It’s nice to be surrounded by loved ones on Valentine’s Day.  I know I’m glad to be wrapped up in my little circle.

Most people assume I’m referring to family-love as my form of consolation on Valentine’s Day. No, that’s lame. Everybody’s mommy, daddy, auntie, granny, and so forth, loves them.  And I’m not even talking about sibling love (phileo, in Greek). I’m talking about the rare relationships between friends who are the same gender—and who are so close they’re almost like siblings or, in some cases, more like mind-reading soul-mates. 

Also referred to as “homosocial love” (sounds kinky, but isn’t), this in-gender bond phenomenon is considered more common in women, as we gals tend to form very supportive, emotional relationships with each other rather than basing our relationships off of shared mutual interests.  This relationship between women is referred to in the Urban Dictionary as “sismance” (as in, sister + romance).  However, “bromance” is the more common street term to find, and it refers to this relationship when it happens between men. That’s right. Guy-on-guy love that isn’t sexual.  Sound weird? Not really.  This concept is so old, it’s actually Old-Testament (more on that later).

In either case, the homosocial relationship prepares those involved to become better companions, spouses, and yes, even lovers, in their future relationships.  And unlike heterosexual romance, these relationships rarely break up and leave gaping wounds. Usually, they’re life-long.  That’s why they’re awesome.

So today, I’d like to dedicate this post as a tribute to my sistas.  You know who you are, even if your picture’s not up here.

The Benefits of Bro-/Sismantic Love

1. The Mirror Effect

In Spanish, there is a saying: “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres,” which means, “Tell me whom you walk with, and I will tell you who you are.” 

This phrase has been handed down for centuries with the éclat of a proverb because it’s a truth that our brothas and our sistas reflect our inner selves.

Sometimes, girls hike together, too. And wear the same color. L to R: Ash, Me, Liz

I can see this happening when I’m with my best gal pals. Our borders of self become small and blurry when we’re together in a couple, flock, or herd. Part of this blurring occurs through the momentum of communal activity: we cook together, eat together, pee together, shop together, and go over the men in our lives with a fine-toothed comb together.   We also blur identities by crossing physical borders: we borrow each others’ clothes, do each others’ hair, makeup, and fingernails. We even crash at each other’s houses and liberally partake of each others’ caches of tampons and feminine pads. We moan about being female together, since our bodies are so similar and share the same bizarre functions.   If we’re the same size, we borrow each others’ shoes. And we relate to each other so well emotionally that we sometimes feel like we ARE in each others’ shoes. 

With all this bonding, we come to see ourselves through each other’s eyes, and measure ourselves against our friend’s accomplishments and their praise.  Sometimes, to our shock, we see our own faults, fears, and insecurities in our companions.  That’s why our best friends can be our wake-up calls—and are the only ones really qualified to call us out when we get out of line.

2.  Synergy to Synthesis

Many great friendships are founded on the attraction of inherent similarities in personality, interests, or talent.  When those similarities meet in the same room, they synergistically intensify, whether because of mutual unconscious encouragement, or outright healthy competition subsisting between parties.

Old friends are the bestest. L to R: Maggers, Me, Thiana, Wenders. Average years of acquaintance: 13.

My best girl-friends are all bright, knowledge-hungry readers. We read different genres of literature, but we talk about what we read and encourage each other to stretch and read more. We write, too, and we read each others’ writing; we are tough and gentle critics by turns. We’re also into adventure, to varying degrees, and we challenge each other to take risks through subtle remarks and suggestions.  Sometimes we even assist each other to get where we need to go through provisions of food, funds, or emotional support. As you can see, my sistas are an energizing force to be around—and that’s why we don’t get tired of each other, even after (for some of us) more than a decade of acquaintance, or even years of living together as roomies.

Roomies settin' sail in wild tropical print. L to R: Miss Hannah and Moi.




Now, I can sense some of you guys reading this and yawning, not seeing much here to interest anyone with a set of bullocks. But consider this: bromances have turned mere men into kings and messiahs through the principal of synergy.

While I could name some bromanced politicians who climbed to the top on the shoulders of their helpful friends, I’d rather tell an older, more touching story of man-love.  Have you heard of a shepherd kid named David who happened to slay a giant named Goliath?  Sure you have. Do you also remember that he eventually became the King of Israel?  Do you know how he got there, especially considering that the old king, Saul, kept trying to kill him?

Partly, it was God. Got to admit that. But it was also Jonathan, David’s best friend in the world—who was, as it happens, the son of King Saul.  Lady Gaga could write a song about the potentially doomed nature of that bromance. (Sing it with me: “I want your sling-shot/I want your sheep fleece/ I want your everything as long as it’s freee…”)

Picture this:  Young David has just killed Goliath.  Saul’s a bit freaked out that a thirteen year-old can do this, but he is forced to keep David around because he sees that his own son, Jonathan, has become such close friends with David that they have made a pact to be brothers-in-spirit. Specifically, the scripture says,

“Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself… And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe (of princehood) he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow, and his belt” [1 Sam.18:1ff]. 

 In old-testament covenant terms, Jonathan symbolically offers all of himself to David—his royal position and power, his strength of arms, and all of his possessions, even the shirt off his back. 

