Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about love. Last week, on the phone to a close friend we started discussing the difficulty that came along with talking to others about our friendship. “I tell people you’re my girlfriend,” she told me. “nothing else conveys our closeness.”
It made me laugh. Our love for one another is too intense to be expressed to others as friendship. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised how limiting societal understandings of relationships are. Platonic love is so deeply undervalued and misunderstood within our culture. Romantic love is placed above all other loves, and we’re taught to seek it out, to feel incomplete without it. We are taught that there is only one way to correctly participate in romantic love. We are since girlhood waiting our entire lives to be consumed by exclusive romance. We want to be destroyed by it. We want to drown in it. We let men into the center of our lives. We let men become the center of our lives.
Recently I’ve been reading this book called I Love Dick. It was about the author, Chris, and her husband, Sylvère, her infatuation with her husband’s work colleague Dick. And her husband entertains this infatuation, and the pair of them write Dick letters about how much Chris loves him, and Chris tells her husband about how she imagines herself and Dick having sex. In all the reviews I read about the novel, they discuss how perverted this all is, and how dysfunctional this husband-wife dynamic is. But the whole time I was reading it I was struck by how brilliant their relationship was, how secure and in love they must be. I was thinking maybe one day it would be nice if I could grow enough to have a relationship like that. If I could let go of jealousy and possession. I talk about free love and polyamory all the time, and I think it’s beautiful and I think it’s what right. But this was the first time I was really struck by how much I want to be able to have it. I think it’s easier to love girls that way than it is guys, maybe because I haven’t seen representations of how I’m “supposed” to love girls. I don’t have to let go of so many internalised ideas with girls (just all that internalised homophobia…) and so it is easier, free of urgency. But I am going to practice every day. I will practice non-attachment and remind myself that people will always love me, and that if the form of that love changes I am strong enough to teach myself to accept it. I know that what is for me will be for me effortlessly. I will learn to love in such a way that the person I love does not feel stifled by my love. I will learn to love in such a way that they feel free.
Love is a pure emotion. I know that un-training my brain will opened up a whole new world of intense joy and happiness to me. I can kiss my friends on the mouths as an expression of my love for them. I can share all the love I have inside of me with as many or as few people as I want and I don’t have to feel confined or restrained by anything that society or Hollywood has taught me. Realising the unnecessary nature of prescribed titles to different kinds of love and relationships is so incredibly freeing. We don’t need labels or limitations to our loves. We can create our own unique love that manifest in whatever way it wants to.
I can’t claim that I came to this realisation entirely of my own volition. It wasn’t until I was in a space where there was trust and freedom and Real Love that I realised how dysfunctional my past relationships have been, and how confining and screwed up conventional love is. Particularly as women, an exclusive romantic relationship is viewed as some kind of a pinnacle of success. I’ve stayed in relationships that made me feel trapped. I’ve let men convince me that without them, I would crumble apart and dissolve. For a fear of being alone, I’ve let myself be unhappy. No – utterly miserable.
Now I am growing. I love deeply. I try never to forget that the sources of love are plentiful. That there is kinlove and womanlove and friendlove and sisterlove. That these loves are a source of sustenance.
May we keep our centers to ourselves, hold our own hearts in our hands, and cultivate and appreciate love in all of its glorious manifestations.