This post was written for the April Carnival of Aces, which is being hosted by Demisexual and Proud. The theme this month is a quote: “All the birds have started nests save me and you – what are we still waiting for?”
It is part of my series on Growing Up Platoniromantic.
platoniromantic – unable to distinguish “romantic” from “platonic” feelings and/or experiencing “friendship” and “romance” as the same thing
The day before Palm Sunday, I slept over at a friend’s house. There’s nothing unusual about that, although it was unusual for her husband to pick me up from work. On the drive home, she texted asking us to pick up dinner, so we stopped at the grocery store and got what proved to be the worst sushi I have ever had in my life. We ate, we talked, I gave the child her birthday present and watched her open it. The next morning, we ate the hot cross buns I had brought, and I told the child my version of the Easter story. Then we all piled into the mini-van and went to church. We sang songs, we waved our palm branches, we listened to a sermon on the importance of hope.
As I stood in the pew next to my friends, I became aware of an odd sensation. Or rather, an odd lack of sensation. I felt no urge to break down in tears. I felt no gnawing dissatisfaction with the state of my life. I felt no despair at the pointlessness of it all. Not even a little bit. I was, for a rare moment, as close as I ever get to feeling happy.
As a lifelong movie buff, I’ve always appreciated a good happy ending. Often, happy endings involve people coming together romantically, and I get a real thrill out of watching movies that end this way. But being platoniromantic means that I get just as big a thrill out of watching people come together platonically. In Star Wars, I envied Han and Leia their romance, but I also envied Luke the chance to help them raise their kids. In The Philadelphia Story, I envied Tracy and Dexter their giddy last-minute remarriage, but I also envied Mike and Liz the privilege of participating in the ceremony.
Growing up, I dreamed of forming relationships that were committed and loving, but didn’t particularly care whether they were sexual. Frustrated by the way “friendship” is devalued, I had my own terminology to describe different levels of intimacy. “Friend” was near the top, denoting comfort, camaraderie, and lifelong commitment. Very, very few of my relationships met those criteria. But there was a higher level beyond even that. Called, “good friendship”, it could most succinctly have been described as “like Mulder and Scully on The X-Files”. Good friends were always there for each other; they finished each other’s sentences and had the keys to each other’s apartments. I didn’t have anyone in my life like that. But I hoped that one day I might.
Looking back, my conception of “good friendship” comes very close to what today is called “queerplatonic partnership”. But what’s important is less the specific term than the way being platoniromantic affected my life goals. I’ve always wanted “romance” in my life – if by “romance” you mean relationships that involve emotional intimacy, shared responsibilities, and commitment. But, being platoniromantic, I’ve never understood why those elements had to be limited to sexual relationships.
As a result, I’ve spent most of my life wanting “too much” out of my friendships, expecting them to fill the space most people reserve for their sexual relationships. I’ve had to learn the hard way that most friends will drift away, that they won’t have that much time for me, that I will come in a distant second to their sexual partners.
The past decade has seen my friends becoming increasingly domestic: buying houses, getting married, and having children. Meanwhile I’ve drifted from city to city and job to job without much direction. I came back from three years overseas to find my friend and her husband happily settled with a new house and a new baby. And there I was, still single, living at home, and preparing to go back to school full time. Would someone like her have any room in her life for someone like me?
Apparently, she did. Apparently, being a full-time mom didn’t actually mean she had no time for our friendship. There were meals to be cooked, so I got invited over to help with the cooking. There was a child to look after, so I got invited over to help with the child. Her house was closer to my school than to my home, so I started sleeping over between school days. I left a toothbrush there, and a spare set of pyjamas. I got my own drawer. I got asked to house-sit. I got asked to baby-sit.
One day I watched the house while some movers brought furniture. She gave me a key so I could lock up afterwards.
“Keep it,” she said.
Somehow or other, without planning it, without meaning to, without quite realising it was happening, I’d ended up in the relationship I’d always wanted. A relationship where I saw my friend on a regular basis, where I was welcome in her home and involved in the life of her child. A relationship that my adolescent self would have recognised as a “good friendship”.
So my story of growing up platoniromantic has a happy ending. First, because I came to realise my own platoniromanticism and used it as inspiration for my graduate research and a series of blog posts. And, second, because I did, in the end, find a relationship that blurs the line between friendship and romance, a relationship where I get my need for companionship met despite being “just” a friend.
It may be odd to think of this as a happy ending. My life is far from perfect: getting my own place and finding a decent job are still goals I’m working on. The situation between my friend and me might change, for any number of reasons. And, after all, it’s not really the end – the end of my story hasn’t come yet (and when it does I’ll be in no position to write about it)!
But what does a “happy ending” really mean? When we say of two young people in love, “And they lived happily ever after”, we don’t mean that their story ended. In fact, “happily ever after” is more of a beginning. It’s the beginning of a life together, a life in which there will be ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, joy and sorrow. What makes the ending “happy” isn’t that everything’s come to a stop. It’s that the characters are together, and whatever life has in store for them, they are going to face it together.
It’s not that I don’t think my life can get better. Or worse. But for me the worst thing I could do would be not to appreciate the good things in my life while I have them. I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling confused, feeling friendless, feeling broken. And I’ve finally gotten to a place where I’m none of those things. It may be too early to say I’m living happily ever after. But I’m alive. And I’m happy.