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One of the most subtly hurtful and quietly damning of all remarks, perhaps quietly and
sweetly delivered on the doorstep at the end of a long evening, with the taxi still hovering
somewhere just out of sight, is the suggestion that we should in the end probably remain
'just good friends'. We know exactly what to understand by this. The path towards a
tender future is being gently but firmly closed off. We are, with a smile, being shunted into
the category of the failed, the ignored and the lightly despised. The other must in some
way have worked out the despicable truths about us – all the ones that we tried so
hard to disguise and even to believe didn't exist – and has logically decided to take
their leave. We return crushed to an apartment which we had left with butterflies and elevated
hopes only a few hours before. We hear the invitation to a friendship as synonymous with
insult because our Romantic culture has continuously, and from a young age, made one thing sharply
clear to us: love is the purpose of existence; friendship is the paltry, depleted consolation
prize. Though this seems like unsurprising common sense, what should detain us and encourage
us to probe a little at the claims made on love's behalf is one basic source of evidence:
the behaviour, level of satisfaction and state of mind of lovers themselves. If we were to
judge love chiefly by its impact, by the extent of the tears, the depths of the frustrations,
the viciousness of the insults that unfold in its name, we would not continue to rate
it as we do and might indeed mistake it for a form of illness or aberration of the mind.
The scenes that typically unfold between lovers would scarcely be considered imaginable outside
of conditions of open hostility. Those we love, we honour with our worst moods, our
most unfair accusations, our most wounding insults. It is to our lovers that we direct
blame for everything that has gone wrong in our lives, it is they we expect to know everything
we mean without bothering to explain it, it is to their minor errors and misunderstandings
that we respond with sulks and rage. And, by comparison, in friendship, the supposedly
worthless and inferior state whose mention should crush us at the end of a date, we bring
our highest and noblest virtues. Here we are patient, encouraging, tolerant, funny and
– most of all – kind. We expect a little less and therefore, by extension, forgive
an infinite amount more. We do not presume that we will be fully understood, and so treat
failings lightly and humanely. We don't imagine that our friends should admire us
without reserve and stick by us whatever we do, and so we put in effort and behave, pleasing
ourselves as well as our companions along the way. We are, in the company of our friends,
our best selves. Paradoxically, it is friendship that offers us the real route to the pleasures
that Romanticism associates with love. That this sounds surprising is only a reflection
of how underdeveloped our day to day vision of friendship has become. We associate it
with a casual acquaintance we see only once in a while to exchange inconsequential and
shallow banter. But real friendship is something altogether more profound and worthy of exultation:
it is an arena in which two people can get a sense of each other's vulnerabilities;
appreciate each other's follies without recrimination, reassure one another as to
their value and greet the sorrows and tragedies of existence with wit and warmth. Culturally
and collectively, we have made a momentous mistake which has left us both lonelier and
more disappointed than we ever needed to be. In a better world, our most serious goal would
not be to locate one special lover with whom to replace all other humans, it would be to
put our intelligence and energy into identifying and nurturing a circle of true friends. At
the end of an evening, we would learn to say to certain prospective companions, with an
embarrassed smile as we invited them inside – knowing that this would come across as
a properly painful rejection – 'I'm so sorry, couldn't we just be… lovers?'
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我們只是朋友!這樣有什麼優點呢?(The Advantages of Being 'just Good Friends')

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Evangeline 發佈於 2018 年 10 月 23 日    EmmaW 翻譯    Evangeline 審核
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