Over the weekend I traveled to visit my sister and met her fiancé's family. I was so glad to meet them. Especially Kirkland.*
Kirkland is one of her fiancé's nephews, and is actually older than my sister. He liked to make that point very clear as he called her "Auntie." Kirkland possesses a very strong sense of humor. He and I sat near one another at the table, and we talked pleasantly throughout the night. We laughed over many jokes, and we have much in common.
On the drive back to our lodgings, this conversation ensued:
Sister: "Sean and my new nephew are like bosom friends."
Finacé: "Bosom friends? I thought only girls had those."
The term "Bosom Friends" came straight from Anne of Green Gables. (That book and the movie adaptation is one of the many topics covered at dinner. My sister had said something about being called Cordelia, and me and my new "bosom friend" both laughed about the comment.)
Anne of Green Gables is a story about the titular female protagonist and her relationships. This particular status, "bosom friends," only exists with respect to her relationship with Diana - a faithful friend to Anne throughout the story.
Both are girls.
So is my brother-in-law to be (there is still time to call off the wedding) correct? Do only girls have bosom friends?
What is a bosom friend?
Anne is prone to overly dramatic exclamations and quickly formed deep emotional connections. Many of the characters throughout the story are declared to be "Kindred Spirits" to Anne or to one another. Such kindred spirits are able to connect in such a way that sometimes communication is not even necessary for one to know the other's thoughts.
I share Anne's propensities in many respects. I would be quick to say, for example, that my sister's new nephew and I are likely to be "kindred spirits." He and I understood one another the first time we met.
There have been many such "kindred spirits" in my life. Some I have met once and never seen again, others I continue to talk with regularly years later. They are good people. People that I really appreciate having in my life. And they are blessings to me. Many are my friends. Are they my bosom friends, though?
A bosom friend, to Anne, goes beyond that of simply being a kindred spirit who is also a friend. There is something deeper about the relationship. There is an intertwining of the relationship which is even solemnized (in Anne's story) by a somber vow and exchange of locks of hair.
In past centuries the word "bosom" referred to the seat of emotions - in our chests. Modern understanding more frequently renders it as a polite reference to a woman's breasts. The term "bosom friend" isn't exclusively used to describe females. It is used to denote a particularly close (emotionally) friendship.
While Anne imposes a wildly imaginative vow to the friendship with Diana (not necessarily to form the friendship, but to preserve it through external distress), bosom friendships do not require a vow.
A bosom friendship is a close friendship.
Can only girls have Bosom Friends?
After the conversation started between my sister and her fiancé, my parents interjected with the question about whether the term "bosom buddies" would be more applicable, and, by the way, "wasn't that the name of a TV show with Tom Hanks?"
Yes. Yes it was a TV show with Tom Hanks. It looks hilarious by virtue of the intro song (which I looked up today and really appreciated).
The premise of this show (that two male friends living in New York have to disguise themselves as women to attain the cheaper rent at a Susan B. Anthony hotel for women) once again indicates that perhaps the only people who can have bosom buddies are women. After all, it is in their role as female impostors that they are able to experience being bosom buddies.
I haven't seen the show. I would be interested in watching the two seasons of this buddy comedy.
Bosom Buddies appears to be about the friendship between the characters played by Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari. The disguise element was a secondary plot, and the main emphasis (especially in the second season according to Wikipedia) was about the friendship between these two aspiring advertising men.
Buddy Comedies and other Buddy films and TV are common in American cinema. It's not as common in other places.
Abbot and Costello. Laurel and Hardy. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Many examples exist of the Buddy film. And the genre is being used to this day. Toy Story is a Buddy film, as is How to Train Your Dragon. The sequels to both of those animated films continued to focus on the friendships between the main characters while developing them through changing dynamics. (And accomplishing as much box office success as possible.)
It is clear through art that bosom friendships extend to men as well as to women. And the world of art is correct in this.
Close emotional friendships is not reserved to women only.
Is such a close emotional friendship extremely close to homosexuality?
How I loath the sexual focus of our society.
Closeness in male friendships is often looked at by our society as somehow homosexual. Scholars have argued that Abraham Lincoln may have had homosexual relationships because he shared a bed with men. Recently a Presidential candidate in the American election (for 2020) stated that we "almost certainly" have had a "gay president" based on statistics. (I don't know which statistics he's using.)
This overemphasis on sexual desires is destructive and wrong. The close male friends listed in all of those pieces of art are subjected to suggestions that they were gay. Even Bert and Ernie have been given this treatment - and the suggestion is taking hold among some of the Sesame Street creators.
The friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible has been treated with the same suspicion by many. Since the friendship was so close emotionally (that they would weep when parting and write a song about the other upon his death), surely the relationship was homosexual?
No. Close emotional friendships are not necessarily sexual or romantic. They are close emotional friendships. Full stop.
It isn't just the world of art and historical critics who put this burden of sexual tension on close emotional friendships. This happens in the church as well. I'm most familiar with those in the church who do this.
One elder at a church told me that it was "impossible to talk about intimacy without talking about intimacy." His intonation indicated that he didn't think it was possible to have an intimate friendship (being close emotionally) without having some sexual relationship as well. His conflation of the term intimacy with sex is disappointing, but not uncommon.
It is also wrong.
Close emotional friendships can exist without sexual conduct. Intimate friendship can exist without sexual intimacy. Bosom friendship does not have to be sexual.
We can have close emotional friendships between men without that relationship being sexual. Such a close emotional friendship would be a blessing to all who have it. I encourage you to promote such relationships rather than responding with suspicion to them. If Kirkland and I continue to be friends, I hope that we won't be suspected of sexual misconduct at every turn.
*Not his real name.