I think I know why everyone is so obsessed with finding love this days: friendship is not enough anymore. The sentiments of companionship and affection that we used to long for are being replaced with the need to belong to someone, to have a trusted ally that would never leave us, that possesses our soul like a demon in a horror novel. We all crave to be wanted, needed and desired in ways we didn’t even know we could be, consumed in the flames of a passion that forces us to rise from the ashes, as a phoenix, renewed. As if this was something we could buy at a store.
It is heart breaking to realize that many of us will never experience a love so deep and all consuming during our lifetimes because our definition of friendship doesn’t allow us to openly have relationships that are intimate and loving. These characteristics are prescribed and strictly reserved for significant others and family only. Society looks at us weirdly if we admit we love our friends without a hint of sexual tension or outside of acceptable context. Bromances are for males only. Cynicism has made many gestures of kindness and affection sensual in nature when in fact, craving to be touched and cuddled by another human is part of our nature. Ask random strangers and they will tell you how sleeping with someone, as in slumbering, is seen as an intimate act. When did our basic needs or sleep, food and shelter become sexualized? Apparently women and men cannot be intimate friends because that adjective attacks the lady’s virtue. The only men you need in your life are your husband, your sons and your father. Other men are unwelcomed distractions and only want to get in your pants…
In my culture, kissing and hugging people is normal behavior but in the States and workplace, my coworkers fear that if we hug and kiss on the cheek someone will report us to HR and get us in trouble. I think it is in part because a married and single people shouldn’t be hugging each other. Geez! The perception of impropriety permeates our team dynamics; we are quick to assume that people’s intentions are always to hurt us or take advantage of us. Very few accept that physical contact can be innocent and benign, or even welcomed! This results in harboring feelings of alienation and distrust under the guise of safety. If I am overtly courteous and outgoing, people will think I am flirting or asking for it. They will feel entitled to my body and my attention. Why?
The assumption that people are evil and want to hurt you has made my generation, the Millennials, fearful and lonely. We live in a forced state of isolation, using social media to communicate with outsiders, avoiding direct contact and therefore harm. We invented apps that made casual encounters straight forward and easy so we could skip the platitudes and courtship and jump straight to sex without having to cope with traditional rejection. To avoid pain we created more tolerable ways to show our preferences without conjuring up feelings. We figured that taking the time to know each other was a waste unless an algorithm validated that the chances of compatibility were high. Low risk, high reward. How crazy is that?! We want unconditional love with minimal sacrifice. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.
To add insult to injury, we have corrupted friendship and romanticized it. I recall a time when you could have a best male of female friendship that lasted until the day you died, above reproach or suspicion, and that would be enough to make you feel good about yourself. At least one person truly cared! However, I constantly feel that there is pressure to pass on the mantle to your spouse when you finally get married. You can only love ONE person apparently, and a good wife should not have guy friends. Who came up with that rule? We drain the passion and mystery out of our marriage because we bombard our significant other with the dual duty of being our lover and our friend. Boundaries are criss crossed all the time to the confusion and chagrin of the offended partner. Honey, you are my best friend, you should know me by now! Do you even know yourself?
If you look up the definition of friendship it mentions caring as its base and foundation instead of love. I always wondered why. Maybe love was too strong a word or a big commitment and the powers that be wanted to keep friendship light and superficial. Anyone that knows me can attest to the fact that I fall in love with every one of my friends, hobbies and acquaintances, because that is the only way I can truly manage to be happy. If I don’t love you, how can I care? How can I respect you? It may be extreme but there is something freeing about letting those in my life know every day how much they mean to me and how grateful I am when they reciprocate. I♡U! I give my love freely with the hope that they share the pieces of heart they took from my own. That’s what I want my legacy to be: that everyone I meet feels loved and is loved, at least by one person, me.
Love is a conscious choice and it is unfortunate that we don’t learn to love and respect ourselves first and foremost before embarking on the quest of finding others to love. If we can’t love ourselves more than we love love, we will never be able to find a partner and endeavors that complement us; we have to be whole in order to merge a piece of our spirit with another. Not everyone out there will be a perfect fit but is is naive to assume that the unicorn we call The One actually exists. We make our partners and friends The One by accepting them as they are, and be allowing ourselves to treasure their imperfections.
Love can handle everything thrown at it indiscriminately and it should make us resilient and perseverant. If the love you receive isn’t making you feel safe and happy, look for another source before the poison ruins you for the rest of us. There is no greater victory that to let our love conquer all, and to know that we are loved in return. Don’t downplay your feelings for the sake of political correctness. Dare to love openly and with wanton. Regret is not something you want to take to your grave.
“After all, who can ever learn to love a Beast…” – Beauty and the Beast, Disney Version.