George and Brad, Matt and Ben, House and Wilson – all dashingly handsome examples of the inseparable male duo. As expected with our modern tendency to create convenient abbreviations and compound words (Brangelina, Bennifer, Speidi), pop culture has combined the ideas of brotherhood and romance into the ultimate form of male friendship: the “bromance.”
How can you spot a bromance? The exceptionally close best friends tend to dress in similar clothes without realizing it, have nicknames for each other, hear a song that reminds them of one of their many hilarious times together,
room together all four years of college, and enjoy nothing more than a few beers and a long round of video games with one another. In movies they have regular sleepovers and find themselves in absurd situations and laugh about it later (Stepbrothers, Superbad, Harold and Kumar, Pineapple Express, The Hangover) and even go to extreme lengths to protect and be there for each other (Lord of the Rings).
The Thin Line Between Bromance and Romance
Still unsure about how a bromance is different from just two best guy friends? Here are the first three definitions of bromance on UrbanDictionary.com:
- describes the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males
- a non-sexual relationship between two men that are unusually close
- a close relationship between two bros to such a point where they start to seem like a couple
The use of words and phrases like “straight” and “non-sexual” and “seem like a couple” imply that the writers of these definitions felt the need to continuously reiterate that boys involved in a bromance are definitely not homosexual and have a strictly platonic relationship. Why is it necessary to make these distinctions? Evidently two guys can’t be best friends without worrying about being called “gay.”
Even House and Wilson’s new hot neighbor automatically assumed they were a couple, and that was before House starting wearing button down pink shirts and ordering musical posters to decorate their apartment.
Heterosexual college guys seem to go out of their way to make sure that every time they express affection for one of their friends it is only in a non-sexual way. Examples: adding a few casual pats on the back when they hug, saying the slang phrase “no homo” after they say something slightly lovey-dovey to another guy friend, and only showering together in sports locker rooms, which conveniently come with the connotation of being excessively masculine environments.
Homosocial is a term that also describes close same-sex relationships that do not have any romantic intentions, and bromance appears to be a more modern adaptation of the word that can be used conversationally in youth culture.
“A bromance is when you are good friends with a guy but it reaches a different level when you’re comfortable doing certain things with him that most guys wouldn’t do with another guy,” says Alex Beer, a junior at Franklin and Marshall College. “Things like going to the movies one on one, going to dinner late night, telling each other that you love each other.”
Sister-Romance Girls also have extremely close best friends, so why isn’t there a word coined as the female equivalent of a bromance? While awkward words like “sist-ance” or “girl-mance” just don’t roll off the tongue, it seems the reason is that girls simply don’t need a word.
Professor Guy Mark Foster, who teaches a course titled “(Re)Writing Black Masculinity” at Bowdoin College, feels “there's no heterosexual female equivalent to the ‘bromance,’ in part because straight women are ‘allowed’ to bond with one another as a condition of patriarchal domination. Thus, same-sex intimacy between women is not as policed by the society as are same-sex intimate bonds between guys.”
Girl best friends, regardless of being heterosexual or homosexual, constantly express intimacy towards one another: saying “love you” at the end of a phone call, holding hands and linking arms in public, going to the bathroom together, and changing in front of one another. Girls are lucky in the sense that we can be affectionate towards people we love without having to worry about societal pressures and expectations. The success of a song like “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry and how “she hopes [her] boyfriend don’t mind it” goes to show that women are much more free than men to be sexually expressive with the same sex.
Tim Hagen, a junior at the University of Kansas, defines bromance as “an intimate heterosexual relationship between two guys” and when asked why there isn’t a term for a girl bromance he responded “it’s because girls can say, I love you, you’re my girlfriend, but its weirder for a guy to say that because of that whole sense of wanting to stay as masculine as possible.”
Emily Cooper, a junior at Skidmore, feels “it’s more normal for girls to be really close but boys need an excuse to be really close to each other, and at the same time avoid being called gay; the term bromance is a good way to avoid that.”
When Paris Hilton and Brody Jenner both decided that the most efficient way to find a new best friend was through a reality TV show, their shows were respectively named “Paris Hilton’s My New BFF” and “Bromance.” Obviously there is a disparity between how society views two best girl friends and two best guy friends, though it is possible MTV reps figured a title like “Bromance” just sounds more interesting than “Brody’s New Best Friend.” Maybe times will change, but for now just pop in “I Love You, Man” for a girls (or guys) night in, and be thankful we don’t need a made-up word to show how much we love our friends.
Professor Guy Mark Foster, Department of English at Bowdoin College
Alex Beer, junior at Franklin and Marshall College
Tim Hagen, junior at University of Kansas
Emily Cooper, Skidmore College