve Harvey, comedian and self-made relationship guru

Published August 19, 2009 8:30PM (EDT)

What's the deal with comedians dishing out relationship advice? First there was Greg Behrendt, author of "He's Just Not That Into You," and now there is Steve Harvey with "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man." As though Harvey's 36 weeks on the New York Times' bestseller list weren't perplexing enough, "Good Morning America" has further elevated the twice-divorced funny man's mainstream stock by having him offer relationship advice for the show. His first segment aired Wednesday morning and focused on a precious gem of wisdom from his book: Men and women cannot be friends.

Clearly, someone didn't read Mary Elizabeth Williams' recent ode to male friends. Harvey, flanked by the show's merely tolerant hosts, sat in the ABC studio across from some couples who had encountered firsthand the catastrophe of an opposite-sex friend. One woman explained how she had discovered an e-mail her husband sent to a female friend signed "love ya"; they got into it and he dumped the friend. Cue Harvey's divisive humor: "You typed, 'love you'? That's pretty dangerous ... I can't even type 'I like you a whole lot' without starting a major fire." Then followed a lightweight maxim: "I'm just of the belief that a couple should form a two-handed circle. Outside relationships ... what good do they bring to your marriage?" Got that? A healthy marriage requires cutting oneself off from the outside world.

Next up: a 29-year-old dude with the chutzpah to say that his romantic interest of three weeks shouldn't have male buddies. His reasoning is that he knows how men think: "We have one thing on our mind." Harvey sympathetically declares that the guy is simply "trying to mark [his] territory." He continued, "It's almost virtually impossible for a man to be a woman's friend." The only reason men want to be friends with women is because they are hoping to get some at some point, he earnestly explains. You heard it here first for the umpteenth time: Women are ultimately only good for a lay.

The show's producers, to their credit, included a token couple -- via Skype -- that had happily escaped the kindergarten approach to friendship and cootie avoidance. Not only are they OK with having friends of the opposite sex, but they are "happily unmarried for 11 years." That short-circuited Harvey's brain, leaving him stuttering in confusion: "Oh, uh, oh-oh, you don't want to be married? I don't know a woman who doesn't want to be married. What are you doin'? I-I-I, I'm stuck" -- in the '50s, that is.

The highlight of the segment came when Diane Sawyer, bless her, finally piped in: "But there's temptation everywhere, isn't there?" Harvey's matter-of-fact response: "Yeah, I think that's why they created hell." There you have it: Make opposite-sex friends, burn in H-E-double hockey sticks; on the other hand, take a load of retro dreck, wrap it in dubiously charitable honesty of the "men are dogs" variety, and you end up on the bestseller list and a national wake-up show.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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