For many years, my best friend’s name in my phone was “Girl I’ll Never Kiss.” This label was not one forged in disgust or disrespect, but rather was a joke we shared rooted in the firm stance that we would not fall into the high-school theater trap with each other — nor would we secretly fall in love. We were strictly friends and needed it that way.
Then, one night while we were downtown after we outgrew and changed her contact name, we kissed. It was brief, platonic, a quick peck we shared before our other two roommates joined in on the fun, and we all gave each other little kisses.
This is probably an inexplicable, crazy concept to some, but honestly an incredibly popular act among Gen-Z people, especially queer ones. As gay as I am, I’m the most traditional in my group when it comes to this new wave, and the time mentioned above is the only time I’ve engaged in a platonic kiss. The lines between platonic friendships and romantic ones are becoming more and more blurry, and when the idea of kissing your friends is so normalized, and knowing where you stand with your friend may not be as cut and dry. This can become even trickier if you’re still exploring your sexuality and your friend happens to be of the same sex. What happens when the friend you can now kiss “casually” and “platonically” is actually the friend you’ve had a crush on, or you never thought of them that way before, but then you kissed them and liked it? What if you don’t even need kisses to prove there’s a sort of gray area with your friend? How do we navigate this new terrain of homoerotic female friendship?
Begin By Looking Inward
A good starting point for exploring this is opening a dialogue with yourself and understanding how you feel independently. Ask yourself if you had/have any preexisting feelings for your friend(s), and thoughtfully consider if any of them may have feelings for you: Do you only want to kiss this friend when you’re drunk and feeling silly and lovey, or do you want to kiss them randomly like while they’re cooking or telling you a story? Then, unpack whether or not these are feelings you would want to genuinely pursue or would rather let pass. If those feelings could lead to something more with this friend, something potentially serious, and that possibility excites you, the gray area could go one of two ways: it could be a sweet spot of toying with this possibility, allowing you to work up the courage to say something or get a feel of what your friend is putting down and provide some reassurance.
But, it could also be a way of developing your feelings without actually knowing how the other person feels, which could lead to rejection if you find out they don’t feel the same way. While communication is the ultimate goal, you’ll need to be honest and vulnerable with yourself first and ask yourself some challenging questions in order to decide what course of action you want to take.
Communicating and Establishing Boundaries
Once you’ve landed on this, establishing corresponding boundaries is a good way to ensure nobody’s feelings get hurt. At the end of the day, this is a friendship worth respecting. While this is arguably the hardest part, it’s a surefire way to get everything out on the table. You may be able to clear up any awkwardness and open a door for further connection, strengthening your relationship. Any type of relationship thrives on open communication and acknowledging feelings as opposed to assuming them.
If you decide you don’t have serious feelings and enjoy the causal intimacy, initiate it more often while confirming they’re into it. If you decide you do have feelings but can still handle the blurred intimacy without stress, go for it. But, if you decide you do have feelings and can’t act on them or just aren’t the type to deal with the blurry, make that known.
Expanding Your Ideas of What Friendship Can Look Like
Ultimately, blurred platonic friendships don’t always have to be a bad thing. Being open to non-traditional displays of affection in friendships is a valuable way to practice intimacy in ways society typically says are reserved for romantic relationships. Love can look different for everyone, and whoever said soulmates have to be strictly romantic was maybe depriving themselves of a great friendship. Even if the ways you show affection with your friends are uncommon as long as they feel good and right to you and that other person, that’s all that matters. The only people in your relationship are you and that person, so it’s up to both of you to decide what looks and feels best.
Blurred relationships can be confusing and awkward, but the good news is a gray area, when acknowledged, can be exciting and fun. Think about everyone’s favorite friendship duo, Romy and Michele, from the 1997 film. I wrote about Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion for one of my women and gender studies classes in a piece called “The G[r]ay Area Between Female Friendship & Sexuality.” Though the film has them engage in heterosexual relationships, they are their most vulnerable and intimate with each other, more so than any man. In one particular scene, while dancing at a club and finding no good male prospects, Romy complains, wishing she were a lesbian. Michele then asks: “Do you want to have sex sometime, just to see if we are?”
Though Romy rejects the idea, she adds that Michele should ask her again in a few years, and it’s widely agreed upon by audiences that the two will most likely engage in a sexual encounter at some point. So sometimes, when we let ourselves consider the idea that our friendship can exist in a gray area, it may not have to be a challenge at all, but instead, an opportunity.