I was at a restaurant the other day when I overheard a conversation between two girls. One was agonising over whether she had been put in the “dreaded friend zone by an uber-cute guy”.

I could only laugh.

Apparently, I laughed quite loudly because the two turned and shot me a nasty look. I shook my head at my seared tuna salad like it had told me something hilarious.

But I digress. I laughed at the girl because I know the truth: the “friend zone” is as much a fantasy as unicorns, mermaids and Charlie Sheen’s sobriety.

why you should never trust a guy who insists both of you are “just friends”

Image: Getty Images

Yes, I said it. And like the magician who reveals the secrets of his tricks much to the dismay of his brethren, I’ve just incurred the wrath of every guy who has sheepishly said: “She’s like a little sister to me.” Pfft! An extra Pfft! to guys who say this and don’t even have little sisters.

Girls and guys can’t be friends. Male and female relationships that flourish are usually the spawned of sexual desire on someone’s part.

It sounds a tad cynical, but it’s naive to discount the power of the human sex drive, which has been moulded and perfected over millions of years.

Attraction is hardwired into all of us. All those guys driving fancy cars down Orchard Road on a Friday night are just peacocks showing off their feathers.

And all those girls strutting around Zouk in spine-wrecking heels that accentuate their butts are simply baboons shaking their tails. Both sexes do all this – whether they know it or not – to attract mates.

Maybe my girls-and-guys-can-never-be-friends hypothesis needs some qualifying.

I’m friends with lots of girls: my girlfriend’s friends, my buddies’ girlfriends, my producers from work, my bookers. But it doesn’t mean my genes have me thinking about procreating with all of them.

What I’m talking about are those “friends” whom you pester to hang out with you all the time.

Those friendships with members of the opposite sex where you start hanging out so much that it begins to approximate BFF status. These are the friendships that aren’t really, well, friendships. How do I know? Experience.

In my last year of high school, I became good friends with a girl in my class. We hung out, had dinners, watched movies, called nightly to chat, and participated in so many innuendo-strewn conversations that it’s embarrassing to admit now how long it took me to actually ask her out.

And though I always told my guy friends that she was “just a friend” and “like a little sister to me”, I ended up dating her for three years.

Looking back, I know that the entire time we were friends I was interested in her, and that’s what fuelled our friendship. I liked hanging out with her because I was attracted to her. I’ve known lots of couples who started out in these pseudo friendships.

Now that I’ve argued that point, let me confuse the issue further by saying that guys and girls can be friends. Yeah, I’m contradicting myself but let me qualify this again.

Male and female relationships that flourish are usually the product of sexual attraction. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two will end up dating, or that they won’t remain friends. It’s just that guys and girls need to confront the sexual tension between them before they can move on to have a real friendship.

At university, I was friends with a girl who had the kind of blue eyes that looked like they’d been enhanced on Instagram. To top it off , she was fun to be around.

I was attracted to her but never said anything. But one night after too many drinks, we passed out on her bed, me with my legs propped uncomfortably against the wall. I was stuck in a single bed with a beautiful girl and nothing happened. No kissing, no touching, not even accidental brushing. Perhaps we were too tired or too drunk – or more likely, a combination of both.

Score one for celibacy.

After that, it was like the air had been cleared. Maybe she and I figured that if we were meant to be together, something should’ve happened that night instead of my legs cramping to the point that I fell on the ground trying to stand in the morning. We have remained good friends since.

So that’s it. The hilarious truth I laughed into my salad about is this seeming paradox: girls and guys can’t be friends, yet they can be – in time.

Just know this: when a guy wants to meet for coffee, go to the movies, sit and talk, he’s probing to see if you’re relationship material. Or he is working up the courage to ask you out. Either way, your relationship isn’t friendship.

Until the two of you pass out in the same bed and one of you loses all circulation to their legs, you’ll never move past a self-professed “sibling-like” friendship riddled with sexual tension and innuendo.

So the next time a guy friend describes a girl as a friend – “just like a little sister” – wink, grin and say: “Sure she is, pervert.”

This article was originally published in Her World magazine April 2013.