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Culture Focus

Love, Friendship, and Bromance: A Guy’s Perspective on Relationships

Illustration Credit: Eva DiNino

“ I love him! ” That’s what I exclaimed to my friends as I finished expressing my feelings for my roommate during the summer. Yet immediately I turned around to look at other people’s reaction  in the room. What would they say about me? I became ashamed because the comment could come across as one of attraction. So I blushed a little and lowered my volume to continue describing the amazing friendship that my roommate and I developed that summer.

A similar account happened to me during Sophomore year. That semester I became good friends with a girl in my architecture studio and we used to visit each other’s desk a lot. Once she came over to mine and complimented one of my drawings. “It’s beautiful,” she said. “Thanks,” I replied, “but not as beautiful as you.” She thought I was flirting with her, and from that moment the relationship just crumbled.

With experiences such as these, I have realized that as a guy it is difficult, if not frowned upon, for us to share our feelings. The way “gender roles” have developed sadly assign certain behaviors to both guys and girls, and people expect someone who identifies as either to behave a certain way. While it is more acceptable for girls to be expressive of their feelings, people expect guys to be more stern. This is a reality in a lot of places in the world, including the USA, but it is especially true back home in Mexico. My dad one time was telling my auncles how much he loved my mom and me, and his brothers just looked at him as if he had been possessed by an other-worldly being. Ultimately, people are not accustomed to guys sharing their feelings for others, and when we choose to do so, others mistakenly label us as “gay” or “homosexual.” I am a person who is passionate about connecting with others, and I like to blatantly express how I feel about others, including guys. Yet with this nature it is easy for people to believe I am gay, although I am not. Since there is an overarching notion that only homosexual guys should adhere to this behavior, people like my uncle and some of my friends just assume that I am gay.

I am tired of this mindset in which guys cannot share their feelings, and the current concept of masculinity is to blame. The ideal of how guys should be is a toxic one, motivating men to be as journalist Olivia Petter writes “stoic and strong, both emotionally and physically.” I have been witness to how this standard permeates guys’ mindsets; I know many of them who go to the gym every day, who treat others aggressively, who are cocky in conversation, who loudly play video games. Yet when you approach them to talk to them about your feelings, they know not how to respond. As a guy who has never followed that stereotypical masculine trend and instead has been more expressive, it is difficult to create a relationship with men who behave like that. In the past I have become good acquaintances with guys who more or less behave stereotypically masculine, and I have wanted to develop a stronger bond with them. Yet it has been challenging to do so because we do not really share much in common. When they invite me over to their apartments, I am often left out of conversation because they prefer to talk about sports or video games and I know essentially nothing about such topics. Truly, the current notion of masculinity is making relationships, especially those between guys, more frustrating.

Yet people are starting to become aware of this problem, wanting to change and reconsidering what is to be a guy. It is becoming more accepted for men to share their feelings. No longer does one have to be “gay” or “homosexual” to be expressive of themselves and others, especially guys. However, people have come up with the term “bromance” to label a close relationship between men, one that takes away the sexuality but preserves the intimate connection between the two.

I have mixed feelings about that word. On one hand, “bromance” describes  the close bond and friendship with other men that many guys like me have been wanting to establish since our youth. As guy, one wishes to have a close group of other men whom to rely and with whom to spend fun time. On the other hand though, the term still hints at sexual undertones and it is prone to toxic masculinity. I have heard guys in fraternities describe the relationship with their bothers as a “bromance,” and that idea usually comes with many of the characteristics of stereotypical masculinity. Therefore, I find the term “bromance” somewhat confusing because of its current implications. 

In the end, an intimate or close relationship with another guy does not need to have a label, and that’s what I discovered last summer with my roommate. We started being strangers, but three months later we were true brothers. When we came home from work, we ate together and talked about our days. At night we engaged in deep conversations about life while he was playing his guitar and I was painting. We also helped one another clean the house and cook. The best part is that we continue to be close even though we no longer live together  It is because of these experiences that I know that a close friendship with another guy without sexual or romantic attraction is possible. Likewise, because of my relationship with him, I discovered the true meaning of masculinity. Being a man does not mean being physically or emotionally strong, but rather allowing yourself to be sensitive to those around to get to know them and thus gain the strength to help them and yourself overcome any obstacle. With this mindset, I can love anyone and exclaim to the world my love for them.

As Valentine’s Day is coming up, I know it would be beneficial for everyone to reconsider our relationships with others. Society and its contemporary culture have encouraged us to live a toxic lifestyle, expect others to behave like that, and be fine with having unhealthy relationships. Love is not only sexual or romantic, but rather a choice of putting others, no matter their sex or gender, first. My hope is to see in the future more relationships and friendships that truy have strong foundations in love and care for each other.