Let’s Call It Friendship

They say people in the arctic have a hundred words for snow. Maybe they do. I’ve also heard that debunked, which is the times we live in.

What is probably not immediately obvious to non-linguists is that word drives perception. For instance, while learning Swedish I learned there was no word for (I think – it’s been over thirty years) “orange.”

If that’s true and I haven’t remembered wrong, then Swedes won’t SEE orange, not as an individual color. They’ll see it as a funny reddish yellow.

Of course in the realm of colors, that’s not a big difference. Orange will continue existing, whether humans call it that or “funny yellow.”

In the realm of emotions and other things that exist only in a human’s head, things are a little different.

This is prompted by the fact that I’m writing a very strong, somewhat protective (in both directions) male friendship in Through Fire, and working VERY hard to make sure people get it’s not sexual. Yes, part of it is my characters and the fact I do write gay characters. But that’s not all. Even if I wrote nothing but straight guys, I’d have to work extra hard at this bit because in our society we assume the sort of close, almost romantic friendship that has existed between men through the ages (women too, but not as often, and usually women who had strong male influences in their lives) is at the very least “sexual love manqué.”

Now, I’m the first to admit some pairings are slashable, but honestly, it would never occurred to me to slash the original one of those, Kirk/Spock.

I came from a culture in which male non-sexual friendship with attachment and values close to romantic love (note how many words I need to use for that) was common, and I recognized the Kirk-Spock bond as one of those.

It exists in literature throughout the ages, take the three musketeers. They’d die for each other, but there’s nothing going on under the covers.

Of course, sometimes there was something going on under the covers. Take Robin Hood, in so far as he might have existed, (it’s messy research.) With him and King Richard, well, there was something going on, so who knows what was up with the Merry Men.

And that was the bit that the sexual revolution seized on. Let the love speak its name and all that. Fine and dandy, except that the sexual revolution seems to have robbed us friendship across the board: friendship among people of the same sex; friendship between men and women. All of it was reduced to one type of love, what the Greeks call “eros.”

This is mostly because of the idea of sex not only as a good but as an imperative. If you’re not sleeping with everyone you could be sleeping with then you’re “repressed.”

Friendship has lost dimensions. It is now a bastard child of acquaintance and it seems to mean “someone I run into a lot, but for whom I have no deep feelings.” Because all deep feelings are confused with eros. Or it’s eros-manque. You really have a man-crush or girl-crush on your same sex friend, and you don’t act on it because you have hangups, or because you’re in a relationship, or whatever. It’s not that you deeply love someone and feel loyalty and duty to someone that you’re not in the slightest bit attracted to physically.

If you think I’m blowing smoke, go read the musketeers, take any of the speeches in which they declared their bond, and bring it to present day and see how it strikes you. (There are other friendships of the sort in history and literature, it’s just early and I’ve only had one cup of coffee, and my mind is in the fiction, so this is the obvious one.) Well, except the speeches of Athos to D’Artagnan which transposed to the present day are frankly creepy.

But the fault is not theirs. It’s ours. Post the sixties we’ve lost that dimension.

Part of me wants to say we lost it particularly because it’s a male thing.

Oh, sure, women have that type of friendship – I do – but it tends to be more women who were raised with men (my brother’s circle) and therefore socialized as males.

Female friendships, as far as I can tell from outside, and as far as I’ve got caught in a couple that weren’t what I thought they were are not … romantic. Romantic in the sense of mutual loyalty affirmed, romantic in the sense of – like an old marriage – taking the friend’s flaws and rolling with them. Romantic in the sense of lasting forever.

I could be wrong here. I don’t fully understand women, having been raised in a rather male environment, except for grandma and in many ways she wasn’t particularly feminine either. I’m talking from books and movies and observed stuff. Women have more “friends” but the relationship is either shallow or familiar. In fact, I’ve adopted my best female friends, now, to get the idea right. Women can have sisters as friends, and friends as sisters, but “friends” tends to be a far looser association which doesn’t entail the same level of loyalty. It is at once more intense and shallower than male friendships. Your female bff will come over and bring you Kleenex when you’re sick, and will listen to cry through the night about your unhappy love affair, but she’ll break with you when someone said that you said that she said that you were a poopy head. Your male bff will make fun of you if you get all sentimental over your lost love affair, but he’ll still be there, teasing you and telling you you’re not as unhappy as you think you are when you’re eighty.

I’m explaining very badly, because we don’t have a word for it. The Greeks don’t have a word for it, either, weirdly. Male friendship as I’ve observed it in real life is somewhere between Agape and Phillia. Perhaps Agape with a Phillia public face.

Where I grew up, perhaps because I was raised among men and because in Portugal the sexes are still more segregated, this was still very obvious. Being friends, for men meant something. For women less so, as a woman’s primary loyalty is to the family. You were “whispering mates” (comadres, literally means “co-mother” and it means you’re the godmothers of each other’s children, but the proverb “zango-se as comadres, sabe-se as verdades” (When comadres fight, we discover the truth) give it more the meaning of whispering mates or perhaps co-conspirators.

And perhaps it goes back to the evolution of humanity. Women were co-conspirators and manipulators of the social order, all in search of greater status among the berry-pickers/foragers. Those with higher status got their children better watched. Social manipulation is a female game.

The hunting parts were hierarchical. I assume there was someone calling the shots. BUT they were hierarchical in a male “Something accomplished, something done” way. Meaning that the hunter who got best results got to call the shots. And there was a hierarchy. But it also meant there was less… politics. Had to be, because when hunting is not a good time tof find your bff is stabbing you in the back, right?

Mind you, this is all imho. I don’t even know if the form of male friendship I observed in Portugal REQUIRES a more segregated (by sex) society. But I do know the ah… “texture” of friendship is different within the sexes. And between sexes too.

And I know we’re losing that dimension. We’re losing the subtle tints, and reducing everything to the bright red of sexual passion, even if sexual passion denied. “Friendship” is becoming denatured into “acquaintance” and “passing alliance” and “sexual frustration.”

All of which make it a ghost word, and it’s a pity, because friendship, in and of itself – particularly male friendship – was a great part of what built civilization.

All of which still leaves me writing this friendship that is more Agape than Eros, with a good dose of Storge thrown in, because one of the friends is much older than the other and the other, frankly, needs a minder.

If I do it well, there won’t be a bunch of slash stories on the net.

If I do it badly… the book will probably sell better – hey, a woman got to eat – but I’ll have failed somehow.

For the rest of us, I think one of the things Human Wave needs to make sure is depicted and exists, is the love between friends who would not dream of jumping into bed together.

Because if we lose the concept it won’t exist anywhere.

And we and society will be the poorer.

354 thoughts on “Let’s Call It Friendship

  1. Had a very dear friend like you describe but then we had a breach (yes, a girl was involved, and he mistreated her … but we were young and stupid then).
    Then once we were starting to mend things the stupid bastard went and committed suicide on xmas day.

  2. When I was young, if two men shared a hotel room the default assumption was that they were saving money — even if the room only had one bed.

    1. When I go on business trips with my boss we share a room – though not a bed. That’s a function of being a startup and needing to not waste money.

      I don’t think people find that too odd

      1. Yep, standard any place I have ever worked. The government is the only employer I am familiar with who assumes two rooms for two people, rather than one room, two beds. Also one reason a couple of bosses have been reluctant to hire women in a male dominated environment; even if they are capable, they are simply more expensive if the company does much out of town work.

  3. Unfortunately, as you pointed out with Kirk and Spock, there’s enough demand for yaoi that if Through Fire becomes popular enough, there _will_ be slash-fic. On the other hand, I once read a somewhat tongue-in-cheek analysis of fanfic that claimed that yaoi was actually yuri-with-penises, rather than anything to do with how the original characters were _or_ how men behave in real life.

    Have you considered having someone in-story treat them as if they were a romantic couple, and depicting the resulting consternation?

    1. I’ve read some rather more serious discussions from fans that identify it’s basically a way to have a relationship between two characters that don’t have a “power imbalance.”

      Makes sense, if you accept the idea– purely for the thought exercise– that relationships between men and women are inherently unequal.

      1. It’s part of the reason a lot of women read m/m romance — arguably MOSTLY conservative women. Even in the decent romances (and historical are better for this) you find the feminist cr*p creeping in. For instance, did you know that all regency women were sufragettes or abused or ran shelters for abused women. It gets tiring. The modern day romances are worse. AND the romances as part of other genres… well, you’ve seen the SJWs in our field, right.
        The few m/m romances I’ve read — yep, guilty as charged. My problem is most of them are obsessed with sex, and I always flip past those pages, even in straight romances. So there’s only one author I read and I haven’t found any others — with one or two exceptions have been remarkably politics free. And that’s a relief and you can just ENJOY the emotional ride. (Women like reading about emotions even more than men do. Deal.)

      2. Makes sense, if you accept the idea– purely for the thought exercise– that relationships between men and women are inherently unequal.

        I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that idea… partially because I don’t understand equality the way the grey-goo-ers do, and partially because the idea itself causes cognitive dissonance when viewed from the grey-goo perspective.

      3. it’s basically a way to have a relationship between two characters that don’t have a “power imbalance.”

        Kirk and Spock? One of whom has literal and legally enforcable power over the other? As in — do what I say or land in a cell?

        1. Nod.

          The problem is Mary that some people don’t understand the military (not that many think of Star Fleet as military) so they assume “sex between the ranks” is OK because “everybody is mature adults”.

          They don’t realize that a senior officer/NCO could destroy the career of somebody junior to them so sex between a senior officer/NCO and one of his/her “juniors” is forbidden for good reasons.

          Oh even if the junior is willing to have sex, there is the concern that people will assume that “good reviews”/promotions by the senior were given in return for sex.

          Of course, while the focus (when people think about it) is on the senior officer/NCO abusing his authority by initiating the sexual relationship, there is always the possibility of the junior initiating the sexual relationship in order to get “good reviews”/promotions or other things the senior could provide.

    2. I’ve heard it said that, at least for pornography, Yaoi is absolutely intended for the female market. Said market segment being called Fujoshi at times. That same explanation says that the term Bara describes the male-male stuff marketing at men.

    3. “I once read a somewhat tongue-in-cheek analysis of fanfic that claimed that yaoi was actually yuri-with-penises, rather than anything to do with how the original characters were _or_ how men behave in real life.”

      That wouldn’t surprise me. I have long theorized that the popularity of M/M slash among straight female fanfic writers is due to the following factors:

      1) As mentioned below by Sarah, women like reading about — and, in real life, experiencing — deep intensity in their emotional interactions.
      2) In real life, most men will generally only tend to display that level of emotional intensity and the concomitant vulnerability to a woman in the context of being, or moving towards becoming, sexually or romantically intimate with that woman. (This comparative rarity is why emotionality in men tends to come off as more intense by default as well.)
      3) As a result, for women, any visible male emotional intensity becomes a sexualized concept almost by reflex, and so any relationship between male characters that features an intense emotional component (even furiously hostile relationships — see “Foe Yay” on TVTropes) will feel, to female viewers/readers, as if there is a sublimated or unexpressed sexual aspect to it.

      Moreover, because (and this is a place where I do agree with some SJW criticism of much popular media) female characters introduced to be love interests for the male protagonists often don’t get the screen time or character development that male comrades or rivals do, het relationships often seem inherently less interesting to women than to men, because while men respond to visual and physical cues and thus will often find the relationship sufficiently engaging without that development, female fans want to see a level of emotional intensity that the female characters often aren’t developed enough to bear. (I am enjoying The Flash immensely, but even I am a little annoyed at how little reason Barry seems to have for loving Iris beyond her simply being there and being hot.) So M/M relationships become the fanfic drug of choice simply because it’s the best combination of emotional and physical “hooks” for the average female fanfic reader.

      The down side, of course, is that because the slash writers and readers are responding not to real men but to fictional emotional dynamics — and, rather brutally reductively, responding in a spirit largely of prurience rather than insight — their understanding of what real men and real straight male friendships are actually like steadily declines, if they don’t have real-world examples to counterbalance the flushed and prurient imaginings. If male fanfic writers wrote HGMO (Hot Girls Making Out) fanfic with the same frequency and investment that so many female writers write PBK (Pretty Boys Kissing) fic, I think women would understand a lot better what men find so irritating about it.

      1. That would be the young men writing MLP fanfic in which no mare can be just friends with another mare. In a show that is explicitly supposed to be about female friendship. Nope, nobody has to explain that male annoyance to me!

        But the sickly amusing part is how these kids go so often to the stereotype well, while earnestly assuring everyone that this is an enlightened modern story about progressive females, yup yup yup. If it weren’t done unconsciously, it would probably be funnier but more bitter.

        (Incidentally, there’s no way to gross out a good chunk of my fellow MLP fans like talking about horse facts of life. The other chunk of MLP fans aren’t usually writing sex and romance stories, much less ones that wouldn’t physically work if you have four legs and standard equine equipment.)

        1. I suspect that some of the popularity of MLPorn is due to the cell-shaded animations being a lot closer to feline flexibility(the pink shoggoth notwithstanding) rather than anything equine.

          There’s catgirls in them thar yuri.

    1. How do you figure?

      I’ve started doing a critical listening of folks’ complaints about tech alienating people.

      It’s amazing how much of it boils down to “stop doing what you’re doing, and pay attention to meeeeee!!!!!”

      Replace “phone” with “book.” The exact same behavior will be treated radically different– even if most of what you do on your phone is reading.

      Sure, things are less friendly these days. That’s why people are more likely to avoid casual interaction, because it’s generally unpleasant, and if you’ve got manners most of the time is spent biting your tongue while being lectured. Heaven forbid if you inject facts, logic or even try to get a word in edge-wise– how RUDE to interrupt the lecture to try to start a fight!

  4. Given that my own emotional range is considerably stunted, I can only understand this post in academic terms, but I do know to what you are referring. It is sad that such denaturing of relationships has occurred in the language.

    Do you think Heinlein saw this coming when he wrote Time Enough for Love? Or do you think he merely had studied Esperanto (the nominal precursor to Galacta), recognized the limitations in that language, and decided to explore them?

  5. One of my best friends (she was best man at my wedding) went to a psychic as a break from reality. While the psychic was trying to prove she had The Sight she asked my friend about various people in her life. At one point she asked my friend about her Best Girlfriend. My friend named a couple of names but the psychic kept saying “No, that’s not it.” Finally she thought about it for a second then said “Oh. You mean Byron?” Yup. Her best Girl Friend is a guy. 🙂

  6. Very much this problem. I’ve got two, possibly three people that are not blood kin who, if they call at 2:00 AM and say, “Um, I’ve got a problem,” I’d be on the road with bail money/fire support/a casserole/bleach, cleaning rags, and a shovel, no questions asked. And yeah, I’m pretty sure in at least one case there’s been whispers about our being lesbians because OF COURSE two single women who go on research trips and food runs to out-of-town cafes are lovers. *eye roll*

    I’m (looking very far down the road) trying to sort out what to do, if anything, about a character who is very much in love with Rada Ni Drako but not in a modern way. It’s very much a chivalric sense: he would die for her, he does everything he can for her, but he knows there’s no “wuv, twu wuv” involved. She’s his Lady, he’s her knight. She knows it as well, but she’s not going to say or do anything because, well, unit cohesion and she respects him too much. Darn old-fashioned characters.

