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
As a platoniromantic teenager, I was continually frustrated by the vocabulary used to talk about feelings and relationships. One of my many frustrations was the way the word “love” got used. As I wrote in “Questioning, Exploration, & Mislabelling”:
“Love” was simultaneously too strong, too weak, and too specific, used either in an overly narrow sense that only made room for sexual relationships, or an overly broad sense that covered everything from New York to rock ’n’ roll.
I wanted to be able to use the word “love” and have it mean what I meant, without any ambiguity. I also wanted a way to talk about different kinds of attraction and appreciation that did not conflate them all together. My strategy for doing this was to make up my own vocabulary for talking about love and attraction. I didn’t use this vocabulary with others, but it was nice to have even just for myself.
Part of this vocabulary used different “colours” to talk about different kinds of love. This “colour” system was similar in a lot of ways to the ancient Greek system of “eros”, “agape”, “storge”, and “philia”, or to the modern ace community’s distinction between “sexual”, “romantic”, “sensual”, “aesthetic”, “emotional”, and “intellectual” attraction. However, it divided feelings up somewhat differently:
Red Love – Sexual desire, sexual attraction. Corresponds to the Greek “eros”.
Green Love – Intellectual attraction, the desire to spend time discussing ideas with or learning knowledge from someone. I’ve had green crushes on many of my teachers.
Purple Love – Aesthetic attraction, appreciation for physical beauty and style. Could apply equally to beauty in nature, art, or people.
Yellow Love – Familial affection, companionship, or camaraderie. The feeling of comfort that comes from spending a lot of time with someone and makes you want to keep spending time with them. Probably closest to the Greek “storge”.
Blue Love – The most purely emotional love. The desire for emotional intimacy with someone, the feeling that your happiness depends on them, and the placing of their wellbeing above your own. Might correspond to “agape” or “philia”, although neither seems quite strong enough. Has a lot in common with the concept of “emotional attraction” and “squishes”.
These colours distinguished different qualities of affection rather than different degrees. For milder degrees of affection, I used the word “crush” and thought in terms of “red crushes”, “green crushes”, etc. “Love” was reserved for stronger degrees, although I considered it a misnomer for all the colours except “blue love”.
One thing you’ll notice is that there was no colour for romantic love, because I didn’t have any concept of “romantic” love as something distinct from the others. If you had asked me where “romance” was in this colour scheme, I would have directed you to red love or pointed out that red love and blue love could exist together. What other people called “romantic love” seemed to me either a form of sexual love, or a combination of sexual and emotional love. If pressed, I might have reluctantly labelled it “pink love” or “red-blue love”, but I really didn’t think it deserved its own designation.
These days, I don’t often think in terms of this colour system, and my ideas about love no longer fit perfectly within it. But I remain as confused as ever about the meaning of “romantic” love. I understand that the concept of romantic love as something separate from sexuality is very important to many ace people, but I still have no idea what exactly it means. So, even though I didn’t have a word for it at the time, my colour system reflected my platoniromantic identity: I experience sexual attraction, intellectual attraction, aesthetic appreciation, companionate affection, and emotional attachment. I don’t know what place, if any, romance has in that.