Since my midteens, I have sought heartfelt friendships rather than romantic ones. Older relatives of mine, aunts and uncles, deem this a wise choice, especially the prudish ones who insist there’s still time. I’m still in college, but for me, it’s not about maturity but the widespread assumption that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic relationship.
I don’t think singleness should carry a stigma. If anything, romantic love should be more stigmatized. While falling in love sounds rosy to me, especially love at first sight, I deem it an implausible bliss, an ill-fated heat. Though beautiful and impassioned when alive, love stings when it withers, and so romantic relationships and marriages are to me, at best, a congratulatory knot, but not an achievement or a guarantee of fulfillment.
The most emotionally fulfilling relationship I have ever had was with a male best friend. All my secrets were in his heart, and his in mine. What we had wasn’t romance, wasn’t sexual. He was closer than a brother and talented, precious. It scared me then, the surge of attention, the lingering affection, the sheltering we gave each other, the warmth that existed between us before distance stole it. Yet we truly cared for each other, and that was love.
With him, I did not see a need to date anyone for more love. It would be nothing but fickle infatuation, a play that wouldn’t match the bond he and I shared. When I told him about the anonymous letter writer, he joked that it would take years before I asked a girl out and that I might fumble trying to woo her.
I laughed. What I loved most about my friendship with him was the innocence, the honesty. In many of my other male-to-male friendships, I felt pressured to act less vulnerable and more tough and detached. With him, I was free, though I sometimes suppressed the expression of it, the same way I did with my mother. Once, I fantasized about pecking him the way my mother did to me, but I couldn’t do it. I rarely called him a best friend, but in my heart, he was. One day, I told him I “low-key” missed him, and he questioned the low-key.
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