    1. A friend will bail you out, a true friend will help you dispose of the bodies, A drinking buddy will be in the cell with you 🙂

      1. The phrase used to be: “Friends help you move. Good friends help you move bodies”.

        I’m too old to help anyone move. Screw that, I’m not touching your couch, call a moving company. Move a body? OK, I’m in.

        1. What do you call the guy who helps you move your mother?

          That just happened last month. I arrive home to find my mother’s place essentially empty and two storage units full of her stuff. Her plan was to rent a panel truck for one day and I was the only available workforce (brain surgery and chemo really do a number on the ability to plan). That morning I call him to see if he can help and he says “Sure, I was just building a door. When do you want to start?” He brings his pickup truck and we spend the next 5 days moving a literal ton of material from point A to B (and some from A to C and D, and yet more from B to C and D, plus the one thing from D to B).

        2. You know you’ve found a true friend when you rush up to their door and say ‘I need a hack saw, black plastic garbage bags and a buck knife’ and they say okay. This is something I’ve actually had experience with because i tend to say thing without thinking how they sound.

          1. First time I made mead, I came through the line at the supermarket with five of these 2 lb jugs of honey….

            Cashier: “Did you find everything alright?”
            Me: “No, you don’t have plastic tarps.”

            Okay, I WISHED I’d said that the moment after I went through. And ever since then I’ve thought of embellishments to the joke.

      2. That’s the term that occurred to me when Sarah was search for a word – “buddy”. You don’t hear it used so much among the so-sophisticated-that-everything-is-sex people, but ordinary folk still know what it means to be a fishing/hunting/drinking buddy.
        Possible analysis: In the dangerous professions casual dissension and fighting can be life-threatening, so most men who’ve been around that are rather formal about combat – “step outside” rather than “pulling-hair cat fight”. This allows a certain trust that disagreements won’t suddenly degenerate to violence without notice and possibly negotiation; which trust, in turn I think, allows close ‘buddy’ friendships to form. Women are less often drawn to the dangerous professions, so the tradeoff is often reversed for them: less trust, competition nearer the surface. This allows sudden, no-holds-barred blowups – and the meme that “the female of the species is deadlier than the male”.
        Could be a wild theory, but it kinda fits your thesis and my observations.

        1. This allows sudden, no-holds-barred blowups – and the meme that “the female of the species is deadlier than the male”.

          The entire sex having, at best, Small Man Syndrome comes into it too.

          The reason that a small man will kill you if you push him far enough is because he doesn’t have much of an option, so if it comes to fighting he’d better be effective, and that usually requires removing the delay that bigger folks have.

        2. I think it’s a difference in the situations that male competition exists in and female competition exists in.

          Men compete to find out “who is the best” but often it’s in a situation where they also have to work together to survive and/or complete an important task.

          In the past, the main area of female competition involved finding and keeping their mate but the competing women didn’t have to work together afterwards in order to survive.

          Also, while both compete for status, the winning male’s life may depend on the actions or inactions of the losing male so “being good sports” about winning was necessary.

          The winning female’s life wasn’t “on the line” when she treated the loser as dirt under her feet.

        3. I think there is something else also.

          My understanding is that female-female violence is not often, if at all, generally practiced for deciding hierarchy among adult humans. Yeah, sure, hurting lower status people to enforce lower status, but not fair fights or scuffles between numbers one and two.

          My understanding is also that there are few, if any, societies that never have male-male violence, whether involving adults or youngsters, that would be a problem if approached seriously and with full lethality. The males that do this have to have developed some sort of code to regulate this. Males with too much mental impairment to handle such a code, who still engage in violence may need to be driven off or killed, depending.

    2. For the year that I was on a remote tour of duty in the arctic, I had a most satisfactory and very close friendship with a guy; it was a situational friendship – the military tends to run to friendships like that. He was near to twice my age, devotedly and happily married … but we were there for each other, all through a very difficult year. It was, I think, a bit of chivalry on his part, and for mine part, he was an uncle-figure and mentor. Some people who didn’t know us closely assumed there was a sexual element, those who did know us both well fell over laughing at the very thought. We did discuss this once – and agreed that yes, it was a thing that could happen – but it wouldn’t be good for either of us, and would seriously mess up a very satisfactory friendship – a friendship that was keeping us both relatively sane.

    3. There’s a good word in German for a similar such relationship–Kamerad, which is translated to English as “comrade”. The English for this word/concept is horribly dewatered, to the point that I don’t think the meaning/connotation is even close to the same. The German song from WWII that has a line mourning the loss of a friend like this is so horribly evocative, when you hear it sung by male voices that give a damn about it, that it’s not even funny. “Ich hat ein Kamerad…”, done properly a cappela by mourning friends of someone is even more throat-gripping than bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace”.

      That’s a different thing from any female-male relationship, or female-female thing that I’ve ever seen that it’s not even funny.

      The relationship that I think you’re going for with your character may be similar to one I had with a female Major back when I was a staff sergeant. The year-plus that we worked together, I went from “simpatico” to basically being her attack dog in all matters. It wasn’t Eros, it was more “This is someone whose judgment I trust beyond implicitly, and who I think needs to succeed at what she’s doing…”. I can’t quite put my finger on the quality that led to this, but if she were to call me out of the blue today and tell me something really nasty needed doing, I’d drop whatever I was up to, buy a plane ticket, and go do it. Now. No matter what it was–Because I know that it would need doing, and that doing it would be utterly right. I only ran into one other officer in my career who could “pull” that kind of loyalty out of my cynical ass, and he was male. And, no where near as “magnetic”. It took a couple of years for him to develop that kind of rapport with me, and she did it within the first week I worked with her.

      Give you an idea of what this was like, working for her–This was a staff job, working in a major headquarters, and there were a bunch of meat-eaters working on staff, along with the usual mix of support herbivores. There were two or three other guys working around me and the Major that were also other combat-arms soldiers, and despite their initial disdain and suspicion of the “chick” wearing Major’s leaves, they all pretty much ended up like me–Utterly loyal. So, one day during a particularly screwed-up exercise deployment to an unnamed foreign country, where the four of us were on advanced party for the exercise, and had been horribly abused by the ass-kissing herbivores that ran the ADVON, the Major showed up before the main body. Immediately, she started setting things to right, which was part of why I think she was so highly regarded–She took care of things like that, and you knew she was going to make sure that things were done properly. So, in the course of “setting things right”, this utter POS pairing of a Sergeant Major and Lieutenant Colonel come around and start hassling the Major about the things she’s doing. Basically, they were throwing their weight around, playing dominance games with her. She’s holding her own, but I suddenly notice two or three things that really sort of surprised the hell out of me: One, the Sergeant Major and Lieutenant Colonel are both running down as they took turns talking, and their faces have turned from “bright red and arrogant” to “pale, pasty white, and scared shitless”. Second thing was that I was standing there, on the Major’s flank, with an axe in my hands, hands working over the axe handle like I really, really want to use it, and the other guys I mentioned as being “hers” are all clustered around her in a protective array, similarly with axes and/or pick-mattock handles. Third thing I notice is that the other guys all have expressions on their faces that I’ve only seen on predators eyeballing their next meal. I assume the one on my face was similar.

      Major sees the response in the two asshole’s faces, and only then glances over at us, and I don’t think she’d really paid attention to the work stoppage and our movement up on her flanks and back. The look on her face as she first glanced at us from the corner of her eye was kinda pissed-off, at us: “I have this, gentlemen… No need for you to get involved…”. Her second glance, as she picked up on the “We want to kill” vibe that we were all giving off was more “Holy fuck, what the hell is going on here…?”. The “conversation”, which had been more “two assholes throwing their weight around” gradually wound down as the two idiots processed what was going on, and they just kind of gave her the old “…so, there…” thing, and took off at a fast walk for the door to the hanger we were working in.

      Surprising thing to me was that one of the guys who’d come over during this was notorious in the headquarters for never displaying proper military customs and courtesies, as well as for being the G3 Sergeant Major’s pet thug/bodyguard/driver. There were only two people in the Corps I ever heard this guy address properly and ungrudgingly, the Sergeant Major who’d brought him over from the Ranger Battalion with him, and the Corps Commander. I’m pretty sure that he only called the Corps Commander “Sir” because the Sergeant Major would have disapproved of anything else. Anyway, he follows these two clowns out to the door, getting ahead of them. At the door, he lets the Lieutenant Colonel go through, and then he body-checks the squingy little staff Sergeant Major, and says something like “You don’t talk to the Major like that… Ever. You got that? (nod of head towards rapidly departing Lieutenant Colonel) Him, either… Unnerstan?”. It was kind of like watching Guido from the local mob boss delivering a message to someone that the boss had a problem with.

      How’d I see that, you ask? Somehow, all of us had left the Major standing there where this started, and we were all at the door the two idiots left through at about the same time they were. No conscious thought or communication took place between us, either–Just like I really don’t know how or why the hell I’d dropped what I was doing, picked up the axe, and found myself standing about an arms length away from the Major during their little conversation. From us seeing the two clowns off at the door, our little impromptu mob dispersed back to work, leaving the Major standing where she’d been throughout with a distinctly bemused expression on her face. To this day I still wonder what would have happened if something had triggered the five or so of us into actual violence. We weren’t the only ones watching this situation with anger, just the ones who got up to go do something about it.

      I probably would have been at the court martial going “I have no idea what the hell happened… One minute, I’m working on building the partitions, and the next thing I know, I’m taking part in an axe murder of a senior NCO and a field-grade officer…”

      About a half-hour later, the Major shows up with coffee, calls all of us over to a corner of the hanger, and quietly chews our ass, telling us that we were way, way out of our lane, she could handle assholes herself, and that she didn’t want us doing anything like that, ever again. Everybody standing there was kinda like “OK, sure… But, if it happens again, we’re doing the same thing…”. The G-3 Sergeant Major’s thug was the only one who said anything: “Y’know, ma’am… I’m pretty sure I could fix it so the bodies weren’t found…”. Which got a chuckle from the Major, right up until she processed that he really wasn’t joking.

      The thing I noticed was that “ma’am”. This was only the first time I’d ever heard him use that honorific on an officer with any real sincerity, or without being prompted. Seems like a minor thing, but if you knew the guy, you’d understand–He constantly gave off the vibe of “I’m right at the edge of subordination, and if you push me, I’ll beat the f**k out of you and anyone else who wants to stop me…”. The guys over at the Ranger Battalion had sent him over to us to “take care of the Sergeant Major”, who was now medically unfit for the Rangers, and waiting out his time for retirement. As far as he was concerned, if you weren’t a Ranger, you were only grudgingly considered as a worthwhile soldier.

      Now, the other significant thing, here: The Major managed to “pull” these other guys into her orbit only over the course of the three or so days she’d been in country with us. I was the only person who really knew her–The rest of them had only actually interacted with her in those three days, and it went from grudging suspicion to “We’ll gladly go to prison for her…” within that time. And, from some seriously hard cases–In her little mob that day that I remember were two guys who’d come over from the Rangers, a very senior Sergeant First Class, a hulking Specialist from the Artillery, and myself.

      Those other four guys were all new to her, and had been very cynical about my happiness when I saw the Major show up earlier than planned at that exercise. “Oh, like she’s gonna fix any of this shit…”. She fixed it. And, in the course of doing so, basically built herself a rather nasty little following that would have gleefully done whatever she asked. Not Eros, not Agape, something else entirely. I don’t think the language has proper words for that sort of thing, at all. The relationships she forged were always quite informal, and somewhat out of the military norm. There was deference, there, but you weren’t doing what she wanted done because she was the Major, you were doing it because she was the Major, and wanted it done, and done right. I swear to God, I never understood it, either–I watched the laziest, worst soldiers I ever observed work themselves into exhaustion doing what she’d casually asked for, and if you’d even suggested that they were doing so because she was sexually attractive, they’d have beaten you into unconsciousness for the insult. It wasn’t a “mom” vibe, it wasn’t a “siren” vibe, it was something else entirely.

      Her husband showed up at the exercise later on, and during a visit to our section, her little band of thugs noticed “this guy” talking to the Major. Her husband was a good guy, infantry branched, Ranger School tab, fairly hardcore kind of officer. What was funny as hell was watching the little group come over, check him out, find out who he was, and then kind of grudgingly acknowledge that he might be worthy of her. And, none of us had the slightest hint of identifiable sexual attraction to the Major, at all. I know I didn’t, and none of the other guys ever demonstrated the slightest hint of interest or attraction during any conversations we had socializing. Which, I have to tell you, was pretty damn unusual–These guys generally looked at everything female through that lens, even the ancient ajima who worked the ramen truck.

      The Major is one reason I don’t really have a problem with the idea of women in the military–And, sadly, she’s pretty much the only female leader I ever ran into that could pull this kind of thing off. They should have had her teaching leadership to female cadets at West Point, but I don’t know if what she had going was something you could teach.

      It wasn’t love in the sense of Eros or Agape, it wasn’t a master-servant thing, it was just a simple, feral friendship that acknowledged that she was a superior sort of person, due deference and fealty. I imagine that a similar feeling existed between Jesus and his Apostles, but I really can’t be sure if its the same thing.

      1. Thank you for that story. It’s a perfect illustration, and one I’m going to remember for a long time.

      2. Honor Harrington. And comparing what you wrote with how Weber describes her, for much the same reasons.

      3. Very cool story. Thank you for sharing.

        Never been in the military, and even for a civilian I’m a bit of a loner. There was only one time I ever thought “sure, I’d follow that leader no question” and that was the Beowulf-version in 13th Warrior. I have no idea what it was caused by, and the reaction startled me. What you said resonated–the character was very much a person who made reasoned, rational decisions, and would get it done right, and didn’t let ego or personal preferences get in the way.

      4. Mmmm… To the Honor Harrington thing. The Major wasn’t like that, at all. When I read Weber’s description of HH, I never really connected the two–Mostly, because HH has a bit too much of the whole “too good to be true” thing going on for me to think of her character as being “real”. She’s a type, an archetype, not someone I can identify as a fellow human. The Major was emphatically another human being, just one in a much different class than the general run of us.

        It was kind of a weird thing, unique in my experience with women. I really can’t tell you why, but I never once looked at her and thought “Wow, I’d like to sleep with her…”, despite the fact that she was attractive. I just didn’t see that, y’know? It was a fact, but not one that I or anyone else paid attention to.

        In a sense, I think I looked at her the way I like to think my dogs look at me–As being on a somewhat different plane, but, hey… I’m good at biting things, I kinda like biting things, and if she wants things bit, I’m gonna do the biting. For her. Because I know she knows who or what needs to be bit. And, I trust her to tell me…

        She’s someone I can’t even imagine having as a lover, period. And, not because “I’m not worthy”, but because… I don’t know. I quite simply can’t look at someone like that and think “Sex”. Even if she were unattached, and came to me with desire in her eyes and mind, I’d be like “Uh… I don’t know… I can’t do this… Sorry!!!”. I am, of course, beyond certain that that would never happen, by the way. Even the idea seriously weirds me out, to this day.

        And, don’t ask me why the hell that is, because I don’t know.

