Hey, I Love You

I don’t know about you, but when I love someone I show it. I’ll message them to see how they’re doing, I’ll hug them every time I see them, I’ll publicly and privately tell them ‘I love you.’ There are different types and meanings behind the emotion we call love, but the one I’m talking about this time is platonic. One type reserved for sexual partners called epithymia (eros is often used but it’s more general desire than sexual attraction), and another being philia for your friends and family. Platonic love falls into philia which is the expression of non-sexual affection and friendly care for other people. While we have the idea of platonic love and some of us express it freely, there are those who won’t. Why is that and what’s the consequence?

One common experience I had in high school was the phrase “no homo” being tossed around as if it’s necessary to confirm that when you express affection it’s strictly platonic. Unfortunately, it still hasn’t died out. The need to seem straight or affirm your sexuality brings about the phrase “no homo” when you express care for your friends. This need to affirm sexuality makes it difficult to normalize or even talk about love in its various forms. This leaves platonic love as something quiet, felt but not openly practiced. When it is openly practiced we see it more among women than men. This is because of other norms that restrict the expression of platonic love. Gender and sexuality are concepts people feel the need to constantly fill and reaffirm. ‘Women’ can freely practice platonic love, but if ‘men’ try it too, (similar to crying, or ‘feminine’ hobbies such as thread and needlework) they’re attacked for being girly. Aside from the problem of “feminine” being seen as an insult, this keeps platonic love in a taboo box.

Although women, because they’re given the characteristics of “nurturing” and “affectionate,” are allowed to show platonic love to their friends without societal reprimand there is another block for them. The sexual love, epithymia, that makes someone take on a partner is threatened in our community by philia. To express a sexual attraction, or that two people are in a relationship, it’s common for the people to kiss and hold hands. These kisses can be on the forehead, lips or mouth. Friends might practice these actions too but they run the risk of being teased for having romantic feelings or being frozen out of a friendship by a significant other for supposedly overstepping the boundaries of platonic love. The thing is, actions don’t apply strictly to one form of love. Although it’s common for couples to hold hands friends hold hands too, family members do the same and it’s the intentions and meaning behind it, not the action itself that dictates the love. Platonic love potentially includes all displays of affection as long as they’re not backed by a sexual attraction, it’s just up to us to normalize them.

So, when you’re with a friend it doesn’t matter their gender, your gender or where you are, if you love them I encourage you to say, “Hey, I love you.” We should know the difference between our motivations in saying that phrase, but our displays of affection shouldn’t be restricted because of taboos between the habits of lovers versus friends.