I first heard of the idea of romance in platonic relationships at a Barbie movie after-party. We were playing some game — the name of which I can’t remember — that asked questions to help everyone at the party get to know one another better. The game was going well, funny stories and embarrassing moments were being shared when suddenly a question stunned the group.
Measu, a friend of my cousin’s, pulled a card that said, “Name a time a stranger did something that changed your life.” As she pondered, I found myself wondering how I would answer the question. Who could I talk about? How would I tell a story that would entertain the crowd? Measu ended up telling a story, quite eloquently might I add, about an acquaintance who took extreme lengths to support her at the time of her father’s death. She spoke about how the acts that this person took, such as sending her flowers from across the country, were quite romantic, even if they were platonic in nature.
Weeks after the party ended, I found myself wondering if I experience romance in my own platonic relationships. I’m not sure what about that conversation stuck out to me. Perhaps it was Measu’s beautiful manner of speech, or maybe I’ve become a reflective person this fall season. Whatever the reason, the end of summer has brought upon many changes within myself, and for the life of me I can’t stop thinking — thinking about my future, how to be a better person, friend, daughter, sister. Quite frankly, it’s driving me crazy. For the sake of this read, I’ll focus on what I have realized is my simple yet utterly romantic life.
I grew up embodying of the quote “It takes a village to raise a child.” Truthfully speaking, I cannot count nor even know how many aunts, uncles or cousins I have. In fact, I’ve become friends with someone and realized I share a first cousin with them ... twice!
Having a big family means lots of people to support and care for you, and my bank account does appreciate going back home. But, not to be cliche, it really is the small things that I love most about my family and that make me feel loved. Loved when my brother is late to his class to get me food because I didn’t eat before my work shift. Loved when my dad yells at me for driving on a flat tire but fixes it anyways before I head out. Loved when my grandma has corn waiting for me when she knows I’m coming over. Loved when my aunt loses her voice from cheering while watching me graduate virtually because she couldn’t make it in person during the pandemic. Loved when my other aunt buys me matching silk pajama sets so I think of her when I wear them. Loved when my mom has gomen be siga waiting for me because she knows it's my favorite Ethiopian food. But most of all, I felt loved on my first night back home when my aunt asked, “Aren’t you happy to be in a room full of people who you know love you unconditionally?” Yes, yes I really am.
My friends can only be described as a group of extremely eccentric but loving people. In the weeks following the Barbie after-party, I began to think about how romantic each and every one of them really is. I’m sure we all went through the phase of taking Buzzfeed quizzes to figure out what our love language is (mine is Acts of Service in case you're interested) but I never noticed how these things manifested in others until I met my friends. I see romance in their gifts, words of affirmation, late-night talks and even heated arguments that don’t threaten our relationship in the slightest. Finding them has been my biggest blessing since coming to Hopkins. My college experience starts and ends with them.
From my cousins who have genuinely become my bestest friends to a decade-old group chat name I will never publicly admit to, there are many others that I can talk about. For now, I’ll cut the list short.
After much consideration, I’ve decided that I agree with Measu. I do believe in romance in platonic relationships. What even is romance anyways? If you ask me, romance is consideration, kindness, surprises… making someone feel loved. I am fortunate enough to say that I am happily living my romantic life.
Fall is the time of year of reflections, change and growth. It’s a chance to learn from the year’s mistakes and know not to carry them into the next chapter. As part of my summer-into-fall reflections, I have tried hard to think of where I can improve myself. In all that I have mentioned, I have been the receiver of romance and genuinely wonder if I do a good enough job of returning these sentiments. Everyone hates the unrequited love trope, myself included, so I would hope that I don’t perpetuate it. If you asked my friends to describe me, they probably would say that I’m loud and sarcastic, which I am. But I also hope they know that, most of all, I’m just a girl who loves them dearly. I rarely discuss my feelings and truly have not said this to them out loud, so it's best I leave my feelings for them in this letter. My love letter to my friends. To my family.