        1. I was on the other end of that kind of thing – very briefly. I was a PA troop, a SSgt, and our office often had casual lieutenants assigned. They were graduates (or flunkees) from the navigator training school, awaiting further orders, and generally assigning them to the PA office was a way of giving them something useful to do. I’d been working with the two LTs for a couple of months or so, doing the school-kiddy tours and attending business luncheons as part of the official AF delegation. In the rigid military scheme of things, they outranked me, of course – but I was permanent party and a trained DINFOS killer (small joke there) and had about twice as much time in active service as both of them put together. So we had been working very happily together for a good few months … and then one evening, I had a date whom I was going to meet after work. I changed into a pretty dress and high heels in the ladies room … and both of them were still there at work when I emerged. I’m not quite sure I am up to describing the look of shock on their faces, shock, realization and disbelief all at once. They had never, in all the weeks we had been working together, considered me as datable, or a suitable target for a pitch of woo, flirtation, whatever. They just didn’t – and the possibility that I was (for anyone outside the unit) – was something they had never contemplated until that moment, although we were about the same age.
          I think they were both relieved, when I was back at work the next morning, the parfait gentil NCO – it was a genuinely unsettling moment for the two LTs/

          1. Yeah, the whole thing is just weird. And, it’s not really the uniform or clothing, either, although that does play a role.

            You wear your leadership and role much like a cloak that’s always with you. In some ways, it’s an act, where you’re a different person entirely when on the stage, and simply “you” when not on it. But, step on that stage again, and here comes the Other.

            I had a strange experience, once. Or, at least strange for me–I never had much mixture between personal life and the military, mostly because I couldn’t see a way to reconcile the two. My family hardly ever saw me in a military role, other than once or twice. My Mom came to visit this one time, and I took her to the PX to do some shopping. While we were there, we got separated, and I had a couple of my guys find me while we weren’t together. So, I’m standing there, talking to them, and I see my Mom breeze right by us, obviously looking for me, but somehow not seeing me at all. So, I finished my business with the troops, and walk up behind her, which made her jump, because she hadn’t realized that the person she’d walked right past was me…

            Took her to lunch right after that, and she’s looking at me like I’ve grown a second head the whole time. Of course, I pick up on that, and ask her “WTF?”.

            Turns out, she’d seen me, thought it was strange that that oddly unpleasant bossy man was wearing the same clothes I was, and walked right by me. “You changed… That wasn’t like you–You were different… Everything. Body language, tone of voice, facial expression… That wasn’t you… I didn’t even see you, standing there….”.

            I’m kinda like, uh, Mom… I’ve been in the Army now for a few years, y’know… And, these things happen.

            It’s weird how that carefully constructed persona can be doffed and donned so easily. The General is still the General, even when naked in the shower next to you, and the Sergeant Major’s dignity is still intact when he’s changing his underwear in front of you in the tent. However… When you encounter these people completely out of context, you’re shocked and bewildered to see that the General is just good old Joe, playing with his granddaughters, or that the Sergeant Major has a wife whose tongue he dreads the edge of.

            A large part of the reason for there being distance in military relationships is that you find that a lot of the time, many people cannot reconcile the dichotomy between roles and relationships. If Private Jones were to see the General in his bathrobe, playing patty-cake with the little girls, odds are very good that he’s never going to quite muster up the requisite deference due him in a professional setting. So, we maintain the spaces, and wear the cloak.

            Blew my mind, talking to those two idiots I’d run into at the PX, a few days later. They were curious who that “lady” was that I’d been with, because she was obviously too old for me to be dating, and… Well, who the hell was she? I told them, and I swear to God, the reaction was as if I’d told a five year-old that Santa wasn’t really real: “You? YOU have a mother?”.

            Apparently, the assumptions in the unit were that I’d been raised by wolves.

            1. To quote RAH in Starship Troopers:

              “Sergeants don’t have mothers; ask any trained Private. They reproduce by fission — like all bacteria.” 😎

            2. Exactly – it’s a persona you put on, entirely different from your ‘real life’ persona. I had some expanded experience with this, being an AFRTS on-air personality on my last overseas tour. (AFKN-Yongson, ROK) One of the other network radio hosts and I managed the neat trick of making the people on post who knew us personally — totally disassociate from the fact that we were local prime-time radio DJs. We were totally professional NCOs, and personally amiable – and completely separate from our radio selves, to the point where a great many people had – or so they said to me – remind themselves that the TSgt or Spec so-and-such that they knew every day was that person on the radio at 11 AM or 3 PM. Even though our ranks and names were completely the same, no secret there. Some of the younger radio troops did make a thing about how they were local radio stars… but they were very young and new. It was just a job, but a trifle more public than most.

            3. Oh I definitely get that. I remember after I got out of the service I was role playing D&D with some friends (same ones I had played with in college years before) and one of them wanted me to play an officer, and I looked at them and told them, ‘No, you wouldn’t like it.’
              They didn’t get it. I -was- an officer in the USAF, being exposed to that culture would have been a huge shock to them.

              1. Long ago while playing the Star Trek RPG i had one of the players sent to the brig for disobeying a direct order in wartime…

        2. It’s sort of like pack dynamics. You see that person as the leader/alpha. It is hard to explain, it’s not just their words or their actions, but the way they present them to you. You realize very quickly that yes, this is someone that you will follow.
          What makes it really strange, is that the other ‘leaders’ from other groups, and even members of those groups, don’t see it. They all wonder why you’re so loyal, and they’ll often have a harsh view of your leader, because they get so much work out of their people, that everyone else thinks they’re abusing you. When the reality is, you just don’t want to do any less than the best that you can for them.
          Working for someone like that is an enjoyable experience. At least for me it was, you know your loyalty to them is returned to you. A very rare thing these days.

          1. Yeah, but try to describe the individual quality that allows them to perform that act of “pull”…

            I had to do what was supposed to be a two-page paper once, that was supposed to describe the best leader I’d ever worked for, and what I thought made them that. I chose the Major I’m talking about above, and…

            Let’s just say that I took like thirty-forty pages to do it, and I still wasn’t satisfied with it. In the end, I boiled it down to “What she did was just right, and you automatically wanted to do right with and for her…”. She occupied the moral high ground, and you just wanted to be up there, with her, even with the water rising around your legs, knowing you were both likely to drown, but that it would be totally worth it.

            I could totally see her as a Joan of Arc personage, in some ways. She had this sort of low-key charisma, that you didn’t notice at first. And, then, you started getting your food on time, out in the cold and rain, and when you asked why, the cooks would tell you that the Major had come by, spoken with them, and asked them to make sure you were fed properly… Something the complete assholes who were actually responsible for ensuring, somehow hadn’t gotten around to doing.

            I’m really serious–That woman showed up, and things that had been a complete, shambolic mess due to malfeasance and laziness…? They suddenly started changing for the better, even things that weren’t anywhere around where she’d been, or that were in her lane, at all. She just whispered in, dropped a word or two with the right people, who she always walked right up to without asking who they might be, and boom… Things started falling into place.

            One of the weird things about her was this knack she had. Everywhere you go in the military, and elsewhere, there’s always a dichotomy: There’s whose name is on the sign outside, and then there’s the guy or girl you really need to see to get things done. A lot of the time, you only learn these things by either asking, or through experience. The Major somehow just knew who these people were, and would walk right up to them, ignoring the feckless dumbass who was supposedly in charge. I went with her on a bunch of these odd little “walking around” missions she went on, fixing stuff, and I finally had to ask her: “How the hell do you know these are the right people to talk to…?!”. She got kind of an incredulous look on her face, like I was blind for not seeing it, and she said something to the effect that “…they look like they’re the right people to talk to…”.

            To this day, I’ll be damned if I could tell what she was seeing, because it sure as hell wasn’t rank, or what they were doing at the time.

            It was a very interesting thing to watch–Chaos reigns, and the Major shows up. As soon as she arrives, things just sort of shake themselves out, and get better because of what she is doing. And, it wasn’t like she walks around, imperiously bringing order with a whipcrack of her tongue, either. It was all very low-key, very professional, and very… Right. You could tell when she’d been around, because things were functioning the way they were supposed to. She simply wouldn’t allow anything else, or tolerate it. I think I only ever saw her use the edge of her tongue once or twice, always for something safety-related, and every time she reduced the guilty parties to tears without raising her voice, solely using sweet reason.

            I’m not joking about the tears, either–Imagine a thirty-something woman, remonstrating with some ogre of a senior warrant officer who is twenty years her senior in more ways than one, and him literally crying like a baby after she’s done with him. Also, picture her letting him get his cry out, like a kid who’s had a tantrum, and then handing him a Kleenex, ensuring he maintained his dignity in front of his men…

            In people terms, she was a catalyst for “right”. I don’t know any other way to describe it. She wasn’t a saint, by any means, but… There was that quality to it, something almost religious in nature.

            And, the funny thing is, she’d likely laugh her ass off, reading this, and not recognize herself in it, at all. But… There she is, much as I describe her.

            1. Invisible Rank – I wrote about that a couple of times on the Daily Brief (formerly Sgt, Stryker’s Daily Brief back in the day.) There are just those certain people in a military organization who might be relatively low-ranking, but because of their specific job, their ability, their connections, personal charisma or whatever – they can get things done. Quietly and without much fuss. It’s complicated, but those with a nose for it and who can connect with those certain people can tap into a network. It’s very subtle, of course – but it sounds as if your Major had a nose for it. A gift, even.

              1. Yeah… That. It’s like there is this secret, hidden order of the hypercompetent, and if you know the handshake, they’re all yours.

                I like to think I can get things done, and that I’m a problem solver. Which, I suppose I am, in sort of a brute-force manner. The Major was on a totally different plane. Where I’d go into a situation and find the person who was supposed to responsible for something on paper, and put a boot to his ass, making him do his job, she’d slide into the work area, talk to a few lower-ranking types, smile at the incompetent in charge, maybe make it clear to him that getting in the way of the responsible juniors would be a really, really bad idea, then glide on out to the next site. Meanwhile, the section she’d just visited would experience something like a trebling of efficiency and would actually start doing what it was supposed to be doing.

                And, if you think I wasn’t asking how she knew what to do, and wasn’t taking notes… You’d be mistaken. The problem with trying to do what she was doing the way she was doing it was that she had this essentially unlearnable knack for it. Where I’d have to knock heads together to find the right person, she’d pick them out of a crowd of smokers outside on break, walk up to them, start a conversation, and “Hey! Presto!”, the problem goes the hell away. Couple of times I was driving her around on these things, I swear to God we’d never have to even go inside the building–She’d see the “right person” in the parking lot, or walking around outside, strike up a conversation and an immediate, easy rapport, and… Problem solved.

                Then, she’d get back in the truck with me, and she’d say “We can go, now…”. Err… OK, ma’am…

                1. My father once said to me that true leaders were very rare indeed, and thus we remember their names and study them. (What, you think just anyone could be Hannibal and take on Rome? That any junior officer should have the capability to become Napoleon?) The army, in his opinion, is set up to force men to act like leaders, and by thus demanding the officers display the traits and decisions of leaders, creates men that people are willing to be led by.

                  He also taught me that one of the best compliments one could ever get was “I know this is way outside your responsibility, sir, but we’re bringing it to you because you always follow through and get things done.”

        1. Or how the people of Gondor viewed Faramir. There’s that scene where Pippin is moved by the mere sight of Faramir returning from Ithilien, and Tolkein describes his sudden devotion as quite genuine – Pippin would follow him anywhere without question, wholeheartedly.

          (And while we’re on the topic, an aside – I was so completely ticked off at what those movies did with Faramir’s character. A crime against storytelling. Peter Jackson sucked us all in and then shivved us.)

          1. Peter Jackson took a trilogy of books that, for a lot of reasons, were borderline impossible to film and managed to make pretty good movies out if them. Not perfect, but one hell of a lot better than we had any reason to expect.

            Face it, LOTR isn’t a modern novel. It’s a 7th Century Eddic saga told in High Edwardian English. There is next to no character development (ok, a little for Merry and Pippin), and character development is the engine of the modern novel.

            I have problems with the films, too. Jackson ditched my favorite part of the whole story; the Scouring of the Shire. I also didn’t think much of his Ents, although what might have been better baffles me.

            1. And actually they got the relationship between Faramir, Boromir, and Denethor pretty much as Tolkien wrote it; it’s just that the film focussed on that to the exclusion of other aspects.

              1. Actually, I was quite relieved when I saw what he did with Faramir. Not that it was good, but it was so much better than what I had heard he was going to do.

              2. Faramir is never tempted by the Ring. Jackson made a choice to have him tempted as to gives his character a story arch.

                1. Actually, he was. Read the scene where Gollum shows up at the pool below the hideaway in Ithilien. “Boromir tried to take it, and you fled? And now you have brought it here to me? A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality, indeed!”

                  Yes, he turned it down, but I wouldn’t say he wasn’t tempted.

                  1. How does he show his character… by refusing the ring. Faramir already new who he was, and he wasn’t arrogant enough go believe he could use the ring without it corrupting him. Which is the trap his brother fell into.

                    Reed that with a lit bit of black humor with the realization irony that the ring that lead his brother to his death would then come into his reach. Considering the ratification of ones action doesn’t mean that he actually tempted to put it on or take it for himself. What are the lines right after the ones you quoted?

                    Though he might have thought intellectually, yes I could take this for my own, it was not in his character to do so. He never actually had a crisis of morality, though he was tempted by the ring; he was never tempted to take up the ring, the ring gave him a chance to show his quality. That he was a true Captain of Gondor.

                    He sure as hell wasn’t weak enough of character to try and take it by force; No better than his brother.

            2. I agree about the Ents. They were always going to be creatures better imagined than seen, I think. And you have a point about how difficult these things were to convey on film. That being said… there was a point to Faramir, that both his father and brother chose to see him as lesser versions of themselves, when in fact he combined many of their best qualities. He wasn’t as much of a warrior as Boromir or an intellect as Deneathor, but he saw the wisdom in both and had one gift they didn’t – a discretion to choose the proper course between those poles. He neither despairs as his father does, nor succumbs to the lure of the ring as his brother does. His “taking the time to judge justly in a hard matter” is one of the more important parts of the book. To simply make him a nothing who decides to keep the ring in all of three minutes of time? Faugh.

              I will agree with you on the Scouring of the Shire, though. It was quite important because it does show how the adventure changed the four friends. It’s also one of my rallying cries, especially lately with all the people in every area of my life who grab my shirt front and shriek in my face that my faith, culture, sex, morals, music, hobbies, and habits are wicked, that I must change to suit them – “If I hear ‘not allowed’ any oftener, I’m going to get angry.”

              1. People don’t shriek in my face, much. It helps that I’m 6’2″, bearded, and have eyebrows that come up in peaked tufts, but a lot of it is that I have a rep for not tolerating PC eyewash. My step-mother-in-law had a bumpersticker that read “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican” and I objected. She laughed me off at first “It’s just a joke”. I pointed out that the joke is saying it is acceptable to,interfere with the exercise of the franchise, and that is pretty much exactly what the KKK used to do.

                No more sticker.

                I always envisioned the Ents as looking like trees and for the most part only moving when you weren’t watching them. How the hell you’d do that on film, I have NO idea.

            3. I wouldn’t say that the scouring of the Shire is my favorite section, but I was saying for years that it’s one of the most important sections of the book. It’s what everything else is leading to. Of course, when I tried saying that on-line, I got shouted down by people who were trying to tell me it was an unnecessary add-on, that added nothing to the story.

      5. When I was an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon in the late 70’s, I was lucky enough to see Commodore Grace Hopper give a demonstration and lecture on the topic of “command presence.”

