I’ve seen bemoaned on many an occasion the comparative shortage of stories centered around female friendship. Quite often in fiction, The Girl is there to fall in love with The Boy (or two, but that’s a whole ‘nother post on love triangles, right there), and The Boy is there to fall in love with The Girl. There may be a best friend who pops into the narrative for five seconds any time The Girl needs someone to either share her problems with or hide her problems from, a mother to more or less fulfill the same function, a rival girl who exists to threaten The Girl’s desires and/or self-esteem; but the main relationship – the one shown to matter – is that between The Girl and Insert-Love-Interest-Here.
As a romantic fond of her heart-fluttery happy ever afters, I’ve got nothing at all against a good love story. But am I the only one who thinks a tale with no meaningful connections beyond the one between the lovebirds can seem a little… lacking?
Where I think much of the problem lies is the fact that, as a culture these days, we act like a romance is the only kind of deep relationship people can have. Show a pair of people – girl and boy, girl and girl, boy and boy, human and paranormal creature – start to get close, and suddenly the audience is shouting, “So kiss already!” As if there is no strong affection without the equally strong desire to make out. (There’s another post in there about the pervasive notion that life is sex, but we’ll leave that one alone for now, too.)
Sure, a good friendship can make a solid starting point for a romance. Best-friends-turned-more-than-friends is a thing. But to suggest that you can only care about a person so much before your feelings must automatically become erotic is not only straight-up wrong. It’s downright damaging. It’s a flashing red light warning people not to get too close to anyone unless they’re prepared to either take it to that level, or deal with the public assumption that they have and/or will. It’s sexual tension where sexual desire may not even exist. It’s just one more complication that human interaction doesn’t need – because come on, isn’t that enough of a minefield already?
All that being said, Elizabeth Wein’s “Code Name Verity” – a story conveying a female friendship and the horrors of World War I in equal poignant parts – had the right of it:
“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”
Because it can be. There’s that giddy obsession. That drive to share – time, space, news, secrets, joys, sorrows, your lives, your selves. There’s the pride of ownership (“She is mine) and of belonging (“I am hers”). There’s the thrill of knowing she’s looking at you, smiling at you, thinking of you. There’s the ache when she’s out of sight, and you’re out of mind. There’s the selfish needing, and the selfless giving.
And it is enough.
Adding a sexual component can sometimes enrich a relationship, true. But it can also sometimes cheapen it.
A deep friendship is a powerful love story, as worthy of any ballad or song as any heart-to-heart interaction ever was. And the hopeless romantic in me would be glad to see more of it.