There are a few people I have known for over 50 years or so. Contact with them is random; sometimes we will exchange emails like a lover and his lass or contact will only happen on a birthday. I had one such exchange today and a bit of the gossip reminded me of a question I wanted to pose.
We discussed a mutual acquaintance who died a short while back. The tittle tattle centred on a relationship he had had with a female. They both referred to it as a platonic friendship. Though a little different from Plato’s original concept of love, in modern times the terms “platonic love” and “platonic relationship” have come to mean a relationship between individuals of the opposite sex marked by the absence of romance or sex. So to put it simply, a platonic relationship is a close friendship between a man and women.
I knew the man and his female friend. He and I had been in the army together. She was a senior executive in a firm that provided office machinery to my employer. She invited me to a corporate hospitality event and introduced me to her friend – my old army mate. When we were alone, I did the nudge nudge wink wink performance; he had been a very keen and successful Ladies Man. He then explained that they were in a platonic relationship.
She was married. Her husband was a medical researcher working long hours over six day weeks. Her job entailed a lot of entertaining and ideally needed a man at her side but her husband was too tired to fill this role. They had discussed what was to be done and he was happy with the idea of a puppy walker. She found Tom, my old friend, through the friend of a friend. She was up front right from the start and made it clear where the friendship started and ended. Tom had made a success of a kitchen design company he started and sold when he was about 37 for several million pounds. He chose to retire. He was a non-executive director for a couple of local firms but otherwise his time was his own to fill. He had a natural charm, was well presented, had good manners and was well educated. Going to theatres, opera, doing the Henley, Ascot and Wimbledon rounds and other hospitality duties was right up his street.
The friendship lasted for some nine or so years. In that time, there were personal events that made their association deeper. Her father died after a long battle with cancer. He had a brother killed in a traffic accident. Then, totally out of the blue and for no reason either could determine, they stepped over the line between platonic and romantic. Just the once; neither felt comfortable about what had happened. By mutual agreement, they ended their relationship.
I have known a couple such friendships. None lasted the nine years that Tom and Shirley had been together. The nearest contender was a woman whose chosen Platonic friend was gay. I believe the gay element was significant. I think that the reason platonic friendships can be difficult is genetics. For a good portion of us, attraction to the opposite sex is genetically “hardwired” into our psyche. There’s no way to avoid it. We find the physical form of the opposite sex attractive, the opposite sex exudes pheromones that we find attractive, even something as simple of the timbre of the voice of a member of the opposite can trigger a romantic response in us. Add to that the fact that nothing makes a romantic relationship more successful then when the people involved are “friends first”, and it’s easy to see why platonic relationships can be difficult to keep strictly platonic.
So, anyone out there with experience or knowledge of a non-romantic association that lasted?