Growing Up Platoniromantic: Colours of Love

This post is for the December Carnival of Aros, which is being hosted by The Notes Which Do Not Fit. This month’s topic is “Love”.

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.

7 thoughts on “Growing Up Platoniromantic: Colours of Love

  1. Isaac says:

    I like the idea of refining the categorization of your loves, desires and attractions by colors, especially when your categories fit me and I could use them, but I find colors too arbitrary for communication with third people. I think it might be better to use self-descriptive adjectives rather than colors, or double adjectives in case of need, but something less arbitrary and easier to remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blue Ice-Tea says:

      Yeah, the colours system wouldn’t work for communication with others, but it was a handy and concise system for me. It’s not always easy to find the exact adjective to describe what you’re feeling. The very arbitrariness of colours gave me freedom to use them to mean whatever I wanted them to mean.

      Like

  2. Sara K. says:

    I was wondering when the ‘ancient’ Greek words for ‘love’ were going to be mentioned in any submission…

    A long time ago, I read the Iliad in the original language, and I don’t remember all of those words for ‘love’ being used. I just consulted Cunliffe’s Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect, and it’s how I remembered it: ‘phil-‘ is extremely common can describe any form of love, ‘ero-‘ is uncommon and may mean the same thing as ‘phil’, ‘agap-‘ is very very rare and actually means ‘welcome’ rather than ‘love’ in the works of Homer, and ‘storg-‘ does not exist. On the other hand, there are an abundance of words for anger/wrath.

    Recently, I’ve been studying ancient Greek again (after many years of neglect), and now I’m focusing on Attic Greek. I’ve definitely noticed that ‘agap-‘ is much more common and has a more distinct meaning. However, ‘ero-‘ ummm, it’s used very differently than what English speakers mean when they talk about ‘eros’. For example, in the Anabasis, there is a man who is described as a ‘pederast’ (paiderastes, literally the word for ‘child’ with ‘erastes’) who, when he sees that a boy is about to be killed, he offers up his own life so that the boy might be spared (link to English translation: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Xen.+Anab.+7.4.7&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0202 ), and I’ve encountered other examples were ‘eros’ is being used to describe forms of love very different from what English-language articles claim it would describe.

    The only instance I can recall ever encountering ‘storg-‘ is in the translation of Harry Potter into ancient Greek, which is very far from being an ancient source (it is used to describe how Lily Potter protects Harry, and the feeling which Voldemort does not understand).

    I know very little of Hellenistic, Roman era, or Byzantine Greek, so it’s possible that the the popular articles about ‘ancient’ Greek systems of love are accurately describing Greek from those times. But I find it frustrating that I can’t find sources which specify which form of ancient Greek they derive this different concepts of love from, let alone cite sources.

    However, regardless of historical accuracy, I think it is still a good example of a model of discerning different forms of love, even if it’s just hypothetical, much like your color system 🙂 Thanks for your submission!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Blue Ice-Tea says:

      Interesting! I’ve heard people talk about the “Greek” words for love a lot, but I never thought to look into how they actually got used in ancient Greek texts. I guess, as you say, I found them more interesting as a model for differentiating forms of love than as a historical fact.

      Come to think of it, the context I first heard of these words in was discussions of the Bible. The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and apparently the English word “love” that appears in translations is really several different words in the original. Also, much of my understanding of the four words comes from reading C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves, which discusses different kinds of love in a specifically Christian context.

      Perhaps to see “eros”, “agape”, “storge”, and “philia” used in the way that is now popular, we need to read the kind of Greek the New Testament was written in.

      Liked by 1 person

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