There’s Nothing More Romantic Than Falling in Love With Your Friends

But for once, I refuse to let romantic love be the sole force that keeps me alive while the revolution brews. I have accepted that the world will end a million times over, and that as long as I want to live in it, I must find modes of existence that aren’t just living like there’s no tomorrow. I have allowed myself the terrifying but vivifying experience of admitting to others that I am not infallible, that my survival is dependent on those around me, and vice versa. I am even allowing myself to move beyond survival, because my friends and my community show me every day — through acts of care, through acts of protest, through acts of joy in the midst of overwhelming sorrow — that despite everything, this world is worth it.

I am single for basically the first time in my life, and I have been moving through the grief of two breakups at once, one of them being a long-term partnership. I don’t know how I would have survived that grief had it not been for Allison, who dressed up with me and went on a date with me to the Grand Central Oyster Bar on the day that would have been my one-year anniversary with my ex-girlfriend. Charlie, who always texts me at the exact right time that his boyfriend is making dinner and would I like to come over. Maria, my “froomie” (a portmanteau of “friend” and “roomie” that they coined, because they felt that “roommate” was an inadequate description of our relationship) who does laundry with me, goes on midday walks with me, says that we are building a home together. Countless others who let me send them unhinged voice memos, who helped me deep clean my apartment without judgment, who joined me in discussing their romantic woes over Korean barbeque, who screamed alongside me in karaoke rooms again and again and again. Sometimes, I’ll even dare to admit to myself that engaging in these rituals with my friends almost feels a little glamorous. What a powerful force friendship is, that it can alchemize an emotion like heartbreak into something that makes life feel as though it’s tinged with magic.

The day after I broke up with my girlfriend, I hosted what I dubbed “Emotional Support Karaoke” at my apartment. As people started to trickle into my living room, I casually mentioned that I had a top surgery consultation coming up, and before I could even finish my sentence, every person in the room congratulated me and offered me care. “You can even stay with us if you want,” my friend and barber Phoenix said, with nods from his husband Chris.

I had these cheap rose gold Bluetooth karaoke mics, but they were hardly needed. For hours and hours, everyone in the room screamed along to nearly every song, the YouTube karaoke videos playing on my TV barely audible above the din. It was cleansing to be surrounded by my loved ones, singing the songs that we usually listen to alone in the dark, nearly all of us heartbroken for one reason or another. Maria describes that sensation that you get from listening to certain sad songs as a “hollowed out feeling.” But even when someone queued up the devastating breakup anthem “Self Control” by Frank Ocean, I didn’t feel hollowed out. I felt full, knowing that my friends would luxuriate in misery right alongside me for just a few hours.

“You have so many people who love you,” my friend Del texted me the following day. “It was so cool seeing that firsthand last night.” How wonderful, I thought, to have built a life filled with so much platonic love that its presence announces itself.

Of course, sometimes I yearn for the familiar trappings of romantic partnership, though it’s hard to separate my own earnest desire from what society has told me I must desire. But I never have to worry about that uncertainty when it comes to my love for my friends. I also know now that wanting and needing something (or someone) are two very different things. Whenever I find myself in a relationship again, I will take care to mind that difference, and I’ll continue to insist that being a friend is just as important as being a boyfriend. But I’m in no rush to make that happen anytime soon. I might be single for the first time in my life, but I’m far from alone.

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