Eat, Pray, Epiphany

meenakshi reddy column19
Highlights
  • We're all meant to be a little bit into our own gender. Some more or less than others.
  • As we grow older and settle into our sexualities: straight, gay, bi, trans etc.
  • But finally, the person you're in love with should also be your best friend.

This morning, the internet was abuzz with the news that author Elizabeth Gilbert had come out. Well, sorta. The author realised, after her best friend was diagnosed with cancer, that she didn't just love her friend, she was in love with her, and she couldn't bear it if this friend were to die without Gilbert confessing her feelings.

 

Luckily, for all involved, the feelings were reciprocated, and Gilbert and Rayya Elias are now a couple. “I love her, and she loves me,” said Gilbert on a Facebook post, and while the more cynical among us are rolling our eyes a tiny bit (a coming-out memoir? A dealing-with-your-lover's-cancer memoir?) it's a heartwarming bit of news. Best friends in love. What could be more ideal?

On the sliding scale of sexuality, we're all meant to be a little bit into our own gender. Some more or less than others, but usually, everyone has a little bisexuality built in. You can't help it: you spend a lot of your life bonding with friends of the same gender before you delicately step over the line to the opposite sex (if that's how you swing). I've known intense female friendships myself, especially during my growing up years, where you spent every day by your best friend's side, having sleepovers, talking on the phone endlessly, comparing bodies, swapping clothes, your bodies usually always casually touching, whether shoulder to shoulder, or arm around waist, or foot on lap, you get the idea.

 

I think I might have been a little bit in love with those friends, definitely preferring to spend time with them than all the random boys I sighed about, needing their approval and love the most.

 

As we grow older and settle into our sexualities: straight, gay, bi, trans etc., these things become a lot more definite. Your best friend might still be a girl, but you like having sex with boys. Your boyfriend is amazing, but you don't like to have sex at all, so you identify as asexual. You like both genders, but you're monogamous to one. And so on and so forth. The “sex thing” is so tied up with the “in love” feelings as an adult, that it's almost impossible to have an affair with someone who you're not actually physically attracted to.

 

Read more by the author: When a date turns out to be a lemon

 

Almost, but not quite. I'm still holding up the Emotional Affair as a real thing. When you tell the details of your day to someone who isn't your spouse, partner or Next Best Thing. When every message from them gives you butterflies. When they know you more intimately than anyone else, and you can't admit this fact to anyone, because it feels like cheating. “I didn't touch her,” the cheater will say, while the cheatee will mourn, “But you talked to her!”

 

But there's one thing Gilbert has gotten right in all this: the person you're in love with should also be your best friend. Because otherwise, what's the point?

 

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of five books, most recently a YA novel about divorce called Split and a collection of short stories about love called Before, And Then After. The views expressed here are her own.

 

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