        As the large lecture hall filled up with ROTCs from CMU and Pitt there was no sign of Commodore Hopper. But there was a dumpy old (female) Master Chief sitting in the second row, mumbling to herself. No one paid her any attention. About three minutes after the lecture was due to begin, the Master Chief silenced the room completely without even standing up. She went from sitting slumped and looking dumpy and confused to looking energetic, intelligent, and, well… commanding. Of course she was Commodore Hopper. And just the change in body language was sufficient to take charge of the entire room.

        The really odd thing for me was that I didn’t recognize her. See, I quite literally can’t remember the first time I met her — it was sometime before I entered kindergarten. I wasn’t one of the ROTCs, I was just there to take the opportunity to greet an old family friend.

        This relates to your story of “pulling people into her orbit” only in that Commodore Hopper had that ability in spades.

        1. Isn’t there a story about Marilyn Monroe where she was giving an interview, and folks were going right by and the reporter couldn’t believe it… and she says something like, “Oh, would you like me to be her?

          And suddenly everybody noticed that That Is Marilyn Monroe.

          1. Yes, I’ve read that story myself. The reporter said something about how he couldn’t say exactly how her body language changed, but suddenly she went from “I’m just another face in the crowd” to “Hey, notice me!” and everyone started noticing.

            1. I know part of it is what Mask you’re using– my mom goes into Mom Mode and has people older than her acting like mildly naughty teenage boys that got caught– and I know it’s not automatically… everything, but some folks that do it don’t even know they do.
              Dolly Parton laughs about staying in cheap hotels because nobody recognizes her– although they may ask if she’s ever been told how much she looks like Dolly Parton.

            2. You actually have to be that person at your core. It wasn’t that she turned into or turned on this presence.

              They de cloak.

              You can’t fake being a predator or having command presence it just is. You can’t fake, being the most dangers or commanding person in the room. What you can do is learn to mask or hide it.

              You want to learn Command Presence then Learn what it means to be a good leader and push that down into your core. This fake it till you make it annoys me, because just mimicking your idles is just going to make you a poor copy of them.

              Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. What is your leadership style? All great leaders have a presence because that is who they are not who they are trying to be.

              Does this make sense? It not something you can learn independent of becoming a good leader. (I guess a good enough actor could learn to fake it but would they break under stress, if tested?)

              1. You’ve got the core of the issue, right there.

                The problem is that there are some people out there who have these sorts of qualities naturally, it seems. They have them from the moment they show up, and you’re often not too sure what the hell it is, or how they develop it.

                In a junior enlisted person, you regularly run into what they officially call “peer leaders”, people who just somehow get everyone around them to do what they want them to. Oftentimes, when you’re the supervisor of these types, you don’t call them “peer leaders”, you call them “obstreperous troublemakers” or “ringleaders”. If you want to run an effective unit, you have to identify these people right off the bat, and co-opt them. If you don’t, you’ve allowed the creation of a center of dissension and chaos in your organization.

                A lot of the time, when you’re two or three levels up from direct supervision of the bottom ranks, you have to carefully watch what the intermediate leaders are doing, and sometimes overrule their poor decisions. A newly-promoted NCO will oftentimes misidentify the peer leader as a threat, and try to crush them back into the box, instead of being smarter about things and co-opting the poor bastard. I don’t know how many times I saw cases where someone had developed and created a true “troublemaker” out of these sorts of people, and I had to try to step in and force a change. Sometimes you can’t catch it before it’s too late, and you’ve gone from “Potential leader material” into “Center of insoluble dissension”. Smartest thing you can do with a kid like that, short of busting his boss and putting him in charge, is to find something minor you can put him in charge of, and then get the hell out of his way after you clear a path through the intermediate leadership for him. Or, her…

                One of the weird little differences is that while you see these “peer leaders” all the time among males in the military, you don’t often see them amongst the women who join–But, they’re just as common in civilian life, I think. Whatever quality it takes to make a “female ringleader”, it’s different, and for some damn reason, the women who have it don’t seem to join up as much. Or, on the other hand, it could well be that I didn’t see that many of them, females generally being around 15-20% of the units I was in.

                Developing these folks is the trick, once you’ve identified them. Somehow, they’ve all got this knack, this “something”. It’s not quite charisma, but it is analogous. There’s an ineffable quality to their personalities that pulls other people into doing what they are doing, or want done. I had one of these guys work for me, one time, and we struck up a rapport that encouraged me to investigate what the hell “it” was. So, I asked him–“Dude, how the hell is it that these knuckleheads are always following your lead? What are you doing?”.

                Now, with this guy, if you watched him, everyone else in the element gravitated on him, and took their cues from him. If you were a smart leader, you got him on board with what you were doing, and then everyone else just sort of naturally followed along. If a really dirty deal came down from higher, one that would normally make you the bad guy for enforcing the unpleasantness, and likely lead to a lot of reasonably justified lower-enlisted angst? You talked to him first, explained what was going on, and then when the general announcement of the unpleasantness was made, the rest of the mob would look at him for his reaction, and since it would be positive/neutral, much of the problems just never started.

                When I asked him what it was he was doing, I got this deer in the headlight look: “What are you talking about…? I’m nothing like that… At all… People don’t just follow me… Do they?”.

                After I pointed it out to him, he was really, really weirded out. He’d really had no clue–He had no awareness of what effect he had on people, because he’d always had “it”, whatever the hell that was. And, it was really strange, because there was a sort of quantum effect that took place for a little bit, in that when it was pointed out/observed to him, it sort of went away. After he quit thinking about it, it came back.

                Despite a lot of observation, a whole lot of reading, and considerable thinking, I’m still no closer to an analysis of “it”. I just know it when I see it, and know how to make use of “it” in others. Me, my leadership technique was all “asshole”, all the time–And, it took weeks/months for people to get to know me and trust me. Of course, the more ephemeral leadership styles, the ones based on charisma, flim-flam, and salesmanship normally worked better for their users right off the bat, but I’d be the only guy the troops would come to years after we worked together for help with something. Sometimes, when it comes naturally, it’s too easy, and you don’t have to develop or display any real depth of character.

                1. “If you don’t, you’ve allowed the creation of a center of dissension and chaos in your organization.”

                  “A newly-promoted NCO will oftentimes misidentify the peer leader as a threat, and try to crush them back into the box, instead of being smarter about things and co-opting the poor bastard. I don’t know how many times I saw cases where someone had developed and created a true “troublemaker” out of these sorts of people, and I had to try to step in and force a change. Sometimes you can’t catch it before it’s too late, and you’ve gone from “Potential leader material” into “Center of insoluble dissension”. Smartest thing you can do with a kid like that, short of busting his boss and putting him in charge, is to find something minor you can put him in charge of, and then get the hell out of his way after you clear a path through the intermediate leadership for him. Or, her…”


                  Sometime over Bourbon or Scotch remind me to tell you about my first job in security, and how I became the ipso facto leader of the opposition, in second shift, to the most toxic management team I’ve ever worked with, and this is after having dealt with Navy boat politics. Hint: If you have a 150% turnover rate within a year or multiple years, the problem is not with the quality of your new fires [not a typo], but is at systemic problem at the management level.

                  Now I need drink.

                  P.S. It took me a while but I figured it out at least on my part why people followed me… Trust. They trusted me they new that if I told them something or had them do something them I would back them 100%. I wouldn’t lie to them or change the rules on them or throw them under the bus to save my own ass.

                  1. P.S.S.

                    Also, you can’t run a civilian operation like you would a millitary one. In the military people can’t quit on you.


                  2. Some teachers — more now — also try to crush peer leaders starting in elementary, when the poor bastard doesn’t even know why. I think this was 90% of the reason my younger son had that much trouble in middle school. Okay, he still doesn’t see it. (Look, he’s an odd, not self aware) but groups tend to coalesce around him.

                    1. Sarah,

                      Remember when we were talking about the left and the blind spots on the floor and dealing with them is like walking through a mind field.

                      People coalesce around those they safely feel will respond in a consistent way. There is no guile they are who they are. People feel comfortable. They don’t have to put up walls or barriers.

                      It’s freeing.

      6. Kirk, thanks for your account of the Major. That is very much what the characters are like, enough so that at one point two general officers are trying to figure out what the protagonist has/ how she does it so they can bottle and sell it.

        1. Yeah… Bottling and selling whatever the hell “it” was? I really have no idea what “it” even was, to be quite honest, let alone have a clue how to reproduce it in someone else. I know I spent a hell of a lot of time taking notes and trying in some small way to emulate what she did, but… It just didn’t work as well, when I did that. I picked up a bunch of pointers from watching her, but there was just no way I was at her level, ever.

          I’m not even really sure what the hell “it” was, either–I’m not really doing justice to what it was like, to tell the truth. We had people constantly trying to transfer over to our section just so they could work for her or around her. It was to the point where you had to watch out for extra junior enlisted cluttering up the place when she was around, because they’d sort of gravitate towards wherever she was working, and want to help out with it. We normally worked with the Topographic company for a lot of our planning products, and before the Major showed up, getting stuff out of them was like pulling teeth–Painful, and requiring anesthesia. She arrived, and the next exercise we went on, the Topo people were literally inundating us with product, and working all hours of the night to produce even the most off-handedly requested or just even hinted-at map and terrain analysis products.

          It was just flippin’ bizarre, in a really good way. I kinda think I understand the indirect path she was following, looking back on it, but I’ll be damned if I know how to teach someone the ins and outs of it all. At the time, the Corps headquarters was really kinda dysfunctional in some ways, because the majority of the sections and support elements were not used to pulling together. She’d go out, find the bottlenecks, like us not getting properly fed, and even though it wasn’t her lane, she’d get it fixed. So, when the Topo geeks were used to be treated like afterthoughts on these deployments and exercises, all of a sudden there’s this Major over in the Staff Engineer Section who is taking it upon herself to get them fed and taken care of properly. Sooo… When the Major shows up with a short-recoil request for product to support planning for something, they’d be all like “Of course!! We’ll drop everything for you, Major… Screw the G3 OPS guys, they’re a bunch of dicks…”. And, they’d be totally sincere about it, too. She just pulled people into her orbit, because she was getting stuff done that needed doing, and which hadn’t been working very well.

          The word I think that best describes what she was doing was serving as a catalyst for order and “right”. And, everybody appreciated it. We had this overabundance of utter careerist self-centered assholes running around the place at that time, and she was the utter polar opposite of that. By contrast, she looked like a veritable goddess of order and good leadership, and all of the enlisted people wanted to keep her around and make sure she prospered–Because we knew damn good and well that we would prosper right along with her.

          When she and her husband left after about a year and a half, the going-away party/luncheon we had for them was flipping incredible. I’ve never seen so many teary-eyed “Oh, my God, Major, I’m so sad you’re leaving…” things coming from people all across the headquarters. The weird thing was her poor husband, because here’s this guy who’s been used to being the central focus of all this sort of thing at his units, but since this was the first time he’d worked in the same one as his wife, she’s the Big Deal, and everyone is treating him as an afterthought. “Oh, you’re leaving? Good for you… Good luck at your next assignment…”, while for his wife, everyone is breaking down into tears as they hug her goodbye. And, “everyone” included people who just came out of the damn woodwork, from everywhere. The mechanics in the motorpool? They showed up, along with all the cooks and so forth from the HHC headquarters, who were normally completely unconcerned about the staff. I’ve never seen anything like it, ever.

          I did run into someone who had worked in her company when she was a mere Captain, and he told me the same sort of thing went on when she’d been a junior officer. When she took her company, people who knew her delayed retirements, bribed assignments people, and just did whatever they could to get over to her unit to work for her. Apparently, when she’d been a platoon leader, she’d made a hell of an impression.

          Working around her was just a damn joy, to tell the truth, because you were getting stuff done, and done right. The hours would likely suck, because of higher, but you didn’t mind, because you were working for her, and you knew she’d make things work right. Before she showed up, and after she left, it wasn’t that uncommon for us to get screwed out of chow, forgotten about when it came to providing tent space, and just generally neglected. When she was around? Never happened, not once. If the Major was around, you knew that everyone within range of her authority was going to be fed properly, given proper resting facilities, and generally taken care of. You’d be working your ass off, but you knew that at the end of the day’s work, you’d have a place to sleep, and a warm meal to eat–And, that she’d notice your work and thank you for it, which was no small part of her magic.

          Of course, the big thing that made it seem magical was probably just that she was such a contrast to a bunch of folks who just weren’t up to standard, in the first place. She applied a combat-arms “take care of the troops” mentality to the usual dregs of the staff scuts, and by doing that, looked like the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was still a hell of a treat to work with and around her, and we all knew it.

      1. And they say that by completely misunderstanding the text. When David spoke at Jonathan’s funeral, saying “your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women,” he was talking about what Sarah mentioned in her post. David was saying, “Yes, women are nice, and lots of fun in bed, but no woman has ever had that bone-deep, heart-felt loyalty to me that you had, Jonathan.”

        And people go and turn that kind of deep, manly friendship into just another gay couple. They’re missing so much and they don’t even know it.

    1. I’ve seen them smear sex over any such friendship. They literally are not capable of imagining any strong passion not driven by gonads.

      1. I’ve come to suspect that it is deliberate. By encouraging people to associate strong emotional connections with sex, you make it easier for predators to target emotionally vulnerable people. Additionally, it shapes public perception. If every television show has a gay friend, then people start to assume that homosexuality is 15-20% of the population. Likewise, if every relationship must be sexual, then people assume that that’s simply how one is supposed to act.

  7. The works of Robert Ardrey focused on the profound influence our generations of hunting/gathering still influence modern behavior. Men tend to organize around strenuous and dangerous tasks, and women compete for the best pickings. Your description of the different ways men and women cooperate/compete tracks neatly with Ardrey’s themes.

    Dave Barry once wrote, as only he could, that the popularity of outdoor grilling and deep-frying turkeys for men rose from the inherent danger of the activity. Yes, one mistake could set the neighborhood ablaze, but that’s the appeal of the activity, not a reason to avoid it. Barry speculated that women could get their men folk to make mash potatoes, too, if it somehow involved a grenade launcher.

      1. *Sigh* The perils of undecided verbiage. Thought, “give” or “hand”, wound up with “have”. (Walks off, muttering)

        (Hey Josh! I think I typoed worse than yours that I poked at last night!)

  8. My BFF’s have always been men. Right now, I call a good friend when I need to talk out situations. He has been invaluable. There is nothing romantic there… but then, my usual relationship with women is as a mentor. It is a different relationship than a close friend imho. Also, I found that as women reach non-breeding stages, it is easier to become friends with them.

  9. Frodo and Sam, Batman and Robin, Jonathan and David, etc.

    C.S. Lewis had an essay where he lamented that same tendency to see homosexuality everywhere. I can’t remember enough to find it. Perhaps someone else can. (Drak?)

    1. It was likely part of the “Four Loves” in which he explores the four types of love recognized by the ancient Greeks.

      One thing Lewis said about Friendship was that there was a strong element of “you like this as well?” to it. While there’s always been a strong tendency for men to have “working teams”, Friendship involved shared likings of something that other people didn’t share.

      I’d note that he commented that Friendship differed from Eros in that Friendship wasn’t bothered by others joining the “shared liking”. That is the Friendship between Jim and George welcomed Fred when Jim and George found out that Fred shared that same likings that they did.

