Male,female friendship According To Psychology.You might like to know, dear reader, if I do not believe in some intermediate relation between that of the comrade and the lover—a more intimate relation than the one and less intimate than the other. You ask, Cannot a young man and a young woman be real, true friends?
Let us talk a little about friendship and what it implies. I should define a friend as one who believes in me, who expects much of me, who encourages me to do the best that is in me, who will tell me of my faults, who recognizes my virtues, who trusts in my honor.
You are willing to accept that definition, and you think it possible to be all that to each other without being lovers. I believe it, too, but I would like to make some further statements before we have the discussion of this question.
I believe that a girl’s first and best friends are her parents; her wisest confidante, her mother. To these she may speak unreservedly of herself. With these she may freely talk over family matters. In a friendship with some outside the family it would be unwise to discuss family matters. It might be an unkindness to other members of the family, and in case of a break in the friendship the family secrets might be betrayed, and to the detriment of the trusting friend. I once read of such an affair, where one girl had confided to another certain matters that reflected on the honor of her family, and when the friendship was broken the secret was betrayed, to the public shame of the girl who had been unwise in her confidences.
True honor would forbid the betrayal of a confidence even after the rupture of a friendship; but all persons have not the highest ideal of honor. If the girl is not discreet in her revelation of herself, and her mother is her only confidante, it will not be so serious a matter, for the mother will never be tempted to reveal to others anything that would bring scorn or criticism upon her child. Nowhere, in her girlish ignorance, can the girl find as sincere sympathy as in the loving mother.
“But all mothers are not sympathetic,” you say. “They are often nagging, and use the confidences of the daughter to make her uncomfortable.” Well, if this be so, you, at least, can learn the lesson, and by your habits of thought fit yourself to be the wise, loving, companionable, sympathetic confidante of your daughter, for you will be anxious that she should have no friend so close as yourself.
However, I believe that mothers should recognize the individuality of their daughters, and win, rather than command, confidence. It is difficult for us, as mothers, to realize that our daughter is just as much a separate individual as is our neighbor’s daughter, and that we have no right to thrust ourselves upon her, no right to demand that she shall love us. We have the right to sympathize, to counsel, to direct her conduct so long as she remains in our personal care, but we should remember that she must be responsible, that she is a soul and must live her own life, learn her own lessons, suffer her own experiences. Our deepest love can only enable us to help her to choose wisely, to think truly, to act judiciously. So I would have the friendship of mother and daughter something very deep and true—something more than a petting and caressing, an indulging or humoring.
I would be inclined to have less outward demonstration and more inner tenderness. I believe that very often outward impression comes largely to take the place of true affection. I see girls who kiss and fondle their mothers, who never open to them their heart’s deepest secrets. Fewer kisses and more confidence would satisfy more thoroughly the mother’s heart. I believe that, even in the family, a kiss should not become a conventionality. It should have a meaning. I would rather that my daughter should kiss me once a week, with a spontaneous desire thus to express her love, than that, from custom, she should kiss me morning, noon, and night.
There are sanitary reasons against kissing, such as transmission of germs of disease; but aside from this, there are affectional reasons why kisses should be few, and these few spontaneous rather than required.
We ought never to force our kisses upon children; but, recognizing their individuality, leave them free to proffer or to refuse.
Next to the friendship of parents should come that of brother and sister. We almost think it a wonder when members of the same family seem really to love each other, and yet family ties should be the strongest in the world. Why should there not be the sweetest intimacy between two sisters, whose lives and interests are so closely united? Why should not the bond between mother and sister be indissoluble?
A young man and woman, children of the same parents, brought up in the same home, ought to be the best of friends. Their friendship is without the danger of misunderstanding. It can be free from the slight feeling of envy or jealousy that might arise between sisters. It would seem that it could be the truest comradeship possible to two young people.
A sister should be to a brother not merely some one at hand to mend his gloves or make his neckties, not simply some one to fondle and indulge, but she should be one whom he would never scold or browbeat. A brother should not be simply some one to run errands, to call on for help in emergencies, not some one to tease when the spirit of mischief prompts, or to scold when things have gone wrong.
I would have the love of these two manifest itself in all true helpfulness, but in a way that would draw out the noblest self-reliance in each. It should manifest itself in courteous words, in helpful deeds, in glances of the eye, in tones of the voice, in heartfelt sympathies that stimulate to nobler deeds, in every way that strengthens and uplifts; and if caresses are few, they will not be missed in the wealth of that truer manifestation which makes the recipient feel his nobility and worth.
A young lady once asked me if I believed in young people who were not related treating each other as brother and sister, and I replied that would depend on how the brother and sister treated each other. I have seen girls treat brothers in ways that other young men would not enjoy—finding fault, nagging, and snubbing generally. I have seen young men browbeat their sisters, tease them, and be continually unkind. I presume, if such a young man should propose to be a brother to a girl, he would not purpose to treat her in this way. Young people sometimes like to try to deceive themselves, and they fancy that the subterfuge of calling each other brother and sister will be a warrant for the parting kiss or the tender endearment that they enjoy, but which they feel proprieties will not allow. The subterfuge is too transparent. It deceives no one, and it does not make right that which, without it, would be improper.
