Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bromance

I'm fascinated by the concept of the bromance, a term that has its origins by combining the words "bro," short for brother, with "romance."

To understand the term better, I looked it up on www.urbandictionary.com. Here's what I found out.

A bromance is:
* a close male friendship, to the point where the men come across as a couple;
* complicated love and affection shared between two straight men;
* intense love shared between two heterosexual men;
* two men showing affection toward each other;
* two straight guys who are close friends to the point of wanting to have sex with each other;
* a highly formed friendship between male friends; and
* a totally heterosexual loving relationship between two or more men, based on respect for the other's manliness.

If you've never heard the term before, you should get the idea by now.

Like I said, the whole concept of the bromance fascinates me on so many levels.

For one, even though we have a word in the twenty-first century to describe this kind of close connection between two straight men, there can be no doubt that bromances, in one form or another, existed between men since the beginning of man's presence on earth. Even as Cro-Magnon man clubbed wildlife so the woman and children he was with could eat, assuming he had male company, he must have felt close to some of his buddies–that is, if his brain was capable of feeling an emotional connection like that way back then.

What about men who fought wars together throughout history, sharing trenches and bunkers and unusual sleeping arrangements for days and weeks and months at a time, talking about intimate details of their lives during slow times, protecting each other from injury and death, becoming closer to one another, both physically and emotionally, than perhaps at any other time during their lives? You can't tell me they didn't experience intense male bonding that today would be defined as bromances.

Other male couples in recent memory come to mind: from actors, writers, and directors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, to Batman and Robin; and from actors George Clooney and Brad Pitt, Sesame Street friends Ernie and Bert, and, more recently and especially pronounced, The Voice mentors Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.  I'm not a big history buff, but I'm certain there are all sorts of examples of close male couples whose relationships would today fall under the heading of bromances.

The whole bromance thing doesn't surprise me. Sometimes, I've seen groups of straight men at a bar; or at a baseball, hockey, or football game; or at a firehouse; or walking down the street; wherever--and I've often wondered if these men experience the same kind of closeness that women in close friendships feel toward each other.

Unless someone can convince me that men are utterly incapable of feeling emotionally connected to human beings, including other men, I don't believe for a minute that they can't experience love toward each other. If the basis of their friendships is mutual admiration and respect, how can they not feel an emotion akin to love for other men? It would be impossible for them to turn this off, even though, in our culture, it might feel unusual, uncomfortable, or inappropriate. But it's there, make no mistake. It has to be.

If I were to take this one step further, I have to believe that, in the right situations, straight men, who are emotionally close, might take the chance to be physical with each other.

At first, being physical might be nothing more than hugging. Having tested that ground, and, assuming one wasn't rejected by the other for crossing an invisible line of appropriateness, feeling validated, the men involved might progress to cuddling, perhaps even a little innocent kissing, on the cheek, maybe even on the mouth.

If the closeness and the affection are there, and if the situation presents itself--where the men feel the same way toward each other, and their physical environment is safe, and only the two of them would know what's gone on between them, and no one else would ever find out--I imagine that they might even engage in sex too. I'll let you decide how far you think it might go. I'm just saying it's not impossible and has probably happened more than we know.

Bearing in mind that we're still talking about two straight men in this situation, if a bromance occurs, and it becomes sexual, I have to ask the question, where is the dividing line between being straight and being gay? Can it be said that a straight man becomes gay the second he engages in any form of intimacy with another man? Or would he have to engage in either oral or anal sex to slip past that line? Or could he still be straight, even though he had sex with another man?

But here's the thing: In my scenario above, the two men are straight, they are happily married, and they are good fathers. For all intents and purposes, they fit the heterosexual stereotype of the masculine, manly male: They like sports, they like drinking, they like women.

Are you saying that this type of man would never, in a million years, ever consider being intimate with another man? Do you really believe that? Because you might be surprised. I know for a fact that there are lots of straight men out there who are curious about having sex with another man. Doesn't mean they're gay, it only means they're curious about what man-on-man sex would be like. And they are open to trying it, if the situation presents itself.

So, that said, if they had that curiosity, and they felt emotionally close to another man, and they trusted each other, and the situation presented itself, are you telling me they wouldn't take the chance and be intimate with each other? Like Joan Rivers used to say, "Oh, grow up."

Sex is sex. If you love someone else, and you are compelled to take your emotional closeness to a physical level, and the situation arises, you bet you'd have sex, no matter if you are a man and a woman, or two women, or two men.

And, in the case of two men, I don't believe having sex with each other means they're gay. I really don't. I believe they could still be straight, but they made the choice to experience sex at the other end of the spectrum. After all, physical intimacy is the closest way for two human beings who love each other to experience each other. And the sex drive, being what it is, would not step in to prevent them from doing what they most want.

Just something to think about.

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