by Isabel Moon
When leaving my ninth-grade Thanksgiving potluck in 2018, I said goodbye to my table of friends, anticipating the breakahead. One turned around in her chair and touched my arm. I think this was her way of hugging me without actually getting up. I acknowledged her and nonchalantly said, “love you.” But before I left the room, I noticed all my friend’s faces changed. Some seemed surprised, others off-put. One boy even made a small “humph” sound at me. They all seemed a little confused that I had said, “love you.” But…why? She was my friend. Why could I not say “I love you” to someone I platonically love? There was never anything romantic between us, so why was it considered weird?
This got the proverbial gears in my head turning. Why do we never hear people (more specifically, Americans) say “I love you” to their friends? I don’t mind it personally. It makes me happy to know that I’m loved. Most of the time, I hear the phrase in a romantic or paternal context. The only times I could think of hearing the phrase in a platonic context was during more serious, emotional occasions. Bridesmaid/groomsmen speeches, tear-jerking movie scenes, and bittersweet TV episodes come to my mind. If we love our friends, what keeps us from simply telling them? Are we afraid they will take it romantically? Why does it feel like we need to say, “I love you, but not in that way?” Whatever the case may be, I think people should be less afraid to share their platonic love.
Now, as a freshman in college, I have been using “I love you” with my friends for years. And it has only gotten easier. I grew up in a predominantly Christian environment. Yet even as Christians, my ninth-grade friends and I rarely discussed our faith with one another. But a lot has changed as I have gotten older. My circle of friends has changed from predominately male to predominately female, and I now attend a Christian university where students are actively trying to live out their faith; giving and receiving an “I love you” now comes more naturally.
Maybe I’m an outlier, or maybe I am one of many who feel the same way. Obviously, the easiest way to let someone know that you love them is to tell them. The only way to get out of our comfort zone is to do the thing that makes us uncomfortable. Just three words—I love you—are all that it takes. Whatever your situation might be, I implore you to consider this: If you love your friends, you should not be afraid to let them know; even if you have to start by saying: “I love you, but not in that way.”