Platonic friendships—that is, friendships between men and women without the element of physical love—are rare; rarer, indeed, than they should be. They are difficult to maintain because of the temptation to begin in the indulgences of personal familiarities, which tend to lead the friendship over into debatable ground. Men and women ought to be grand, true friends, inciting each other to the noblest achievements, but it never can be through sentimentality.
A girl may think she is sisterly when she listens to the young man’s cry for sympathy in some trouble, and she holds his hand and smoothes his hair and comforts him after this tender fashion, and he may go away feeling comforted, even as a baby might be quieted by petting; but his moral fiber has not been strengthened; he has not been made to feel stronger to do and dare.
Supposing she had listened with interest to his story, and then, without laying her hands upon him, she had said, “You are a man, a prince, the son of a King. You are strong to bear, brave to do. Obstacles surmounted give broader outlooks. Burdens bravely borne bring strength. I believe in you;” and then, with a strong, firm—I had almost said manly—grasp of the hand, she had sent him away, he would go feeling stronger, braver, more self-reliant, stimulated, encouraged, not merely soothed and quieted. In this fashion a girl may treat a young man as a brother. She may tell him his faults in all kindness. She may listen to his dreams, ambitions, aspirations, and encourage with approval, incite by gentle sarcasm, or enliven by kindly sportiveness; but her person is her own, and he should be made to feel that beyond these bounds he may not pass. Such friendship may endure vicissitude, or separation, and be through life a source of truest inspiration. To be such a friend to a noble man is a worthy ambition. It would prove the possession of more qualities of womanliness than merely to win his passionate love.
When the world comes to accept the highest ideals of life and believes that all relations of men and women are not of necessity founded on physical attraction, then will such friendships be more possible, and the earth can offer no more desirable future than that in which men and women, knowing each other as immortal intelligences, shall leave the vale of unsafe sentimentality and sensuous poison to dwell on heights of noble companionship.
FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN GIRLS.
You think, perhaps, that I can find no fault with the friendship of girls with each other, that that certainly is safe and pleasant. I have said enough for you to understand that I believe in reserve even in girl friendships. Girls are apt at certain periods of their lives to be rather gushing creatures. They form most sentimental attachments for each other. They go about with their arms around each other, they loll against each other, and sit with clasped hands by the hour. They fondle and kiss until beholders are fairly nauseated, and in a few weeks, perhaps, they do not speak as they pass each other, and their caresses are lavished on others. Such friendships are not only silly, they are even dangerous. They are a weakening of moral fiber, a waste of mawkish sentimentality. They may be even worse. Such friendship may degenerate even into a species of self-abuse that is most deplorable.
When girls are so sentimentally fond of each other that they are like silly lovers when together, and weep over each other’s absence in uncontrollable agony, the conditions are serious enough for the consultation of a physician. It is an abnormal state of affairs, and if probed thoroughly might be found to be a sort of perversion, a sex mania, needing immediate and perhaps severe measures.
I wish the friendships of girls were less sentimental, were more manly. Two young men who are friends do not lop on each other, and kiss and gush. They trust each other, they talk freely together, they would stand by each other in any trouble or emergency, but their expressions of endearment are not more than the cordial handgrasp and the unsentimental appellation, “Dear old chap.”
I admire these friendships in young men. They seem to mean so much, and yet to exact so little. They believe in each other’s love, but do not demand to be told of it every minute.
It is the highest type of friendship that can believe in the friend under all circumstances. I have a friend from whom I may not hear once a year, yet I know just where she stands in her relation to me, and I would have no fear of finding her cold or unresponsive should I at any time call on her for a friendly service. I may never see her, or even hear from her again in life, and we may live long years yet on the earth, but I would as soon think of doubting the return of to-morrow’s sun as to doubt her love. There is no need of words, of caresses, even of deeds. We are both busy women. Our daily cares absorb us, yet we know that we are friends, and in the great hereafter we hope to find a place where we may pause and look into each other’s faces and enjoy an interchange of thought. But now other interests than self-seeking claim us. We work on, cheered by the thought that time cannot alienate us, for true love is eternal.
The charm of a true friendship is that it does not make demands. I had a school friend who thought that because she was my friend I must tell her all my affairs. She was offended if I received a letter that I did not read to her, or if I went out to spend the evening without first informing her. Her friendship became a tax because it demanded so much. And, after all, was it true friendship? Was it not love of self, rather than of me? People sometimes imagine that, because they crave love, they are affectionate and unselfish.
Is it true? It is rather natural to want to be loved, but it is selfish, and the feeling indulged in to any extent is weakening. To want to be loved means usually to want some one to be a protector, a giver of pleasure, a supplier of wants. To desire to love is nobler, for to love is to give. God so loved the world that he gave. Christ loved us and gave—gave Himself for us. To love truly, grandly, nobly, is to grow strong through giving. Not giving that which we should not give, not unwisely giving of time that belongs to our own best good, not giving of strength that should be dedicated to some better purpose, not a yielding of principle, nor purity, nor honor, but the true giving of that which enriches both giver and recipient, which ennobles, uplifts, encourages and strengthens, and leaves no sorrow in its wake. The truest giving is sometimes a refusal to yield to demands that are unworthy. Love wisely, my daughter, and you will give wisely.