Amy Gahran, “Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life”
The language of friendship
Words get very, very interesting when it comes to friendship.
It’s common for people to discuss friendships as if these relationships are inherently less important than sexually or romantically intimate relationships. That is, a friendship, regardless of its depth or duration, rarely is counted as a “real” relationship — even though friendships might be some of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in a person’s lifetime.
Consider this: once past teenage or college years, many people feel it sounds odd to call someone their best friend. Often, adults lack the vocabulary to clearly acknowledge the depth and intensity of very close friendships.
Furthermore, social norms implicitly assume that if there’s any chance that two people might share sex or romance, then they must default to having a sexual or romantic relationship. This is why, when mentioning a potentially attractive friend who happens to not be a sexual and romantic partner, people commonly volunteer this clarification: “Oh, we’re just friends.”
…The diminutive “just” is telling. It indicates how our society prioritizes sexual and romantic relationships above others. It also implies that whether people are sexually or romantically involved is always relevant — even to people who are not involved.