      1. This is correct. He writes (paraphrasing), “At the outset I find myself with a tiresome bit of demolition… there is the tendency of moderns to believe that every firm male friendship must, in fact, be homosexual.” The claim, of course, is that it’s not openly so, but hidden – so well-hidden, in fact, that the friends themselves aren’t aware of it. It’s crypto-secret eros. When one points out the complete lack of any evidence of it the debunkers of friendship reply, “Of course, that’s exactly what you’d expect!” Lewis calls shenanigans and likens it to the argument that “If there was an invisible cat in that chair, it would look empty; it looks empty; therefore an invisible cat is sitting there.”

        “…Tough Roman troops all begging for last embraces before the legion is broken up – all pansies? If you can believe that you can fall for anything,” he scoffs.

        He concludes by saying that those who scorn the idea that there is “one that is closer than brother” and “bare is back without friend behind” are really betraying that they have never really had a friend themselves.

        1. That line about the invisible cat is actually one of my favourite passages of all Lewis’s corpus, because it’s such an insight into a certain extremely common mental process: the ability to interpret both evidence and absence of evidence as evidence.

    2. Pursuant to Sarah’s point, 2 out of 3 of those relationships have been subjected to serious debate regarding whether or not they were homosexual. The third is subject to slash fic.


        1. I immediately saw your list as fine examples of the sort of male bonding Sarah discusses, and then stubbed my toe on the popular conjecture surrounding each.

          That’s depressing, for me.

    1. “Moral” is a more common qualifier— I think I know what you mean by disinterested, it’s loving someone without even needing to know them, let alone know them well enough to nurture the other ones, but its sounds like “wouldn’t care to know” rather than “not because you know and care about them.”

      1. I believe the issue is that there is nothing in it for the lover except the good of the beloved — which is to say, the lover’s own interests are not at stack.

    2. I always heard “agape” translated as “charity” — i.e., wishing the best for someone and working for their benefit without necessarily having any personal affection, loyalty or attraction. (This is what many Christian theologians say is meant by the claim “Love your enemies” — it doesn’t mean you have to feel a certain way about them, it means you have to forgive them, do right by them and act to help them when they need help, no matter how much you personally despise them.)

        1. Yeah. The sort of love that, in its truest form, is expressed as “I would allow myself to be publicly and humiliatingly tortured to death for your sake, even though you not only will never give me anything I need in exchange, but you will end up resenting me for it”. 🙂

          But more typically, love which is entirely self-giving, without any anticipation of reciprocal gain. The Latin “caritas” (the origin, of course, of the English “charity”) means essentially the same thing.

          One would suppose that the inability of we ordinary mortals to do very much of this kind of loving on an ongoing basis is why “charity” fell from its lofty perch to something approximating its present meaning rather further back in history than “love” (to say nothing of “friendship”) did.

    1. *Searched madly for the “like” button* Oh my god yes. And it isn’t just gays, either. At least not for me. I have been the surprised recipient of straight male confidences on more than one occasion, and not in a flirtatious or harassing way. More like a buddy. I appear to give off “tell me everything” vibes. *kicks Fate in the shins*

      1. I appear to give off “tell me everything” vibes.

        Oh, lord. I do the same thing. The two of us should not get too close to each other at a con. The information overload would be horrifying.

        1. Your mind to my mind … 😀 Maybe we should tag-team other people at a con? Who do we want to mind-dump first? (and, equally important–who do we under all circumstances avoid? Oh, John Ringo… NO.)

          1. Hehe. 🙂

            I would worry, though. Would mind-dumping remove the memories from the person? It doesn’t normally seem to, but that level might involve leaving an amnesiac…

            1. Y’all too, eh? I used to joke that I don’t talk too much because otherwise all those secrets come out. People stopped complaining about me “ignoring” folks in mixed company real quick.

              I give the “he’s *trustworthy!* vibes, too. “Hey, let’s give this one all the responsibility and make him do all the work, then take all the credit in the end!” *shakes head*

          1. Or simply remark how relieved you are that the DA finally dropped those pesky extortion and blackmail charges.

      2. I think part of it is having been taught HOW to listen politely.

        And folks wonder why people want to be so very obviously Doing Something Else to avoid “casual” conversation…..

  10. And that was the bit that the sexual revolution seized on. Let the love speak its name and all that. Fine and dandy, except that the sexual revolution seems to have robbed us friendship across the board: friendship among people of the same sex; friendship between men and women. All of it was reduced to one type of love, what the Greeks call “eros.”

    Star Trek IV (from memory. It’s been a while).
    Sarek: “I opposed your entry into Star Fleet. That was in error. Your companions are people of good character.”
    Spock: “They are my friends.”

    I’ve got a WIP that’s currently on hold (I’ve got too many projects–take that as bragging or complaining as you will 😉 but since I’m not a particularly fast writer, it’s…frustrating. ) where I have two characters. A “Bounty hunter with morals” and a spy. Events thrust them together (heh. heh. He said “thrust”. Shut up, you). I had thought to eventually make them lovers but the way things developed it looks like they’ll end up being friends instead (as opposed to “in addition”). I think it makes for a much stronger story if they’re not sleeping together, nor even particularly interested in doing so, and still will go to bat for each other, support each other, be willing to die for each other.

    If I do it well, there won’t be a bunch of slash stories on the net.

    Hold onto that dream. 😉

    1. I have a book where people think the two main characters are in a sexual relationship when they’re not. He would never cheat, and she’s just not interested in him. When they end up ‘in bed’ with each other, they’re just sleeping, nothing more.
      I did it for both humor reasons (sometimes I have a strange sense of humor) and to show that the characters had different motivations and different ethics. That to them friendship and sex were two different things, and that the hero was definitely not the kind of guy to ‘fool around’.

  11. A good example of this is the way in which many fans perceive every freaking friendship in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic as a lesbian love affair. Since the show largely centers on a group of six close female friends, and specifically on their friendship, this leads to a lot of logically-unsupported lesbian love in fanfiction.

    1. I don’t think there’s actually that many, they’re just so freaking OBNOXIOUS that it seems like it.

      (How obnoxious? It’s not unheard of for some of them to throw fits at those who disagree about just seeing what they want to see.)

      1. Well, there are that many fanfics. There are people out there who literally cannot write a general-interest fanfic; they feel like they have to throw in every single character having a same-sex relationship or three. Stupid even on a basic artistic level.

        The sad thing is that there’s a lot to be said for mares in a herd, or a bachelor herd of young stallions, as explication of life as a teenager or younger adult in this society.

        Especially when women go to the bathroom together.

    2. Then there’s the Touhou fandom. Oh ye little gods and fishes, the Touhou fandom…

      A bit of background for those who’ve never heard of Touhou. It’s a series of extremely difficult “top-down shooter” games (the kind that derives from Space Invaders, where you’re controlling a plane or spaceship or something at the bottom of the screen, and enemies fly down from the top of the screen shooting at you while you shoot back) made by one single guy in Japan. Music, art, programming, he does everything. But in the Touhou series, rather than planes or spaceships shooting at each other, you’re controlling a magical girl engaging in magic duels with other magical girls (or with various youma, monsters from Japanese folklore, all of whom are represented as girls, because the game’s author would rather draw humans than monsters). The game itself stays entirely PG as far as I know, but there’s a MOUNTAIN of fan art for it. Partly because of the game’s quirky sense of humor and its unique and memorable characters, and partly due to the very unique and distinctive outfits its various characters have (all of which are PG in the original game, but fan art ranges all the way from G to Rule 34).

      But when you take a game series like that, which had lots of friendships between various cast members but no shipping, and throw open the doors of fan works? My stars and garters, shipping galore. Nearly all of which, since the entire series has an all-female cast (with just a single exception, as far as I know, and he’s a very minor character), is lesbian shipping.

      Now, there are lots of Touhou fan works that I’ve come across that I’ve liked very much, and in many of those the shipping is kept to a bare minimum. But, well, I already referenced Rule 34 for a reason. Some of the shipping pairings have become almost canon in fan works, as a matter of fact. (Though some fan works choose to take those fanon pairings more in a “friendship” direction, thankfully.)

      And yet, the game and its series have inspired so many awesome works of good art, and so much awesome music, that I find I’m glad that Touhou fandom exists. Even if much of it is awful, I can ignore the bad and pick out the good — and some of it is really good.

      1. I’ve heard there are three canon male characters. The guy that sells stuff. One of the monster girls has a cloud man. Then there may be Reimu’s turtle, and I want to say the caterpiller? boy, Wriggle. So maybe some of my facts are wrong, or outdated. (Wriggle is a firefly girl, per a wiki.)

        To give an idea of relative numbers, I think there are at least a dozen games, tending to introduce a minimum of nine or ten a game. Wiki’s suggest 130 or 160 characters.

        1. The guy that sells stuff is the one I was thinking about, I didn’t know about the cloud man, Reimu’s turtle hasn’t been seen in any games since 1998*, and Wriggle is a girl. And I just looked it up: the turtle and the cloud man are never depicted in human form (the turtle is a turtle, and the cloud man is a cloud), that still leaves precisely one male among all the human-looking characters. (Not that that would stop SOME fans, but…) And I believe you’re correct and there are over a hundred characters in the series.

          * And the games he appeared in don’t run on modern Windows computers, require an emulator to run at all, and are very hard to get a copy of.

  12. The word, or a related word, might be comradery in the brothers-in-arms sense. However, communist usage has significantly debased this word. When comrade is a universal prefix for every title, it loses much of its meaning.

    There’s a Japanese word, I want to say spelled Nekama, meaning something similar but apparently not so debased. I’ve mainly seen it in the comrades in arms sense.

    I guess the test as to whether these work would be for someone who can make the distinctions you can to read a bunch of Shonen Jump and see how things compare.

    I’ve heard that the male friendship form with someone you’ve fought against of convention has basis in reality. I can believe, as someone with normal senses might learn stuff quickly from that years parsing words and observing would teach. What are they willing to do in a fight, what are they willing to fight for, how able are they?

    I read the first chunk of Cicero’s On Friendship, and thought it impressive. Then I learned more about Cicero and his times, and found it less impressive.

    1. Nakama

      My impression is that nakama don’t have to like, or even trust, each other very much, but somehow they end up hanging out together and always have each others’ backs in a crisis.

      1. Thanks. I had a feeling I was misspelling things, and confused with something else.

      2. Sounds like what Berg said in Ringo and Taylor’s “Vorpal Blade”

        “Not much to say,” Berg shouted, then took a suck off a bulb of Gatorade. “We took a lot of losses. Most of the people I’d gotten close to in the unit, among others. Too many good people.”
        “They were your friends,” Mimi said.
        “No, actually,” Berg said. “They were my buddies. I hated more than half of them. But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t rather have died than them. That’s what being a buddy means in the military.”

      3. Best illustration of nakama that I’ve seen comes from Firefly:

        Simon: Captain, why did you come back for us?
        Mal: You’re on my crew.
        Simon: Yeah, but you don’t even like me. Why’d you come back?
        Mal: You’re on my crew. Why are we still talking about this?

  13. “If I do it well, there won’t be a bunch of slash stories on the net.”
    Rule 34. Sorry, thems the brakes.

  14. I think a lot of this goes back to the feminization of our society and our schools. You said it best when you said that women don’t have friendships like men do. Therefore it doesn’t exist, because everything needs to be put in the female perspective, and because men are no different than women (and when they are, they’re inferior), male friendship must be either forgotten or mocked.

    You’ll notice that many ‘male’ institutions have been mocked, legislated against, or otherwise destroyed. While ‘female’ institutions are legally upheld. About the only place a guy can go and be a guy with other men is the military, and they’ve been after that one for decades now.

    1. Yes. And the “odds” that Sarah so identifies with are in a similar boat. These meddling noodges have stormed every refuge of those who simply want to enjoy what they love without tiresome PC preachifying.

      Heck, I could go on at length, but I think at this point that a post-length comment would be better-served turning into an actual post. So off I go to write it.

  15. The ancient tale of Enkidu and Gilgamesh… concept has been around for a while.

    Maybe the SJWs are trying to remove that concept of true friendship. Can’t be a good collective if people have the wrong, non-government-issued priorities, eh? But *we* can write about it, and change the conversation. The buddy movie, like Lethal Weapon. “I have a wife and family. They just happen to be yours.” And we all know how the darlings have to sexualize EVERYTHING. yawn.

  16. It’s interesting to me that we’ve seen a bit if a resurgence in the emphasis on that kind of friendship in movies lately… The Sherlock movies, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, The Expendables, etc etc. Even just in my personal observations, it seems that those kinds of friendships are becoming more common and called than they were a decade ago. But my generation is incredibly contradictory that way; most of our relationships are very shallow, but others very deep.

  17. I’ve heard it said that in 19th Century Britain, the fact that male friends would often go on calling each other by their last names created a distancing that allowed expressions of tenderness that would otherwise be uncomfortable: “Ah, my dear Dennings…”

    1. Doubt it. Sounds like it makes sense, but ignores history. You were (and still are) called by your family name in Europe because valuing the individual over family is still spotty. In the theoretical and voting sense, they try, but in every other sense, you’re still mostly your “tribe” and extended family. So in public functions (even in friendship) outside the family, you’re still mostly the family. This type of male friendship is an alliance as much as a marriage is. It’s “this family and this family will look out for each other” as much as the individuals are bonded — or through the individuals that are bonded. The mark of this is when a woman becomes a “last name.”
      Because individual women’s value was the more straight forward alliance and childbearing, most women, even in the public sphere are called by their first name. Even in offices. You have Almeida and Campos but Maria and Joana in a work group. The difference is when a woman has proved herself equal to the men and she suddenly becomes a last name.
      This is why I feel unbearably pleased when my publisher or even my fans say “Ringo, Correia, Hoyt” and not “Ringo Correia and Sarah” or even “Sarah Hoyt.” I know it doesn’t mean the same in the US, but my early training makes me all happy. “I’ve proven myself the equal of the guys.”
      The relationship between that and endearments might exist, but inverted. It is possible to say “My dear so and so” because you’re expressing it to the tribe as it were. “My dear valued member of the Dennings family with whom I have a particular bond.” BUT that is not why they keep using the last names.

      1. Funny. I grew up in the time that teachers were Mr./Miss/Mrs. Lastname including college teachers.

        I had internal problems (ie I felt I should use their last names) when bosses/supervisors (and college professors) insisted on being called by their first names.

        When I started on the Bar, I felt that I should call somebody like John Ringo “Mr. Ringo” instead of John (as he preferred).

        Yet, as Sarah pointed out, I found it easier to use Sarah’s first name.

        On the other hand, when I’m seriously annoyed at somebody on the Bar, I start calling the person Mr./Ms Lastname (when I know it). [Grin]

        People can be strange. [Smile]

        1. Yeah, there’s definitely still a trend of Lastnames are for men here in Australia. I’m also more comfortable with referring to you as Sarah than addressing Larry Correia or John Ringo by their first name. And the switch to just a last name has a element of respect, or at least recognition of fame, since well known authors are generally referred to only by their last name: Milton, Lewis, Tolkien, etc.*

          I also know that the married couples I can think of I generally think of as:
          John & Jane Smith,
          John Smith or John if I know them closely, and they are close to my age,
          or just Jane.

          Also there is a bit of men using other men’s last names (or a variant of them) as an affectionate nickname, though I have seen this once or twice women as well when multiple women in the same group share the same first name.

          Part of this may be a consequence of women changing their last names when they marry, so it’s seen as less her “real name”, and more an identification of who she is currently related to.