Cima da Conegliano. "David and Jonathan." c. 1505

Not surprisingly, old King Saul comes to hate David when David rises to fame as a great warrior throughout the land. Saul’s jealousy drives him to the point that he orders his attendants and even his son, Jonathan, to kill David, but Jonathan stands up to his father in front of the whole court and challenges this order.  Saul backs down, but Jonathan becomes afraid for David’s life. Jonathan then makes another pact with David, this time in secret, promising David that he will tell him if he thinks his father is plotting to kill him again.  When Jonathan uncovers evidence of such a plot at a feast a little later, his father flies into a rage and accuses him of giving up his birthright as prince to side with David rather than his own father. Jonathan dodges his father’s angrily thrown spear and rushes off to warn David and help him escape.  He and David both weep at their emotional parting when Jonathan sends him off into exile for his own safety—but David “wept the most,” fearing for Jonathan’s safety in Saul’s court (1 Sam 20:41). 

In the end, Jonathan’s secret support, his transference of power, loyalty, and identity to David, and even his self-sacrificial death in battle alongside Saul all work together to launch his buddy David onto the Israelite throne.  It’s no wonder that the newly-crowned King David opened his first day of court with the lament,

“How the mighty have fallen in battle! . . . I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother; you were greatly beloved to me. Your love for me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women” (2 Sam 2:6).

That’s intense.  Jonathan set a new standard of giving up one’s life for one’s friend—one that could only be beaten by Christ’s ultimate act of love for mankind itself.  As a side-note, I think the last bit of David’s lament might also have been the line that later coined the phrase, “Bros before hos.”

Which leads me to another benefit of a good bromance/sismance.

3. Your Brotha/Sista Has Got Your Back, Baby.

Like no one else beyond your own mother, your brotha or your sista is there for you. Shoulder to cry on? Here ya go. Place to sleep? Sure—have an extra pillow. Food to eat?  No prob; I got the tab.  You know how it goes, and you couldn’t be more grateful.

But beyond the basic necessities, our soul-friends are there in other ways as well.  They respect us. They don’t tell our secrets.  They won’t sell us out.  They offer us the promise of confidentiality and safety—another mind outside our own to share our private burdens and concerns.  Like true spouses to our soul, they don’t use what they know about us for anything but our own good.

I’ve got to post this little example of some tight-lipped lovin’, just because I found it so striking because Hollywood is such a dirty, backstabbing town. Did you know that top-billing Twilight superstar Rob Pattinson claims to have the same two best friends he’s had since he was twelve—and that one of them is fellow actor/model Tom Sturridge?  Did you also know that comments about Robert Pattinson made by close friends like Tom can be sold to tabloids for big (and I’m talking B$I$G) cash? Did you know that tags for RPattz consistently up my hit stats for this blog?  Or that Tom Sturridge could get extra publicity for his own acting career by spilling some major secrets from those two years when he and Rob were roomies crammed into a tiny apartment while they struggled as young actors in London? 

Tom and Rob dress like hobos when they're not filming, modelling, or going to award shows. Here, they're taking the chance to pick on each other after Rob attends the Young Hollywood Awards. 'Cause that's man-love, man.

Lucky for Rob, his devoted Tom is a true bromantic. Check out what Tom did when a interviewer pressed him for the dirty dishes on his brotha a few months back:

J1: These days, is it a blessing or a curse to be friends with Robert Pattinson?

Tom: Um… (Long pause) As his friend, I really just don’t want . . . there are oceans of words written and spoken about him and his world, and I don’t want to add to them.

J1: Well, let’s put it this way: since all of this has happened to him, has your friendship changed at all with him, or is it pretty much the same?

Tom: I . . . (Long pause) Again, as his friend and to be fair to him, I don’t want to be the one to . . .

J1: (rather huffily) That’s fine.

Tom: I’m not being weird. I just don’t want him ever to have to pick up a piece of paper and see me talking about him. It would just be . . . weird.1

Weird—and wrong, Tom. Good call, man. Good call. Now there’s a fella who knows what it means to be a loyal friend.2 

4. Growing Together, Even Oceans Apart

My sistas are separating spatially across the country and the globe at the moment.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t visit our blog pages, catch up on email, or randomly call each other to catch up (like Maggers did last night. Love you!). We try to help each other to bloom where we get planted, rather than losing or forgetting our connection when we’re apart. 

Liv takes a pic as I say goodbye to Tayls, Kate, and Liz before graduation. Sad times from May.

We blog/email/call to talk about fears and insecurities, only to have them replaced with encouragement and praise.  Nothing vulnerable in us needs to be kept private, frightened, or shameful—we talk it out, walk it through, or just listen.  We come away feeling closer, in spite of the distance. And we come away feeling a little stronger and more courageous inside our own adventures. We grow better, bigger, and braver as people.  I think that’s why we wish we had men like us in our lives, who could love us this supportively.

So, you guys reading this blog, get yourself a brotha and start practicing some bromantic moves.  Your future wives will thank you.

And as for my sistas, may the sismance continue. I love you all.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 





Notes (skippable unless you’re a Twihard):

  1. The Tom Sturridge interview is here:
  2.  Tom’s more loyal to Rob than most Hollywood wives are to their husbands . . . Hence, all the joking in the Twilight Fandom about their bromantic relationship that I keep running across. If you’re obsessive enough to be curious to see whether the rumors are true, or if the man-love is even real, here are a couple cute videos made by fans and admirers who couldn’t help but notice their close bond:; (This latter one is a clip in which a clever/crazy fan surprises Rob by wearing a “TomStu[rridge] Loves You” tee shirt to an autograph signing. Rob’s VERRY British schoolboy reaction from the left hand side = priceless. And the follow-up comment by Rob about the incident is here