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COLUMN: This Valentine's Day, I'm celebrating platonic love


rob-linsley-2

Throughout human history, people have been obsessed with romantic love: the fluttering heartbeats, the irrationality, the mysterious oneness of sexual intimacy.

Go back thousands of years and you’ll find Sappho’s lyric poetry, sexual Egyptian hieroglyphs, even the biblical "Song of Songs" — all proclaiming the power of eros.

Today, popular culture bombards us with the idea we need a romantic partner to feel whole. These messages only swell around Valentine’s Day. There is a power just as strong as romantic love that we too often ignore: the deep emotional intimacy of platonic love.

As someone who’s single this Valentine’s Day, I won’t be brooding. Instead, I’m celebrating all the platonic love that heals me and brings the most brilliant hues to my life.

Take my nephews, who just turned three and five. More than anyone else, they’ve inspired me to fight for my survival as I struggle through mental illness. I can’t bear to see them hurt in even the smallest ways, let alone suffer a trauma of that magnitude. I can’t bear to miss what they’ll become, to not be part of their growth into upstanding young men someday. As children, they display the purest form of love. They remind me of the beauty in this world every time I talk with them or see photos of their magnificent smiles and goofy antics. 

Many times I’ve Skyped them and burst into tears after hanging up. I was overcome by the incredible impact they've had on me and that their innocent souls can’t begin to comprehend.

I also reflect on my dear friend, Roland. This Valentine’s Day, I will undoubtedly be sending him a cheesy reflection on my gratitude for our friendship — alongside the dankest of Shrek e-valentines. He and I dated seriously for over a year. Now, a little more than three years since we broke up, we are closer than ever.

We share a deep intimacy, displaying the weirdest parts of our humor and the darkest parts of our souls. Our romantic relationship was incredibly intense both in its joy and its struggles. If anyone has a right to reject me forever, it’s him. But he hasn’t.

Friendships have a stability, and a dedication, that college romances often lack. Friends stick by each other, no matter what. Friends fight for each other.

Just last weekend, a close group of my friends — bonded across states and countries over our shared experience of being Whovians and self-identified “disaster gays” — experienced a major rattling. One member had sent concerning messages, then left our 16-member online community. 

For various reasons, we suspected she was in danger of suicide. None of us lived close to her, but we put our resources together. We contacted her local dispatchers - who weren’t helpful. So we kept contacting them. We reached out to people who knew her in person.

I kept contacting one person in her life who wouldn’t acknowledge the danger, but was the best person to help her.

It was more difficult than it may have seemed from the outside. A combination of a depressive episode, an already exhausting day and terror for my friend made it feel like an insurmountable task. Ultimately, I got through to him and he left work early to check on her. 

She was unconscious but alive. Now, she is making a good recovery.

Together, it was our dedication over several hours that may have saved her life, from thousands of miles away. I know they’d do the same for me. We’re there for each other, no matter what. 

Yes, I’ve experienced the whirlwinds of infatuation, first kisses, long walks, flowers and all things romantic. 

Platonic relationships are just as powerful — if not more — and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

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