“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.” James Baldwin
Last August, when I celebrated my twentieth birthday, despite having the most wonderful time with my friends and family, I felt a very deep sense of disappointment within myself. I had turned twenty and still hadn’t experienced a long-term relationship. Beneath the veneer of ranting about men (sorry, not all men) and failed Tinder dates, I would privately criticise myself for the failings of my lacklustre dating life.
Growing up as a young girl in a patriarchal world, I had a very distorted and conservative view on love and relationships. My ideas surrounding love were based on meeting one devoted partner, who I would instantaneously fall deeply in love with.
Interestingly, I did not once consider platonic love to be on par with romantic love.
A google search of ‘My First Love’ reveals a plethora of tumblresque teenage-style blogs, whose writers incessantly pine over their first love. One such writer reflects on wanting to live as ‘parasite’ inside their first lover’s body. (What lovely imagery…).
However, if you disregard, my blatant mocking of these blogs, and the intense feelings of euphoria and optimism that emerged within these ‘First Love’ blogs, they were still important in forcing me to consider my own profound platonic feelings towards my friends.
Lockdown has brought these feelings to the centre of my attention. Despite realising that I, of course, loved all my friends and would most certainly do anything for them, such as driving my car to them, if they were ever to urgently need me. It may sound trivial, but my love for my friends, most definitely triumphs over my deep hatred for driving. And, this is certainly something I would consider doing for a long-term romantic partner. Therefore, I would argue that the intensity of feelings that emerges from platonic love is equal to romantic love.
However, in a capitalist society, platonic love is definitely overlooked by many. Platonic love is certainly not as profitable as romantic love. One can only think of the mass commercialisation of Valentine’s Day; however, I would never complain if someone were to buy me flowers as a Valentine. (I am clearly very hypocritical, to say the least).
With platonic love, there is a clear innocence to it. Platonic love offers the urge to broaden your horizons, consider new ideas and strive yourself to be the best possible support network for your friends, if they were ever to need you. (Much like, forcing myself to drive down the M8 to see them). Of course, friendships can be extremely toxic. I only need to remind myself of my misconstrued ‘love’ for early teenage friendships that shattered my confidence and feelings of self-worth. But to refer to James Baldwin’s quote, “love is a growing up”, makes me realise that my own flawed feelings of ‘first’ love towards a friendship group, who treated me so badly, forced me to grow up and encouraged me to seek out friends, who really did love me. Luckily, I did find these friends in my later high school and university years.
Considering Baldwin again, love is certainly not a “war”, I can confidently say that I have never felt more at ease with my friends, and although, I may not get to see them as much as I like, due to coronavirus or our diverging career paths, I really do know that I will always have them in my life. Both platonic and romantic love can have feelings of initial nervousness and pressure, however, the gradual and less noticeable feelings of serenity that these loves can bring is equal and is something to be cherished.
Platonic love has given me a sense of joy which I am hoping to translate into any future romantic love. My first problematic love has certainly given way to a true, first love: a group of wonderfully talented young women, who I cannot envisage life without.
On a final note, I really do think my younger self would be proud of my later experiences of platonic love. If you persevere through the minefield of early friendship and romance, you will come out on the other side, feeling far more joyous and nurtured.
[ Serena Black – she/ her- @_serenaemily ]
[Image Credit: Anna Shvets]