Heart rocks from Bishops Beach.

Let’s be honest. When a single person describes someone as “just a friend,” there’s disappointment. Maybe not a lot, but some. You hoped for more, but there’s no passion, not even a spark. No hearts afire, unless you put too much salsa on your taco salad. So the time comes to acknowledge the truth to one’s self, to the hopeful and perhaps relieved other, and to the curious who ask, “What’s up with you and So-and-So?” The answer: “We’re just friends.”

Gracious people are up front about this with each other. That is, you don’t downgrade a relationship when you’re out  with a bunch of people and one of you introduces the other as “my friend.” One of you may have been thinking, hoping, “Maybe this time . . ..” Go ahead and state the obvious in private as soon as you know.

The other day, I looked up the etymology of the word “friend’ and learned that it’s from the Ur-Germanic frijojanan, “to love.” A friend is one who’s beloved, and I can tell you this is not what people mean when they say they are “just friends.” It means they aren’t in love.

If there’s no love between people, then maybe “like” is a better word. That one, also from the Ur-Germanic, means “to please, be sufficient, and is related to “being the same.” But I don’t think “like” works either, because the “just friends-like each other” relationship is definitely insufficient for the long haul, and in my experience, when all’s said and done, in these situations, there are major differences between the two people. They’re not alike, at least not enough to move things into a different category.

Several years ago, a friend who was single then and I, still married, developed a matrix for relationships. Granted, eHarmony and had already figured out all of this as a profitable enterprise. Our work, on a white board in my office, provided  brief opportunities for creativity during workdays that could be mentally stifling.

We determined that potential romantic partners must have common elements to make a go of it. We assumed from the get-go that the two would have the same sexual orientation, but figured there was room for variation in several areas, such as hobbies, desired height and weight, age, and income. We acknowledged that extreme variation in any area could be problematic. Like a 20-year age difference, though that applies only if the guy is the younger one. We knew all too well (boy-oh do I know it now) that it doesn’t matter the other way (think Anna Nicole Smith, as an example of extreme variation in age). In matters spiritual, cultural, and political, you’ve got to be pretty closely aligned.

We did not consider accent a factor, though some apparently have strong feelings in that area. I had a date with a man who told me that he could never be in a relationship with a woman who had a Southern accent. This was in Atlanta, in a restaurant.  I said, “Well, hey, I’d hate to mess up your dinner. I am very OK if you want to move to another table or leave. I’m staying. I love the red curry here.”

Here on Valentine’s Day 2014, I’m home with Leo, this beautiful creature friend who has come into my life. My friends–not the “just friends”—are plenty enough to make my heart happy. I love them, and I like them.

They are my Beloved. That’s bee-Luh-ved. Not bee-Luvhd. Please use the extra syllable, to distinguish between noun and adjective, at least the way I talk, which is Appalachian*. And that’s Appalatchun; not Appalaychen.

And one more thing:  there were no Ur-Germans. Ur-Germanic is a proto-language pieced together by historical linguists from the languages of a bunch of people who, from what I can tell, didn’t think much about romance, which is why God made Romance languages that descended from Vulgar Latin, and I’m not going down that path here.

Copyright 2014. Genie Hambrick