Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bring Back Romantic Friendship

Whatever happened to romantic friendship? It used to be, until about a hundred years ago that friends could show their affection, profess undying love, and look after one another emotionally without anyone so much as twitching a whisker.

Wiki explains romantic friendship this way. In short it's a passionate and usually non-sexual friendship with a physical closeness not seen in western society.

This is missing today. Men can shake hands with one another, but not hold them. Any touching they get is done under the cover of sports and often involves fighting.
It's a  bit better for women, but even them too much physical closeness gets questioned. Consequently they have all but disappeared.
Not entirely, of course. But they have gone underground.

Years ago I did a story for Women's History Month. My subject had been a nurse who had been quite a character. Among other things she was known for physically hauling in people off the street to make sure they got their shots.  She'd died about five years earlier so I couldn't interview her, but I did speak to her friend.
The two women were companions. Close friends, never married, and they'd shared a house until death parted them.  Work took one away from town for long periods of time. When the other retired she would often go up and stay with her friend.
When the one died the other continued going to go each year where they'd wintered and took a large framed photo of her friend along.
I wrote the story not quite sure what to make of their relationship other than knowing it really wasn't my business.  Any local person I discussed it with left a great deal unsaid.

Not long afterward I found the book,  Surpassing The Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women From the Renaissance to the Present, by Lillian Faderman  (Quill, William Morrow, 1981).
This opened a fascinating world for me. I had no idea such relationships existed and it made me look at the Women's History feature I'd written in a new light. I don't know the degree and details of their relationship and neither does it matter. What these two women had together worked for them, met their needs, and harmed no one.

Same sex marriage is legal and we see same sex couples in shows and movies and it is wonderful.  But we also need the middle ground. Friendship as we commonly see it is great, friends hug, occasionally have a passing touch in a conversation or will comfort one another, but that's about it.
I think we need more physical contact. I believe we'd be healthier and happier and feel less alone if we could have friendship where we weren’t concerned with what everyone thinks or feel the need to question our sexuality.
Bring back romantic friendship for all our sakes.


messymimi said...

Twelve hugs a day for emotional health. Yes, a deeper friendship like this would be beautiful and might help us all connect better with our world. For a take on such male friendships, there's one in Moby Dick. Many men of that era believed that you had a wife to have children with, but your male friends were your friends, giving you the emotional support you needed, or so one of my professors told me.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thank you, Messymimi. I missed the friendship point in Moby Dick when I read it more than 30 years ago. I have been meaning to read it again. Now I have incentive.


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