As a continuation of part one, this post will take up the challenge to start telling more stories about friendship, starting with some thoughts on my relationship with the copilot. I have no idea where I’m going with this, or what would be of the most use or interest, so expect a mess of reflections and anecdotes as I test out how hard this actually is.
The copilot, who is not ace, is the reason that I went to the first ace meetup that I ever attended.
An asexual Texan girl — one I’d been exchanging online messages with at the time — told me she’d be going to a meetup in Houston on a Saturday, and I remember moaning to the copilot about wishing I could go. Our university is hours away from Houston by car. Lodging wouldn’t have been a problem — I have grandparents who live in Houston who’d let me stay with them any time. The problem was getting there. Under no circumstances was I willing to drive to Houston, which, again, was hours away, not to mention a huge unfamiliar metropolis notorious for bad drivers.
But the copilot told me she’d be willing me to drive me there as long as we had someplace to spend the night, because she is absolutely the kind of person who does spontaneous road trips. And that’s how I ended up taking a roadtrip with a bi feminist stripper to go stay at the house of my Catholic Republican grandparents who watch Fox News, so that we could go meet strangers from the internet.
It went pretty well, all things considered.
While a bunch of us aces (+ the copilot) were sitting around the table at Panera, the guy who organized the meetup looked around at all of us and asked, “So, are any of you currently in a relationship?” (in context, this was clearly not meant in a “Can I hit on any of you?” type way so much as a “Asexuality in combination with romance is a subject fraught with contention. Are any of you currently navigating those issues?” kind of way). And, since he hadn’t specified what type of relationship, the copilot and I were snarky enough to raise our hands and say “We are!” — and then immediately clarify, of course, that we meant a nonromantic relationship, because that’s what a friendship is: a type of relationship, a sustained relation with another person.
I bring this up in order to give you some prior context to the moment when we were sitting around the table at a coffeehouse, at another ace meetup in another city (which she had once again driven me to), and the subject of queerplatonic partnerships arose in conversation — and the copilot and I looked at each other, and she asked something like, “We’re pretty much in one of those, aren’t we?” And I agreed, because we pretty much are.
Although I have issues with the word “platonic” and don’t identify as queer, I still believe our friendship balks some of the norms of friendship in the way that the concept of “queerplatonic” is meant to get at. At its core, queerplatonic is a label to express “it’s a friendship, an important one, but it doesn’t look like what we’re told friendships are supposed to look like”.
Granted, sometimes I do think some folks’ theorizing around what it means to have a queerplatonic partnership gets a little too specific and prescriptive, in terms of defining it around this idea of “friends doing things that are culturally relegated to romantic/sexual partners”, like buying a house and raising a child together and being “like a married couple” without the romance — and to that, I once thought about objecting that we aren’t like we’re married, but then I realized, like in that clip from Scrubs… “Dude, we’re a little married.”
Which is to say, our way of interacting, doing everything together, constantly being in each other’s living space, finishing each other’s sentences, and generally acting as guaranteed emotional support and committed lifepartners has led to us making jokes about being married to each other now and again. On some evenings at the dorm, I’d be sitting at my desk, typing away or whatever, and the copilot would burst through the door after a busy day and announce, “Honeyyyy, I’m hooooome!” And at other times, whenever she was going off somewhere without me along, I would tell her “Be safe” as we were saying goodbye, the same way my mom used to do when my dad left for work in the mornings.
We’d pretty much taken on the roles of husband and wife, is what I’m saying.
What you need to understand about us, though, is that the fact that this relationship even exists is weird — not because it’s a close friendship, but because it’s a close friendship between two people who, in a lot of obvious and conflict-prone ways, are nothing like each other.
We’ve joked about how our life should be a sitcom; a mutual friend once described us as “the odd couple” (she’s the Oscar, I’m the Felix, if you were wondering). I once described her as “debaucherous”. She once described me as “neurotic”. She’s outgoing and gregarious and poly and an agnostic feminist and a sex worker, and I’m, as my regular readers know, an asocial Christian prude. People on the outside are generally very, very confused as to how we can be devoted friends.
I wouldn’t have predicted that we’d become such good friends either, and neither did she — I gave her a terrible first impression of myself, and on the surface, we have nothing in common, which is why it’s interesting to examine how we’ve managed to become so close in spite of these things.
It probably helps that we’re both big nerds.
Despite our seeming polar differences, we share perspectives on things that are important to us, and that includes our love of language just as much as our revulsion toward rape culture and all things wretched in the world. Long story short, don’t ever tell me you can’t build a strong relationship on the foundation of hating the same things.
Also, just by luck of the draw, right off the bat we seemed to have similar enough communication styles for a friendship to work. I don’t know how else to describe it, really. I got good vibes from her. She eventually took a liking to me in part because we had the same sense of humor, and we didn’t feel as awkward around each other as we did around the other people in our first-year seminar. We got to the point where we could say things like “Don’t forget to put the thing on the thing before you do the thing” and understand each other just through context and intuition alone (whereas my mom, for contrast, who has known me all my life, still responds with confused resentment whenever I say things that vague). We were on the same wavelength, as she put it. We do words in ways that are compatible.
That, in tandem with shared values, is what I think holds us together. I was one of the comparatively less heterosexist/misogynistic Christians she’d ever met, and through her influence I became less so. Early on in our friendship, she told me I was the first Christian she’d ever met who was actually smart, which made me laugh (and what’s even funnier to me is that I had to explain to her why it was funny/kind of insulting — but it’s also fair enough, since the previous exposure she’d had to Christians was even more awful than the previous exposure I’d had to feminists). She showed a lot of unnecessary patience with regard to my crappy attitudes toward LGBT stuff, and she’s the chief reason ever I really learned about asexuality, researching it alongside me and being completely accepting when I quasi came out to her as considering the label — which I mark as significant not just because such unreserved acceptance is rare but also because asexuality was a direct challenge to some of her preexisting beliefs, the same way bisexuality had been to mine.
That might sound melodramatic, since neither of us were actively hateful on either front (otherwise, we would’ve never stayed friends). We’d just passively accepted some wrong beliefs we didn’t initially recognize as such — and we were both willing to adapt our beliefs to new information as it came into our hands, and I think that’s something that’s been beneficial for us as individuals as well as beneficial for sustaining our relationship.
We actually agree on a lot more than you’d expect, though. Once she taught me the term “rape culture” and I realized that’s what it is, that’s what it is, there’s a word for it, oh my god, an educated opposition to that became a significant part of the ideological common ground between us. We also agree on a lot of other general ideological matters, too — that words aren’t “just words”, that the jokes you make are a window into what you believe about the world, that not everything can be proved in an empirical study (as nice as that would be), and so on and so forth… and we’re interested in each other’s complaints and good at making each other giggle like children.
We’re actually really similar, once you know what to look for.