          * Interestingly the open-source/IT geek community has the opposite rule: you know if someone is referred to by their first name online, or a three letter acronym for their full name, they are relatively well known and regarded by the community, or at least the part of it where the discussion is happening.

          1. In one of her letters, Dorothy L. Sayers explains to a correspondent that no, certainly “Sayers” is not an insult, it’s one of the highest marks of respect a living author can get.

            I once correctly deduced which order two C. S. Lewis essays were written because the first one referred to “Mr. Chesterton,” and the second to “Chesterton.”

            1. I know people think I object to being addressed as “Hoyt” — I don’t. I object to being address in comments on this blog, by total unknowns, as “Hoyt!” because they’re neither my sergeant nor my teacher.

              1. It’s an unearned intimacy– can be an attempt to manipulate, or just rude. (Manipulation by implying that they ARE either intimate, or–since they’re NOT– that they have authority over you.)

                Like when I get cold callers greeting me by my first name, after mangling my last.

                “Mrs (manglmangle)?”
                “(Firstname)! We have a great opportunity-”


                Hm, now I’m thinking that schools might be helped greatly by having students and teachers use honorifics. “Miss Smith!” “Yes,” Checks the name plate. “-Ms. Jones?”

                There’s no lack of teachers who don’t respect their students, so even the polite ones have trouble not returning that…..

                1. In my school (yeah, I’m a few years older than you), many of the teachers DID address the students (once we hit middle school, anyway) as “Mr” or “Ms” (LastName)

                  1. When I was in grade school I was happy if I didn’t get called my my aunt’s name, or my mom’s.

                    When we moved, I had a whole year or two before all the teachers started calling me by my younger sister’s name…..

                    *sigh* One of the best things about the Navy was the name tags.

                    1. Yep. Never had problems like that. Not only were there no relatives of mine in the school (or having recently been), I simply do not look anything like anyone I grew up near.

                    2. Don’t I know it – having the worlds’ worst memory for people’s names.! (Yes, I can remember faces, and things they have told me and things I remember about them, but never names!) In the military – a squint at the name-tag and recognizing the rank! Why, yes, Lt. So-and-so, happy to see you Sgt. This-and-such, Airman Whoozis, can you tell me …
                      It was one of the things I missed on retirement. The name-tag cheat-sheet.

                    3. All the important stuff– this guy has a nice wife, this guy is going through a nasty divorce, that lady you shouldn’t mention kids around because she’s got two little ones at her mom’s and it hurts, that one will not talk about anything family because he misses his….

                      But not names. Aaargh!

                    4. Me, at cons. Do you know how hard it is to see someone barreling towards me, and his name tag is UPSIDE DOWN? And they have a grin and are going, “Sarah, you know what we talked about at Fencon three years ago?” ARGH.

        2. On the other hand, when I’m seriously annoyed at somebody on the Bar, I start calling the person Mr./Ms Lastname (when I know it). [Grin]

          You’re polite to enemies; friends, you can be a bit rude with. (And knowing what to be rude on is part of the friendship.)

      2. I recall reading a book on canoeing where the author called his co-canoeist by his first name because they did not know each other well enough to use last names. (this was a non-fiction book.)

      3. That’s interesting, never really thought about that. As I have told, I did spend close to a decade in a group that was mostly male back at that time, and most of the guys did call each other by just their last names. And I got often enough called just by my last name also that I got used to it, to the point where I have ever since had the tendency to introduce myself just by my family name, and perhaps add my first name as an afterthought. The “Bond. James Bond” style, except I go a bit more often something like “Bond. Jane.”

        1. I’ve never LOOKED for it, but I do know that I recognized the teacher that called me “(lastname) the elder” while my sister was “(firstname)” was… argh, not right words, a sort of recognition of will to use abilities thing? Like a salute.

    2. IIRC, German has / had that convention, in that the singular “you” du was restricted to friends.

      1. Still does, although some confused souls are trying to eliminate the formal Sie and use du for everything. Traditionally, “du” should only be for: close family, small children, fellow-students, lover/spouse, good friends, and others who have given you permission to “duzen” them. The older/higher-ranked person offers the privilege to the younger/ lower-ranked.

    3. Spent most of my first SSBN deterrent patrol on watch with the same person. By the end of the run, knew just about everything about him, his wife, his family, his dog…

      And on the pier on return, we met our respective wives, and we each told them a bit about the other. And after a few minutes my wife interrupted. “What’s his first name?” She got a blank look from me, so I turned and asked, “Hey, Z, what’s your first name?” He gave it, and then his wife asked- “What’s his first name?” Process was repeated. They were both taken aback that we could know so much about each other, but know the other’s first name. OTOH, we both thought it perfectly normal to talk with shipmates and NEVER learn their first names.

    1. Finnish has a few more words for snow than English does now, where you need two or sometimes more words to describe something we may have only one (although Finnish being the way it is, that can also mean two words, or sometimes more, combined into something that mostly just looks like one long word, our language is big on that). There have been more snow words before, but several have fallen out of use now when they are no longer needed the way they once were. Not even close to hundred, though, not even way back when.

  18. Re Orange. I’m told by a friend who lived >20 years in Mexico City that much of the spectrum that Americans call Orange is called Red by Mexicans. Who decides where that line is, anyway?

    1. Some people claim that as culture evolves, the spectrum is divided more narrowly as far as color names are concerned. I can’t find the specific article about it that one of my coworkers showed me, but if you search for “color language culture”, there are plenty of articles to choose from.

      1. “Primary color terms.”

        One language has only two. Others have 13, 14, 15.

        Interestingly enough, there’s a distinct pattern to it. The two are “black (dark)” and “white (light)”. If there’s only one more, it’s red.

    2. Japanese has a word for “Green” (“midori”) but it seems to be a recent addition to the language. They use the word for blue (“aoi”) in many cases where we would use green (traffic lights, for instance) they use “blue”. Even in English my wife will often refer to the traffic signal for “go” as “blue.”

      On a side note, Japanese sounds. The stereotypical Japanese accent swaps the “l” and “r” sound. That’s because Japanese doesn’t have either the “l” or the “r” sound, but rather a sound that’s more or less midway between them (made farther back in the mouth than “l” but not so far as “r”). So English speakers hear the Japanese sound stuck into an English word and hear it as the other sound. Japanese speakers, OTOH, have difficulty hearing the difference between “l” and “r”. After living in the US 17 years my wife still misses it quite frequently.

        1. How common is blue-green color blindness? My father had it. And all types are more common in men, right? I have also known one guy who said he had the total color blindness version, that he could, for example, tell traffic lights only by their position (and occasionally had problems remembering whether the top or the bottom light meant “go”).

          1. The Irish had a buttload of indigenous color words (useful in poetry, donchaknow!) but the extremely common color word “glas” could mean anything along the spectrum from green to greenish-gray to gray. (There was also a word that could mean yellow or green, but it’s not a common color word.)

            1. My first response was: Well, of COURSE, I know that color, with an impression of “fog on an alfalfa field at false-dawn.” It’s other places, too, but that embodies it for me and is nicer than rotting vegetation or faintly mossing rocks– and I can’t draw a line between that and green or gray on either end until it’s gone, too.

              Oddly enough, just this morning when dad asked me hour our weather had been, I told them that I understood why my ancestors had left Scotland and Ireland. Gads, the fog and sog gets in….

      1. Korean also seems to have a consonant midway between “L” and “R”, which one it’s closer too seems to be dependent on the speaker (I only know a few native Korean speakers well enough to try things out, language-wise). Then there’s the oscillation between “N” and “D”, which seems more dialect related, also “M” and “B”. I’m just starting to get a handle on (usually English) loan words that would be written using romanji in Japanese (reading JAL company publications back when I worked for them), written in Hangul.

      2. I was thinking of mentioning that factoid as I was reading through the comments, but you beat me to it. (frigging second shift).

        IIRC, it was DaVinci who proposed splitting the spectrum into the seven colors we use today.

        1. Newton. Discovery that white light was made up of mixed colors that could be split with prisms (which was known but some thought that the prism somehow “dyed” the light) and recombined.

              1. Probably not. But as far as I know, they’ve never actually tried (and spectacularly failed at) that, the way they have at running a brothel. 🙂

                1. I seem to remember hearing that the story of the feds running a brothel (and failing) is an urban legend. IE they never even tried to run a brothel. On the other hand, why try to ruin a good story. [Wink]

                  1. For those wondering:

                    Analysis: While the intent of this missive is humorous and it makes a worthy point — namely that mixing government and business can create more problems than it solves — it rests on a major factual error. Contrary to what is claimed, the federal government did not attempt to operate Mustang Ranch after it was seized in a bankruptcy proceeding in September 1990.

                    It’s true that the feds had planned on keeping the business going until the brothel could be sold at auction (a scheme that became the butt of numerous jokes on late-night TV), but a U.S. judge refused to allow the bankruptcy trustee to assume the Ranch’s business license. Instead, the IRS foreclosed on the property and auctioned it off a few months later.

                    Various sources persist in claiming that the IRS itself ran the brothel in the interim, though the available evidence suggests otherwise. Just two weeks after the government took possession of Mustang Ranch, county commissioners banned prostitution there, saying they were tired of the “circus” surrounding the case. The ban remained in place until the business reopened in December 1990 under “new” ownership (unbeknownst to officials at the time, the original owner, Joe Conforte, had repurchased the Ranch under an assumed name).


        1. I’ve used the FS colors more, than the pantone colors… largely because i needed to match colors of a piece of military hardware. Of course, recently I had to look up Ducks Egg Blue…

    3. Can’t really help, but my daughter and I have a running debate as to where green stops and blue starts.

      1. To be fare, the strontium in road flares tends towards the red spectrum… But that’s not what most people mean when they say “fire is red.”

  19. I give you Aubrey/Maturin. I still retain a closeness to friends I met in the Navy I have with no other man and which our wives don’t really understand.
    Regarding the old “Ashore it’s wine, women and song; aboard it’s rum, bum and bacca” I can tell you that the the first part is true enough, but, at least in the US Navy, not the latter.

    1. Churchill, asked if he had actually said of the Royal Navy: ““Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. It’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.””,
      responded: “I never said it. I wish I had.”

  20. An earlier wife thought that my buddy and I were gay because of our obvious (and physical) affection for each other – we were close friends in the European sense, not the American one which is more frat-bro stuff (and which I loathe). It didn’t help that he’s a scrawny little guy who’s always primping and obsessed with his clothes and appearance, and I’m the complete antithesis thereof.

    How close were we? We’ve shared girlfriends on occasion (consecutively,not simultaneously), with no hard feelings involved.

    Of course, our physical attraction usually involved pain: punching, smacking, pulling hairs from the other’s leg (and doing an “odds/even” bet), but I cannot tell how many bar fights and failed relationships we survived because we always had each other’s back. (I once rescued him from a wife who’d thrown him out of her house in New Hampshire, and drove him to Texas so he could pick up the pieces and start again. I lived in Chicago at the time.)

    Anyway, the wife is now an ex-wife, and after thirty years Trevor’s still my closest friend, which says something. One reason we’ve survived that long is that we excuse each other’s failings almost unconditionally, and we’ve never, repeat NEVER attempted to analyze our friendship (something most women cannot resist, usually with dire consequences).

    I think most women don’t understand the closeness of a heterosexual male friendship, because that same intimacy between a woman and a man would infallibly include sex. It doesn’t.

    The problem is that along with so many other instances, we’ve allowed the language to become sexualized. “Intimate” now means “sexual”, “close” means “sexual” and so on. It also reveals a paucity of wit when one cannot understand that the same word (e.g. “intimacy”) has two different meanings: in a male/female relationship, “intimacy” would include sex; but in a close (heterosexual) male/male friendship, it cannot.

    Language has not evolved and become more complex since the 19th century, it has become more simplistic and dare I say brutalized (another word, like vulgar, which no longer means what it used to mean).

    [20,000-word rant about modern language deleted for the sake of brevity]

    Given all that, it’s hardly surprising that with a simplistic language, we are nowadays unable to ascertain nuances in human relationships without resorting to tiresome and unnecessary exposition.

    Sometimes I miss blogging.

    1. The special irony here is that this has happened just as the taboos have fallen. In the old days, if one wished to communicate that there was a romantic liaison, or the desire for one, between two persons of the same sex, it would have been necessary to allude to it indirectly with adjectives like “close” or “intimate”. Now, if two people are bumping genitals, or one of them would like to be, there’s no public stigma against just coming out and directly saying it.

      And yet still, they’ve felt the need to steal parts of our language for their exclusive use anyway.

      (It’s fair to say that the rest of us probably miss having you blogging both more intensely and more frequently than you miss it yourself, BTW.)

  21. I don’t know how much of it is from what, but my family sees real friends as relatives you get to choose.

    This really confuses the folks who have no sense of duty-to-and-from-family.

  22. NO, NO we are under attack
    [quote]In the catacombs deep beneath Oberlin College, a new threat to Christmas arises. An artifact of incredible power, capable of altering the very fabric of reality, has been forged. Made from the tears of a hundred Tumblr feeds, the flannel of a thousand lumbersexuals, the wood pulp of a million unsold Lena Dunham books, and baptized in oil rendered from the blubber of Chris Matthew’s tingly thighs, the Social Justice Noun was born.[/quote]

     Attack of the Social Justice Noun

  23. What it keeps coming back to is that for most of the Liberal Establishment the only satisfactions they have in life are sex and power. They have fetishized food to the point that I simply don’t believe they enjoy it anymore. And they never acquired the skills to MAKE anything, so they will never have that satisfaction. The don’t cooperate to do things, they match egos and moral superiorities, and then do what the winner tells them (while they seethe). The higher-ups are too busy writing their autobiographies in their heads to enjoy the present.

    But they mistake almost any attraction for sex because they can’t imagine what you would GET out of another relationship.

    1. “What it keeps coming back to is that for most of the Liberal Establishment the only satisfactions they have in life are sex and power. ”

      And the reason they classify sex as rape is that rape is more about power than sex.

      1. And the reason they classify sex as rape is that rape is more about power than sex.

        I hope you’re being tongue-in-cheek, or quoting a line that you don’t actually believe, because the “rape is more about power than sex” idea is complete BS. The feminist movement has gotten lots of people to buy into it by shouting it over and over, but that doesn’t make it true. All you have to do is make sure your common-sense switch is set to the ON position, then think about that line for two seconds, to realize how full of baloney that line is.

        That’s not to say that some evil b*stards haven’t used rape as a tool of policy. Like Saddam Hussein’s utterly evil sons, for example, or various other political and/or military leaders throughout history who used the threat of sacking a town (with all the rape and looting that would go on in the process) to get the town to surrender without a fight. But for the guys actually doing the raping? While I can’t speak from personal experience, I guaran-damn-tee you that their minds were on only one thing at the time, and it wasn’t power.

        1. I think it’s more complicated than that, but not by much.
          It’s about power–and sex. If it was just about expressing power, you’d hear a lot more stories of guys holding pistols to women’s heads and making them beg to perform all matter of humiliating and degrading acts in exchange for not shooting them, then turning around and laughing while walking away. (Or even women doing this to men.)
          If it was just about getting laid and not being able to get any by wit or charm, hookers would do a lot more business.

        2. Look at how they relate to normal, voluntary sex. Watch how they actually treat women in their movements, how quick they are to use lack-of-sex as an indication that a man is obviously lesser.

