Friday, 8 March 2013

Like a Brother

One of the questions asked at Seraphapalooza concerned girls who act imprudently towards a man because "he's like my brother!"

This was one of the more disapproving questions, i.e. one obviously about Other Girls and not about the questioners, so I will proceed carefully. For one thing, many girls and guys do indeed have "brother-sister" relationships which they both acknowledge. Sometimes when a girl says "he's like my brother", the para-brother is all smiles and quick to assure any other pretty girl around that "she's like my sister."

He's only like your brother if he thinks you are like his sister.  And unless he has actually told you (or other women) that you are like a sister, you aren't. You are a potential mate. (Oh, how exciting to write the words "potential mate" at 9:36 in the morning. That should wake everyone up.)

And, therefore, if you do not have a scrap of romantic interest in some guy, it is not kind to shriek "Snuggles!" and throw yourself in his arms unless he thinks you are "like his sister" or his heart is covered in rawhide. It is also not kind to wander about him in a state of partial undress or, if he has no wife or girlfriend, to pour your heart out to him about your man troubles. 

Because I can hear Alisha's shrieks of protest from afar, I will acknowledge that the entertainment community is incredibly huggy and kissy and snuggly and, for all I know, whole casts of musicals cuddle down under a duvet together to watch "A Star is Born" on TV. But I don't think this is such a great idea for anyone else. I realize that I am ruining the fun for various Catholic guys who think actually it would be great to cuddle with a whole lot of girls under a duvet watching TV, as long as another guy didn't touch them by accident, but too bad. I live in the UK, where no guy but my husband ever hugs me, so I have no time for your polygamous duvet yearnings. 

In short, just because a girl thinks a guy is (or should be) as sexless as a muppet doesn't mean he actually is, so take care and have some respect. This does not mean creeping about in fear because some innocent soul will be damned to hell if he sees your knees. It mostly means not rubbing up against a guy like a cat and then dashing his erotic hopes by saying, "Oh, but you're like my brother!"

For the record, I have a super-formal Anglo-Saxon family, and the adults hug about twice a year. If I laid my head on one of my brothers' shoulders, he would think there was something seriously wrong with me. Meanwhile, if in close quarters and scantily clad, we wrap ourselves in long Afghan blankets crocheted by my mother which trail behind us like the more dramatic togas. I never got why brother = super-casual affectionate behaviour, but I realize families are different.


Bee said...

I am with you Seraphic; I don't get the brother= super affectionate thing. Perhaps if he were much older and gave the occasional bear hug as protector/defender guy. But I have a twin brother, and something about being the same age makes super affection seem even weirder.

As to the friend-brother thing: I once visited friends for New Year's and my host suddenly had to accommodate more people than anticipated and, knowing my "prudishness" asked "is that allowed?" that being sharing an air mattress with my guy friend. Um, NO. So he got the couch (he did not even know the bed share was on the table), I got the mattress with a female friend, and some other "brother-friend-dude" got the duvet with her. As lovely people as these friends can be, it's sometimes hard to communicate how my Catholic-Christian formation sees chastity as respect because their formation didn't include that, and it can be very hard to upend adults' worldviews.

c'est la vie said...


magdalen hobbs said...

I, too, come from an Anglo-Saxon family, but while I'm snuggly with my family members, that REALLY doesn't translate to non-family members to the extent that I'm ecstatic there is no requirement to shake hands at the TLM. I don't hug non-family men, as a rule, and have been trying to accustom myself to the goodbye hug that now seems requisite among my age group, so I can't imagine snuggling on the couch with any man unless we'd known each other for eons and I knew that he wad exclusively SSA.

MaryJane said...

Seraphic, your line, "I have no time for your polygamous duvet yearnings" actually made me laugh out loud. Awesome!

I am kind of the When-Harry-Met-Sally school of thought, that "men and women can't be friends, because the sex part always gets in the way." Obviously if we are Catholic, the sex part will hopefully be more like the romantic part, but the point is still there: its in the way. I think men and women can be friendly, or even "light" friends, but the pouring out your heart and snuggling, even if each person says its ok, is going to lead to problems at some point. Maybe the problem will be with future spouses or dates or whatever, but male-female bffs are trouble.

[Caveat, of course there are exceptions, spiritual friendships, blah blah. I am referring to the hang-out-all-the-time, tell-my-deep-dark-secrets, squish-to-fit-on-the-couch-to-watch-a-movie kind of thing. The stuff to do with GIRL friends.]

