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Desire & friendship

I have often thought of Josefine as a potential lover and life partner.

Like her, I found her eye-catching and charming when we first consummated discussion at the bar with Jason. I remember thinking that Jason had brought us both to this grimy university bar to choose who he would spend the evening with. Yet, we could turn his idea on its head by going home with one another. I giggled through this idea as we connected on several global issues that were beyond Jason’s expertise.

We didn’t go home with one another but she did text me and ask me out. On that date I questioned whether she wanted a friendship or relationship, which brings me to question the differences? Sex? Long-termness? Commitment? Economics? Heterotopia? I will return to these.

My friendship with Josefine has given me a profound understanding of what I want in my life partner. She is open-minded, kind, generous, challenging and liberal. She has a keen aesthetic. She knows what she wants but is curious about the possibilities gone unconsidered.

Early in our friendship, she mentioned how her parents have persistently liked her friends and never her partners. Although this hasn’t always been the case for me, I believe there to be parallels with these uneven standards across friends and partners. In continuing to accept such behaviour as our realities, we are victims and producers of patriarchal conditions that marginalise us as queer cis women.

My previous partners are too diverse to be discussed as a general category but our dynamic always catalysed recklessness. It’s the age-old story of what-you-look-for in your 20s versus 30s versus 40s, right? I don’t believe so. I believe that if I were to have many of these relationships over again, I wouldn’t draw on my recklessness in the same way: I wouldn’t say ‘yes’ when they plea for me to join their after-work drinks at a bar in east London or propose lunchtime dancing trips to the Berghain in Berlin. Once this recklessness is ushered into a relationship, it is very hard to replace: It becomes drinks at home, drinks alone….

Key changes in terms of who I invite into my life have come through two major influences: My friendship with Josefine and my friends in healthy and equal relationships. These people and relationships have become figures of my imagination as, time and time over, I ask questions such as: Would I expect this of Josefine?; Is this how I would behave right now if I was with her?; or, is this how she and I would speak to one another to work through this conflict?

Through these questions, I have gradually developed consistent standards for my friends and partners, friendships and relationships. But really, considering the vastness of relationship-types, why do we continue to differentiate?

For example, just like my friends, my partners do not need to achieve some physical standard that places them as ‘goodlooking’ within any number of my connected cultures. Of course we have preferences – I find it easier connecting with people with expressive features that provide opportunities for their inner lust, joy and madness to communicate.

I suppose that the continued use of these differing kinship terms – friends and partners, friendships and partnerships – is to signal respect. Although there is certainly a stage of ‘falling in love’ with friends, it means more with the intimacy of sex and the potential for a life together in the same home/car/family/etc.

Now that I have a partner, I differentiate between him and Josefine by calling on these terms. My love and respect for him and hopes for a life by his side motivate me to differentiate our relationship through kinship terms and practices. Yet, perhaps this is a form of hetero-complacency. Perhaps if I was in a poly- or queer relationship then I would be more open to the naming practices of partners and relationships across the board?

On that note, we really shouldn’t underestimate the culture-changing impact of the queer community.

Returning to Josefine: She is the person I have most kept in mind when dating and finding more people to love. I owe her a lot for the love story central to my life – and our first season of The Recordings.


Photo: Hastings grey © Claire French


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Claire French is an academic and performance-maker specialising in multilingual, autobiographical and applied theatre and performance.

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