          Rape is about the rapist getting what they want, and to heck with the other.

          That kind of “power.”

          One of the biggest weaknesses in their “do it if it feels good” thing is that sex isn’t a self-centered sort of thing, normal people feel something for the other person.

          There’s going to be variations in how obvious the “do something you don’t want” needs to be– example, those who are really impressed with themselves if they can lie a virgin into bed and then dump her.

          1. Rape is about the rapist getting what they want, and to heck with the other. That kind of “power.”

            I think you’ve nailed it… and that also explains why I keep on having a disagreement I can’t express with where feminists continue to take that argument. Because they say “rape is about power”, and while it’s true that it springs from the personal power of the rapist (who wants what he wants, and to heck with anyone else’s feelings), they then make the next step of their argument as if they’d just proven that rape was about political power (and usually talk about “rape culture” in order to provide “evidence” for that point). And you just made me figure out why I’ve had an instinctive “no, that’s wrong” reaction to that argument, which I couldn’t put into logical words until now. It’s because that’s equivocation: using “power” in one step to talk about personal power (the power to take what one wants, regardless of others’ feelings) and in the very next step to talk about political power (the power to oppress large groups of people). It’s equivocation, and it’s a false argument.

            So I do have to agree that there is some element of power involved in rape. However, I still maintain that the “it’s not about sex” part is completely bogus. The rapist’s own sexual pleasure is his goal, and personal power is just his tool to get what he wants. If power over others was his goal, then as 60guilders pointed out, you’d see a lot more “do this humiliating act so I can luxuriate in how much power I hold over you”. Which I’m sure happens occasionally — but in every real rape case I’ve read about, the acts that the rapist forced were acts that gave him sexual pleasure, rather than acts that would extract maximum humiliation from his victim — and after he’d gotten the sexual pleasure he wanted, that was it, he was done. (Or, in the small number of cases of female rapists I know about, “she” was done.)

            1. Pleasure, period. It’s just usually sexual because, well, we’re grouping it by sex-crime…..

              I have heard of rapists that aimed to humiliate their victims– but it’s just whatever gives them pleasure.

            2. I suspect that there’s a spectrum running all the way from the narcissists who just want sex and convince themselves she didn’t really mean it the “no,” to the sadists who just want the power and use sex to assert their power most conclusively.

              And a lot in the middle.

              1. oh, it’s not just that, Mary, though you’re on the right path. I once read a thing that said most rapists think the woman will fall in love with them if they rape her. So, yeah, narcissists.

        3. Well, there is one level on which rape is very much about power: it’s the power to monopolize the decision about whether sex happens or not. One of Spider Robinson’s characters, from the “Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon” series, once uttered this quote which I strongly suspect Robinson could not get away with writing at all these days, but which has always stuck with me:

          “Darling, all men think about rape, at least once in their lives. Women have an inexhaustible supply of something we’ve got to have, more precious to us than heroin… and most of you rank the business as pleasant enough, but significantly less important than food, shopping or talking about feelings. Or you go to great lengths to seem like you do—because that’s your correct biological strategy. But some of you charge all the market will bear, in one coin or another, and all of you award the prize, when you do, for what seem to us like arbitrary and baffling reasons. Our single most urgent need—and the best we can hope for—is to get lucky. We’re all descended from two million years of rapists, every race and tribe of us, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t sometimes fantasize about just knocking you down and taking it. The truly astonishing thing is how seldom we do. I can only speculate that most of us must love you a lot.”

          As an analysis of male-female dynamics this is not without its flaws (and it must certainly be noted that this is only one character’s contention, not necessarily Robinson’s own opinion), but it does capture, I think, one very real element of it, which is the frustration of your typical trying-to-be-civilized guy upon realizing that something he wants very much is not only entirely in the hands of someone else to grant or refuse, but that no consistent or sometimes even comprehensible procedure exists to earn the desired decision; a feeling, in other words, of powerlessness, which fatally skews one into seeing the whole relationship in terms of power dynamics from the get-go.

            1. I think I’ve read that before, but I will reread to refresh my memory because it looks interesting. (Also in gratitude for you not pointing out that my point had already been more succintly made by others.)

          1. It’s an impressive bit of poetically evocative speech, very persuasive writing, and I’ve got to put it away somewhere for when my girls are a bit older, as an example of “if a guy starts talking like this, run like hell. Preferably without turning your back to him before you’re able to shut a door between you.”

            The person who can say that is either a manipulative liar or has got serious issues when it comes to sex. Or maybe needs to be strangled long enough to get some sense of perspective about what their “single most urgent need” actually is….

            It utterly devalues any cost on the part of the other half, simultaneously reduces the woman to an interchangeable sex-widget and tries to shame her for asking too much for the supposedly infinitely available resource

            It flatly lies to exaggerate the importance of sex to men and how common it is in an “everybody does it” appeal, ignoring the fact that not all men are mindless slaves to their hormones and, while it’s insanely improbable that anyone does not have a rapist in their ancestry, we’re also lacking a single person without ancestors who weren’t (unprintable).

            I can only speculate that the character is so freaking short-sighted that he didn’t realize he has to sleep some time, and no matter how big and bad you are, a big enough pack of pissed off women WILL take you down and make you wish you’d never lived, even if they have to wait until you are old…..

            The scary thing is? Even after ripping it apart, it’s still a powerful chunk of text.

            1. The point nevertheless bears making…sexual restraint is not part of men’s nature. It is, rather, a socially-conditioned artifact of civilization. And when the conditions that foster such civilized social conditioning systematically break down, sexual self-restraint tends to break down with them.

              It happens that I’m not one of those people who thinks “natural” is universally synonymous with “good”…and this is a big part of the reason for that.

              In the Western world at least, you’re not going to find men who don’t _know_ that rape is wrong. The ones to really worry about are the ones who don’t _care_. (And, of course, the sadists and misanthropes who actually like it better that way.)

              But the fact is…we don’t restrain ourselves because we want to…we do it because to do otherwise is wrong. (Or at least because our high empathy and low time preference enable us to perceive the value of the social contract and live by it.)

              “We must love you a lot” would be a better shortcut for saying that, if the word “love” hadn’t been diluted beyond the point of meaninglessness, in common use. But then, cads have been using it to really mean “I want to use your body for my pleasure” for a long time now, so Mr. Robinson (who not only knows what the word is really supposed to mean, but does mean it that way when he uses it) ought to have anticipated that quoting this speech out of context would cause wild misinterpretations.

              1. “We must love you a lot” would be a better shortcut for saying that, if the word “love” hadn’t been diluted beyond the point of meaninglessness, in common use.

                “I recognize that if I do that and do not kill you immediately, you will kill me or worse” is not love. It’s being able to see further than the end of your dick.
                (Pardon the obscenity, but it is apt in this instance.)

                Likewise, no meaning of “love” excuses the multiple falsehoods.

                It works as a way of conveying the gut-level essence of physical desire… which is exactly why I would tell any woman– any being!– to run like hell from someone “explaining” such a thing, because it portrays that feeling as truth, and none of the options for explaining it are pretty.

                Treating it as objectively factual is a rather good distillation of the issues the current left has with pretty much any human relationship– it’s infantile. Their desires are all-encompassing, while the effect on anyone else is worth no notice, just like an infant that hasn’t figure out they’re a separate person yet. (Even my yearling understands that his sisters might like a cookie, and will seek the girls out to share them when he steals some.)

                Reality would ask: “Alright. It’s an infinite supply. Only some ask what you consider an unreasonable price, have demands you don’t like, and so on. So go get your jollies with someone who doesn’t.

                1. “I recognize that if I do that and do not kill you immediately, you will kill me or worse”

                  If you look at the prevailing social norms in places where sexual self-restraint either has collapsed due to modern-onset barbarism or never emerged at all…this is not the case.

                  “None of the options for explaining it are pretty”…well, no. They’re not. But “pretty” isn’t on the list of requirements. I’m not going to say that feeling is “truth” in some sort of transcendent sense that might be confused with arguing that it’s good…but it is _real_. It exists. It is, in fact, the norm. To the extent that we live in a relatively safe society, it’s simply because we have — both collectively and in the overwhelming majority of cases individually as well — chosen to refrain from _acting_ on it.

                  1. If you look at the prevailing social norms in places where sexual self-restraint either has collapsed due to modern-onset barbarism or never emerged at all…this is not the case.

                    If you look at the chosen targets in places where self-restraint is not practiced, they choose targets that are prevented from protecting themselves. IE, the refugee camps where everyone is disarmed, or those sick environments where only the victim is punished. (In the very slightly less sick, both victim and attacker are killed, and so the targets are women whose enforcers cannot reach you.)

                    But “pretty” isn’t on the list of requirements.

                    From this and the rest, I don’t think you’re understanding what I’m saying at all, and I’m tired of explaining it.

              2. Contrast western civilized restraint against middle eastern “Civilization” and the Imam who talked about how blameless a man would be for raping an immodestly dressed woman (The “Uncovered meat” speech)

              3. Love and Lust

                I feel that all to often we as a society confuse or don’t understand the difference between love and lust for reasons that I won’t get into right now.

                To me lust is all about the ‘I’. I want this thing, or I want to be with this person. It can be possessive and worrying only about how we feel in the moment. This is when it is taken to the extreme, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing as we do need some desire to want to be together.

                If lust is all about the ‘I’, what is loves focus ?

                To me love is all about ‘them.’ It’s about the ability to take the ‘I’ out of the equation and being able to ask what is best for that person you purport to care about. It’s about being honest with yourself, and respecting them enough to care what is best for them. Respecting their wishes even if it’s not what you want.

                There also needs to be a love of self and the ability to recognize that the object of our desire is not always the best thing for us.

                In any healthy relationship there needs to be a balance between love and lust. Love is not lust and lust is not love.

              1. *sigh* Yeah, and I give credit for that… but it makes the damage they do not a bit less at all.

                That the biggest harms done to me were by people who didn’t know what harm they were doing helps a bit, but not much.

                They’re not bad people, but…..

    2. nd they never acquired the skills to MAKE anything,

      That’s not fair, they know how to make various coffee drinks, sandwiches and salads.

          1. With accurate spelling. This is key, so your protesters look like idiots aaaaaall on their own.

            Otherwise, everyone who sees your “I haev a DERAM” sign will point and laugh. Yes, I really saw that once, used all unironic. ‘Twas rather disturbing, too.

              1. Market them to be sold by the same people who sell the Che shirts, and you’re golden. Ironic, but golden.

          2. Are you taking orders yet? I’d like “Down with North Korea” and “Death to Kim-Jung-Un” signs to go protest outside the local theaters. 🙂

            1. I’ve bought some supplies recently, in preparation for making my services available. If I had serious inquiries, I could probably turn something around in a week (not quite ready for prime time yet).

  24. Huh. Never heard it described that way, and it’s not how I use the word “friendship,” but it’s an interesting take. There’s a twist to it as well. I’ll see if I can’t explain it better, because I’m making a hash of this.

    Friendship between guys is, at the no-bull-rock-bottom-foundation, how much you trust the other guy. Call it my brother from another mother, say. Or the family members you choose (as I see Foxfier already mentioned *grin*), as opposed to the ones you are stuck with by blood. A friend isn’t something thrown around carelessly. Some dude I just met and seem to get along with (or don’t in any way at all, or anything in between) would be an acquaintance. They might be “this guy I know” or “somebody I work with,” rather than a friend. Don’t know them well enough to trust them, or don’t trust them at all, either way. It’s not damning with faint praise, even if it may sound that way.

    I may have only a handful of friends- you may call them “true friends” if that makes things clearer- but they are worth having. A friend is someone I’d trust my keys or my girlfriend with. Someone I’d call for a ride if mine broke down somewhere beyond the back forty. Someone I’d do the same for, if I had to drop everything and go, I would. A friend is someone whose word you trust above all others save your very closest- your wife, parents, and kids. They are the ones you don’t wonder if they’ll be there when you need them. You just know.

    The hierarchy thing can be very fluid. One of my friends is very, very smart with anything technical, but dummer than a bag of hammers when it comes to women, and that’s saying something that *I* can say that (as I don’t have the best track record there *grin*). Another is a great organizer but couldn’t lead sailors to a brothel. And so on. Recognizing when the other guy has more talent, skill, and/or experience doesn’t mean you’re now the omega in the pack.

    As far as the gay thing goes, y’all do know that guys joke about this all the time, right? Most of the guys I’ve known do, anyway. It’s recognized that “being gay” is a hot-button topic and can be plutonium for the excessively PC crowd. But its yet to cause any angst amongst the folks I choose to associate with. If anything, it makes the joking around funnier that there are people out there that are so very serious about it. It’s also amusing to take it from the other angle- do gay men have to say “While I like and respect this girl, I trust her and love to hang out with her, and I even recognize she’s hotter than a fusion bottle, I’m not straight, so don’t be thinking that ‘cuz I really, really like dick. Really.”? The politically correct world we live in provides endless entertainment to the twisted mind.

    A friend is someone you look out for. Not just because they do the same for you, but because it’s what a friend does. If you want the respect of those whom you respect, you do these things. A friend is someone you’d split your last five bucks with, someone you’d share water with at the tail end of a long trail on a hot day, someone who’d watch your back when needed- things you wouldn’t think to ask from an acquaintance you wouldn’t have to from someone who’d earned that trust.

    I gues what I mean to say is, all of that? When I say “that’s my friend,” I mean pretty much all of that at the same time. That could mean that I’m in the minority. That’s okay, though. Being weird is the new awesome, they tell me. *grin*

      1. And there’s the poem I was trying to remember, in the thick book not ten feet from me (Complete Works of Kipling), and completely failed at it. Still and all, it’s worth the finding now. Thank ye kindly, good lass. *grin*

  25. I’ve come to the sad conclusion that there is no way to write any relationship including blood relatives that someone won’t twist into something sexual.

    1. That there’s a word like “twincest” supports your sad theory.

      Put in the same category as “no matter how awesome a thing is, someone will find SOMETHING to complain about.”

      1. From Summer Knight, by Jim Butcher:

        “[J]et travel is pretty freaking remarkable. You get in a plane; it defies the gravity of the entire planet by exploiting a loophole with air pressure, and it flies across distances that would take months or years to cross by any means of travel that has been significant for more than a century or three. You hurtle above the earth at enough speed to kill you instantly should you bump into something, and you can only breathe because someone built you a really good tin can that seems tight enough to hold in a decent amount of air. Hundreds of millions of man-hours of work and struggle and research, blood, sweat, tears and lives, have gone into the history of air travel, and it has totally revolutionized the face of our planet and societies.

        “But get on any flight in the country, and I absolutely promise you that you will find someone who, in the face of all that incredible achievement, will be willing to complain about the drinks.

        “The drinks, people.

  26. Your standard for comparing between doing it well and doing it badly is defective.

    If the story becomes popular, it will inspire slashfic. Given two or more major characters of the same sex, the amount of slashfic it inspires will be directly proportional to its popularity. Let’s just go ahead and call this “Rule 34-A”.

    If anything, the more clearly you write the friendship as a non-erotic one, the more it will inspire the slashfic writers to ignore your intent and rewrite the characters as bed partners.

