This is not a bromance

By Mic Wright

Why do we have to label a man’s love for another man with an ironic tag, asks Mic Wright

The concept of the bromance took flight with the success of the 'Hangover' trilogy.
The concept of the bromance took flight with the success of the 'Hangover' trilogy.

I love a man called John. His wife doesn't mind. In fact, I've known him far longer than she has. He is the other half of the great "bromance" of my life and when he got married last year, I was his best man.

The quotation marks around "bromance" are very necessary. I hate the word. It's as pathetic as its female equivalent: "BFF" (Best Friend Forever). While the concept of the bromance really took flight with the success of the Hangover movie trilogy, it's been with us for ages. David Carnie, the editor of American skateboarding magazine Big Brother first coined it - a portmanteau of "bro" and "romance" - in the 90s to describe the close friendships between pro-skaters. Since then, the use of "bromance" has gone terribly wrong.

We have a cultural problem: we're scared by friendship - particularly male friendship. If two men love each other deeply it fires off a klaxon in the minds of self-defensive straight people fearful that the closeness will descend into Women In Love-style naked wrestling in front of an open fire.

In hip-hop, there's the notion of "no homo", which originated in early-90s East Harlem but became really popular in the late 2000s among rappers. The idea is that after saying something complementary about another man, rappers exclaim "no homo" to indicate that they are admiring of their fellow MC's rhymes rather than his bum. The concept is so laughable that it proved easy fodder for Saturday Night Live's satirical pop combo, The Lonely Island. Their 2011 song, No Homo, builds ludicrous reference upon ludicrous reference until it reaches its zenith with this pearl: "I've been thinking about f****** a dude/no homo!"

I'm not ashamed to say that I love John. He has been a more constant presence in my life than any relationship. As a tricky teenager, he was like my translator to the world: "Oh don't worry about Mic, he's just a bit ... different." As we have grown up and gone out into the world of work, our friendship has only deepened. We've been through bands, break-ups, death and marriages. The friendship has endured all of them. A truly great best friend feels like a brother; a brother you have actively chosen to be yoked to.

Fiction and history books strain at their bindings with stories of great male friendships: Sherlock and Watson; Hunt and Lauda; Lennon and McCartney; Statler and Waldorf; Scott and Oates; Hall and Oates for God's sake. None of them are "bromances": that terrible term that belongs only in fraudulent frat movies. The Blues Brothers shows a great male friendship. The Commitments is full of them, while Reservoir Dogs shows what happens when they go tits up. Male friendship is not about Jackass and The Hangover. It is not crass, base and strictly superficial.

We are more comfortable about celebrating female friendship. Sisters doing it for themselves. The entire Destiny's Child discography is dedicated to women who can pay their own bills (although "auto-mo-bills?", really Beyonce?), love their friends and just kick arse. That the band revolved entirely around Beyonce and that the other girls were as expendable as her hair extensions appears to be inconsequential. Male friendship in pop music is largely of the Boys R Back In Town school of thought. Men have gangs and banter. And there's obviously something to that. But a true friendship goes beyond the boisterous surface.

Regardless of how my relationships go, of how my work life fairs, my friendship with John is a constant. Beyond my mum and dad and my grandparents, he is the person I most trust in the world. In any crisis, in any danger, in any moment of joy or tragedy, my finger jumps to his number in my phone's contacts. That level of love and respect deserves far better than a jokey, punning reduction. It is not a bromance and never will be.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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