Sarah said...

The boys who I have genuinely considered brothers *definitely* see me as a sister. One's a young priest, one's a childhood friend who is now in the seminary, and one is in a relationship, and even if he weren't...!

And I don't get the super affectionate thing, either, because I've never been very touchy-feely with ANY of those guys, and I've never been touchy-feely with my actual brother. I used to hug the now-seminarian as a greeting or before saying goodbye if the parting had been or would be long. But the last time I saw him, over a year ago, I was saying goodbye to him he said something like, "I'd hug you, but... y'know," gesturing to his cassock. So we fistbumped.

And that's generally it. A gentle squeeze of my arm or clasping of hands is about as affectionate as it gets. And that's on Christmas or my birthday or something. If we're in close quarters like squished on a couch watching a movie, or in a crowded car, there's a lot of "Your arm is cutting off my arm's circulation; can you please MOVE?"

But they are like brothers to me. They are protective and give me unsolicited advice, and punch me in the arm, and lend me their jackets, and I know I can call them at 2am or sleep over at their house when I've had too much to drink and none of us have to worry about anything.

The thing I've always suspected about the girls who say certain men are like brothers, but treat them like a sexless puppy is that THEY don't really see those guys as brothers, either. I suspect those girls who are not nearly so physical with their own brothers as they are with their "pretend" brothers, but want some pretense for getting and giving physical affection to a nice boy. I've actually known several girls who have loudly proclaimed "But he's like my BROTHER," about a boy who, come to find out later, she actually did have a crush on.

In some cases, even the girls who wouldn't actually like to date their so-called brothers, I think they still like having a free pass to relieve some of their sexual frustrations without actually breaking any taboos.

Seraphic said...

Ah ha ha! Now that is something that I didn't consider: actual lies!

Sarah said...

I'll grant that maybe the girls don't always know they're lying, because they are lying to themselves as well... but it's dishonest all the same.

Bernadette said...

I deeply love this blog post just because it contains the phrase "polygamous duvet yearnings." I think there should be a band with that as their title, and I would buy their CDs even if I hated their music.

On a more serious note, I have one brother who is intensely physically affectionate. He likes to hug his sisters, and tickle them, and poke them until they squeal, (or in my case, laugh until I wheeze), and toss them about (in a gentle and loving manner), and recline upon them, or pull them down to sit on him, or... like that. He's been like this all his life, so we accept it as just the way he is, even though he's now a large and burly training-to-be-a-firefighter young man. It also helps that he has a large number of sisters amongst whom to spread the love. However, when he started going to our local youth group, the leaders had to have a little talk with him, since when he treated the girls exactly like he treats his sisters, the girls seemed think it meant Something Else. So now he's much more circumspect with young ladies he's not related to.

Also, on occasion I've had to take corrective measures when a particular young man thought that, since my brother could (for example) bury his head in my stomach and zerbert me while vigorously tickling my sides and crying "Booga booga booga" (first thing in the morning on family vacation - it was quite an experience), he might have similar privileges. And, no, only my actual brother gets to do that.

Seraphic said...

I think I speak for us all when I ask, "Did anyone take a photo of your expression?"

Alisha said...

Indeed, I am not shrieking, just giggling slightly. It's quite likely that such a Star is Born scenario has taken place but it's probably been gay men (Judy Garland and all) and their female friends...I have, for the record, never done any such thing, nor would I particularly recommend it!
Our family is very affectionate, but even so, I think for me it is learned behaviour. I think at my heart I am naturally more cautious but when you are surrounded by a lot of people who are very free and genuine and trusting, you feel like such a cynic or "closed off" person if you keep your cards close: it can actually make you feel very alone. That's not to say that I act out of peer pressure, but that the environment you are in does affect you. I have learned to trust more and I think that is good for me. In addition to opening me up, it has also made me very aware of the power of physical touch - I am so familiar with what it's like to be dancing or working with someone in my personal space that I know distinctly when it's respectful or not, as opposed to just being freaked out because someone is close to me.
And I do agree prudence is important, even with people who are like brothers and sisters to you - because your actions can make them start to think of you differently, and you might not know it.

healthily sanguine said...

This post crossed my mind when, on Friday night, a guy friend and I watched a movie on my couch--me cozily wrapped in my monkey snuggie and him about 8-12 inches to my left. Personal space bubble! :)