Bosom Companions; I Read Anne of Green Gables Way Too Many Times

My husband is pretty awesome. But one person can't be all things to another person and there's only so much talk about eye shadow he can pretend interest in.

Jan 12, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

So, as a kid, I read the hell out of Anne of Green Gables. I watched the movie on the Disney Channel as well, but it was the books that held my heart -- which, actually is still pretty much how I roll when it comes to loving things. I read the whole series, and the books about other characters on the island and the books about Anne's daughter. And so on.

It might come as some surprise to the people who essentially think I'm a highly social muppet (and, like, one of the young, earnest muppets like Elmo) when they meet me now, but I was very different as a child.

I like to think of myself as a relaxed and groovy adult (note: my husband, on the other hand, thinks I am actively incapable of actually relaxing) because, by comparison, I am! I was a hypertense, tightly wound, anxiety-ridden child. I had rigid expectations for myself and a need to control my environment -- as well as every detail of my potential future.

10-year-old me had extensive thoughts about retirement. Sometimes I think childhood me would have been much better with my current finances than I am, y'all.

But the thing that childhood me truly sucked at was connecting to and relating with other people. Admittedly, some of this is in part because I was always face-first in a book. I had friends, but I was also kind of baffled as to why they would want to be my friend (this never actually stopped). That sort of confusion doesn't really built strong relationships in middle school, y'all.

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne makes a friend -- a bosom companion -- named Diana Barry. And they swear devotion to each other and a lot of other stuff that childhood me gave the side eye to.

But even as I thought they were kind of melodramatic, I wanted that kind of passionate friendship.

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I realize there are people who think Anne and Diana had a coded lesbian relationship. That's cool. But it was also cool, to me as a child befuddled by friendship and now as an adult who has a couple of bosom companions, to see a portrayal of a passionate relationship that isn't about sex.

Sometimes it seems like the only relationships that get valued are sexual ones -- and I am a fan of those as well. But my life wouldn't be the same without my close nonsexual friendships.

My husband is pretty awesome. But there are things I talk about with my close friends that I don't talk about so much with him. One person can't be all things to another person and there's only so much talk about eye shadow he can pretend interest in. That's a frivolous example, but the concept extends to other, more serious things as well.

As an adult, when I thought about Anne and Diana, I felt like there was something wrong with me. It was such a powerful and enduring model of friendship. But I was not very good at forming close relationships. I've always been very guarded and, perhaps counterintuitively given my blogging habits, intensely private.

I really am, y'all. I love so many people in so many different ways but it can be hard to trust my own details with people. This doesn't mean I don't want to share things, only that it's difficult.

And maybe that's why Anne and Diana's friendship really stuck with me -- I felt like I was Doing It Wrong but there was something there I identified with and wanted for myself.

What I wanted was someone I could trust -- and who would trust me in return (reciprocal trust is a powerful thing) -- without the power dynamics that have to be navigated in a sexual relationship. Sex does change a relationship. That isn't necessarily a good or a bad thing; it's just the nature of the beast (with two backs, so to speak).

Having relationships that are emotionally intimate without being physically intimate is actually something of a relief. You never have to wonder if someone only likes you because they want to get laid, for example.

That's horribly cynical of me. But I think it's also inescapable when we live in a culture that commodifies sex so very thoroughly.

What I wanted was someone to see and know me and like me for who I am without the obligation that comes with romantic involvement. I wanted someone I could trust with secrets and, more than that, with dreams. What I wanted was someone with whom it was safe to be myself.

As an adult, I still want that. And I'm a lot better about not wasting my time on people I can't be myself around. There's a lingering awareness of judgment -- and that's why I value my few bosom companions so very highly indeed.

I could find another sexual partner if something happened to my marriage. Losing that friendship, that emotional connection, is the part that would be devastating. Just as devastating would be losing one of my very close friendships, one of my bosom companions.

Because then who would I call when I had an idea that needed to be taken seriously? Who would I call when I needed to talk about my husband in the first place? Who would I call to be safe with?

Adults, especially married women, seem encouraged to leave passionate friendships behind. But it's only as an adult that I've managed to find them in the first place.

I'm not looking to clasp hands over running water (because I still give melodrama a bit of the side eye) and actually vow devotion -- but that doesn't mean I don't know how Anne and Diana feel. And it's good.