    (There is NOTHING erotic in the Trek-canon Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad. Even reading their scenes together with post-sexual-revolution eyes, it just isn’t there. Just three close, male friends, any one of whom would if necessary lay down his life for either of the other two. Let’s not even get into the fact that one of the three stands high among the ranks of the most…let’s say “enthusiastically heterosexual” characters to have emerged from mid-1960s television. Yet they’ve inspired more fanfic genital-bumping than any other same-sex friendship in the history of fiction.)

      1. Bromance is also a term intended to denigrate and devalue.

        Perhaps it stems from a mystery the female of the species (in broad terms) cannot pierce? This, of course, cannot be allowed.

        Or am I feeling cynical?

        1. Unless the female was raised in her earliest years as “the people’s sister” i.e. as the “sibling” of a group of such male friends. When I was ten my brother told me I’d never known friendship like that. He was wrong. I already had it, with my very first school friend. We started by fighting, then became best friends. she married a Frenchman. My mom ran into her at the store (she was visiting her family) and found she was divorced. I don’t have an address for her, and she’s not on facebook. I still miss her everyday. We were friends exactly like that. Which I suppose is why my earstwhile fiance thought we were lesbian lovers, because it was such a weird friendship for women. Her family just processed it by calling us “the twins.”
          Damn it. If my French weren’t all but gone, I’d ping her daughter on FB and demand her mom’s address and phone #. Intend to do it anyway as soon as the block breaks and money is better. I want to bring her over for a visit. I haven’t talked to her in… 12 years, when we lost touch, but I’m sure it would be like we saw each other yesterday.

        2. Uh… the folks doing the term-coining have issues with the bond between mother and child (unless they can use it to stroke a character, and don’t get me started on their concept of family starting with the idea that men HAVE a bond with their children, Unless Useful For Story, and goes through their lack of concept of an actual extended family BEYOND grandma’s kids), with the bond between spouses (do they EVER get that right in stories?) with the bond between friends (unless it’s a method to get them in bed), with the bond between man and God (gad, the junk they bring out of Hollywood). ….

          I’m sure there’s other strong human bonds that I’ve forgotten. They probably screw that up, too.

  27. It exists. Australian mateship. To an Aussie “He’s me mate” says all that needs to be said, with absolutely zero sexual connotation.

  28. Been a long time since I’ve heard anyone use Agape, Eros, Phillia, Storge like that — Think reading C.S. Lewis was the last time (years ago). Good to hear such an analysis and reminder. Your book should be worth reading just because of that ….

  29. Somewhere in here is the Feminist stereotype of “men don’t talk about their emotions”

    No. Men don’t talk about having the emotions that feminists think they should have. They talk, briefly, about emotions that cause Feminists to call it “macho bullshit”, wherupon the men stop talking.

      1. Not so much in the post, but in the penumbra of the discussion. And you are exactly right; the language is different, amd the women who bitch about men not talking about emotions can’t be bothered to learn it. What they MEAN is “men don’t talk about their emotions in the way that Imthink that they should”, formwhich to hell,with them, and the broom the rode in on.

        1. Well, I can’t say I made an effort to learn it. I grew up with guys — my brother, his friends, my dad (mom wasn’t safe to attach to) my two grandfathers, my uncles. My paternal grandmother was my one female influence and she was an introvert who only spoke a lot when telling me (explicitly fantastic and made up) stories.
          Sometimes I think I don’t communicate well with women. I’ve noticed, for instance, that most of my fans tend to be male.

  30. That’s another thing that Regency romance writers today tend to ruin. There were some very famous female friendships back at that time. And yeah, maybe you can argue that some of them were actually lesbians; but not everybody. Certainly things like writing daily notes to your friend didn’t prove that; plenty of people wrote all their friends and relatives every day, just like there are people who do daily emails.

    Of course, with a lot of Regency and Victorian women, there was a tendency to write letters in a very excited and hyperbolic tone, or to put in bits of poetry for fun. Some people can’t get it into their heads that this is no more romantic than a bunch of teenage girls dotting their i’s with little hearts when they pass notes to their female friends (and on their shopping lists, probably).

    1. I’ve read a few Regencies here and there, but I’ve yet to find anyone that has an authentic voice for the period like Georgette Heyer. She’s one of my favorite authors, which is saying a lot because I generally don’t read stuff shelved in the romance section of the bookstore.

          1. Recommended your books to person chance-met at the petstore. No, really. Local artist, we did the recognition dance and she muttered something about “fricking socialists” and then we were suddenly best friends. 😛 She doesn’t read science fiction, but loves historical novels, so I recommended yours 😉 I find it interesting that even at cons finding “ours” used to be difficult. Now I’m meeting them everywhere, and the conversation ALWAYS becomes “everything we were taught is a lie.” Um…

  31. Sarah, you don’t travel in the right circles. In the military the relationship you describe is very much in existence and goes by many names: battle buddy, shipmate to name a couple. We (the fraternal and protective order of them what has been shot at) recognize and understand it, and flip an impudent digit at those who would call it something other than what it is. Take any long service vet, or any combat vet, describe the relationship you are speaking of in even the most general of terms, and WE GET IT. (incidentally cops get it too, that was one of my other gigs over the years) It’s not dead, nor even sick, just not something you’re going to run into people that understand if you don’t travel in the circles I do.

  32. Sorry! Late to the party, and I haven’t read the comments yet. So! Please forgive me if I’m repeating what someone else has already brought up.

    Mentor… Brotherhood… Buddy…






    One of my favorite “Buddy” movies of all time is Tremors.

    One of the reasons men are so lost is because we have lost the tradition of mentorship of teaching the next generation what it means to be a man.

    Sarah, the relationship of your characters in the book is what it is. If those outside of it, the readers in this case, read into it more or less than what is there has no bearing on the quality of the relationship. If we do not understand that us our problem not theirs.

    I say stop worrying it is what it is.


  33. I have a hard time in believing in co-incidences:
    Last night I watch:
    Death Becomes Her
    Tonight I read:
    Let’s Call it Friendship.

    Dang Hoyt, I can’t remember where I parked the car…

  34. If I may, I think the type of friendships you’re talking about will remain prominent in two types of places longer than anywhere else:
    A. environments where death is considered a hazard of the job
    B. environments where the majority of the people aren’t looking for the next hookup

  35. The one that seriously annoys me is Frodo and Sam. Apparently I’m just old enough that I do not see gay relationships in every male friendship and it drives me bonkers that even friends of mine seem to see this in one of my favorite books. It’s erasing an entire dimension of human life.

    On another note entirely, I watched an author interview with you the other day (an old one on YouTube). Apparently I had no idea what a Portuguese accent sounds like. I was expecting it to sound something like a Spanish accent (which to most Americans means Mexican). If I didn’t know where you were from, I would have guessed Russian. No real point to this, just thought you might find it amusing.

    1. Sigh. it’s a Portuguese accent crossed with mid-range deafeness. yes, everyone THINKS it’s Russian or Polish. The outlier guess was Israeli. NO ONE guesses Portuguese.
      For a fun take on this read Kate Paulk’s ConVent series where she tuckerized me as a (reformed) succubus of indeterminate origin.

      1. Yes, when I saw a video of you, I did think you had a sexy Moose-and-Sqvirrel Natasha thing going. 🙂

            1. That’s more a statement about the sad current state of the Hugos. I guess the Hugo is pretty much lost forever, isn’t it.

              1. LOL. I hope this is a future-vision. Just had this glimpse, you know, Hugo gets prized from hands of the glitteries, I win one. I to up to the stage for the ceremony and a multitude of huns shakes up ice-skates in support. 😀

                1. Oohh, I knew keeping my snow-shoes would be a good idea. (Yes, I have a pair of snow shoes in the storage unit. Because they are too good to get rid of, and one never knows . . .)

          1. Ah!

            Do people remember last spring when we were discussing whether to have a post about what Hugo-eligible works we have perpetrated this year? And someone nominated me to remember the discussion when the time was right?

            We probably want to get our ducks in a row by end of December so we can be ready for nomination time. People might even have a chance to read stuff first.

        1. I never thought “Russian”. I thought confusedly “Definitely not Kamchatkan, not Magadan, not nor the more-Moscovite influenced Sahkalinsk… nor Muscovite itself. I don’t don’t know Eastern Europe well enough. Not Czech, that’s for sure.” And then she took pity on me and said “Portugal.”

          …Meanwhile, my Calmer Half looked at me like I was nuts, and said “Of course she’s from Portugal. It’s not a colonial accent.”

          So to someone familiar with Portuguese speaking their own tongue, British English, and Afrikaans along with Colonial French, it sounds within normal range of accents. For someone unfamiliar, it’s hard to place. For someone familiar with the Russian Far East, it’s just plain confusing.

    2. Spanish (as opposed, yes, to Mexican, or for that matter almost anywhere else in Latin America) accents sound Slavic, too, to American ears. I once had a cow-orker about whom I wondered often how he got his name, since it sounded hispanic but his accent was so obviously from somewhere deep in the Warsaw Pact…until I learned that he was born and raised in Madrid. 🙂

      1. Well. That explains my first Spanish teacher, who was from Madrid.

        All the rest were from various parts of South America, and who left me with a German accent to my spoken Spanish.

        And I once initially mistook a group of Brazilian tourists hiking through the same woods where I was taking pictures of bugs and weeds one day as Russians. I think it was mostly the soft sibilantssss, though.

        1. Trip from hell from LC four years ago. Dan and I ended up in Chicago overnight, coming back from Chattanooga. (Picture that.)
          In the elevator of this mega airport hotel, group of guys laughing over fact one reached into his pocket and pulled out a napkin. They were calling him napkin thief. And suddenly I realize they’re speaking Portuguese. I say “Are you Portuguese?” and they jump and huddle on the far wall. Dan said I asked it in a MOST accusatory tone.
          Afterwards he told me I should have followed it up with, “Napkin police. You’re under arrest.”

        1. My first translation boss in the US was Russian. Every once in a while he would speak Russian at me, and when I said “Aleksander, I STILL don’t speak Russian” he’d pat me on the shoulder and say “Yeah, sure. You sound JUST like my grandmother. Portugal! Well, we all said what we had to say to get in, right?”

          1. That it sounds that way to an actual Russian as well is actually an amazingly interesting and potentially useful data point. 🙂

  36. A big YES to this, for both male and female friendships! (Though I forgive fanfic – everyone is allowed their guilty pleasures. :-))

    I’m mulling over what you’re saying about the difference between male and female friendships – and yes, there is a difference, though I think they can be just as close. I think it’s the men Do Things and women Talk in order to get close going on there. Very different dynamics, and different things being shared.

    A guy I knew complained about women picking fights, saying that when men are in conflict, they go out in back and duke it out, and shake hands at the end (my first thought was all the guys I knew who would be beaten to a pulp by that, but I took his meaning). I replied that women have it out with words, and end up hugging, or at least resume after a cooling off period – a good friendship can stand up to a fight, and sometimes we just need some distance (though I have pulled back more than once from friends who began to pick fights continually. It didn’t mean I cared about them any less, I just really hate fighting.)

    1. One more thought – my observation is that men, while better at naturally forming cohesive teams, are a lot more able to be individualists in the group. My dad thinks nothing of beating a friend to a pulp at tennis, and no one’s feelings are hurt. My military friends tell me that basic training is about beating down that teen boy insolence so a really cohesive hierarchical group can be forged.

      Women, on the other hand, tend to form loose groups far more naturally (though a lot less hierarchical ones – hence the “you’re not the boss of me” attitude). But it’s a lot harder for women to buck the group, too. When me and my friends played a game like tennis, we always tried hard not to win by too much (granted, we were all lousy tennis players, and not really into sports anyway).

      But women also keep the tribe together. I’ve yet to see a family where it wasn’t the women who kept all the communication going. The men are interested, but they get things mostly through their wives or other female relatives. My dad has always said that society isn’t geared for single men, but single women seem to make out just fine, with their networks. This might be a generational thing, though, and possibly an American thing.

  37. That guy you knew may have been speaking imprecisely, but I say that, at the core, he was more right than you realize.

    Between guys who are friends, if they have a conflict, they _resolve_ it. Sometimes this takes the form of a fistfight behind a bar…sometimes it takes other forms (which, when speaking notionally in conversation, are often subsumed into the “fistfight behind the bar” metaphor, even if no violence was ever actually on the table)…sometimes one or both parties simply walk away from the friendship, if the difference can’t be reconciled in an acceptable fashion. But they key point is that, whatever the form of the dispute or of the resolution, it is _definitive_. Once the fight is over, the subject is well and truly closed, for good or ill. To even think of reopening it would seem creepy and wrong, while to do so in actuality would bring down universal opprobrium from every other guy in the perpetrator’s social circle.

    Women — even the rare ones who take friendship as seriously as we do — do not seem to subscribe to these norms. Which is a big part of why guys, on observing women’s relationships with other women, tend to wonder how y’all can _stand_ each other.

    1. This was supposed to be a reply to “Laurie at December 18 2014 11:04pm”, although it doesn’t seem to be nested there. Just FYI.

      1. wordpress!

        (It does that kind of stuff. You’re lucky if your comment to explain where it was meant doesn’t detach.)

    2. I think women take friendships every bit as seriously as men, and it’s not rare at all. It’s just different. Back to Men Do, Women Talk – women like to discuss things and analyze things down to the tiniest details, and go over them again. So yes, nothing is ever over. But that’s also because fights are almost never about the issue being discussed. 😉

      1. As in: Husband: “What did I do wrong?” followed by wife’s answer,”You know perfectly well what you did, now apologize!”

        Been there, done that. More then once.

    3. Part of it is a translation error.

      Guys frequently confuse “not currently fighting” for “it’s resolved.”

      There’s usually also disagreement about what the actual root disagreement was– I’ve been utterly gobsmacked at what some people have identified as the root of an argument, even in cases where the issue was stated unequivocally at some point.
      Yeah, there’s some situations where they’re NOT going to say what the problem actually is, and sometimes the problem is that there’s something wrong and they don’t know what. And counter the steriotypes, doesn’t fall along sex lines all that much.

      1. Yeah, all those sad cases in the news of, say, the kid who shot his dad because dad wouldn’t give him the car keys, and we all know there was a whole lot more going on than car keys.

  38. I wondered if people expected Benita and Cisi to have a lesbian relationship in “Necessity” (of the few people who read it….) after all, Cisi is a succubus, right? But I deliberately avoided that, and will continue to in the novel.

    Yes, Cisi is inherently sexual, and Benita is not. Cisi will try to teach her to be more feminine, but not out of THAT kind of interest in her, but because she wants her friend to be happy the only way she knows how to be.

  39. “Doc, you ought to be in bed. Why are you doing this?”

    “Wyatt is my friend.”

    “Hell, I got lots of friends.”

    “I don’t.”

  40. One current author that struck me as writing very compelling friendships between men is Jim Butcher. In both of his major series, the male main character develops a close friendship with another guy, without a hint of sexual/romantic interest involved between them (Tavi and Max; Harry and Thomas; Harry and Michael).

    The funniest one is Harry and Thomas. You’ve got a wizard and an incubus, *both* of whom have played off their relationship as romantic at various times (either for laughs or as a cover). It takes a pretty solid understanding of male psychology on Butcher’s part to persuasively maintain that no, there’s zero romantic potential between these two (a lot of the other kinds of love, though).

    1. (Spoilers, if anybody has not read the Dresden books)

      Um… don’t forget that Harry and Thomas aren’t quite the same as the other male relationships that have been discussed here, since they are half-brothers.

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