I was watching the latest episode of Elementary, the newest Sherlock Homes incarnation, and the “ship” didn’t just graze me, but hit me square on. The boat t-boned me, listed to the side and grounded like a Italian cruise liner in the Med, or the Gulf (anyone else afraid to take a cruise lately?). Let me refresh your memory or explain for those who haven’t watched this episode. Oh and BTW, it took place on Valentine’s Day so read into that however your little shipper heart desires. Watson has been lying to Sherlock and pretending she is still under the employ of Sherlock’s father as his sober-companion. Well, Sherlock found out. Was she foolish enough to think the master investigator wasn’t going to? Dumbass. But what she doesn’t get is that the truth is: he doesn’t want her to go. So he’s challenged her with staying on as his partner, his companion, as his protégé of sorts. It was a scene full of subtle, raw emotion excellently played by both Lucy Liu and Johnny Lee Miller. Fantastic and it got my heart a twitter. Who knows if it was intentional, it probably is, because as we all know there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman on a television show. And not like I’m really going out on a limb here, but there can never be a purely platonic friendship between a man and a woman in real life either. Unless one is gay or ugly. Can I get an Amen?
This is a theme that has fascinated me forever. Friendship between men and women. And more specifically love that grows from a deep friendship and understanding between men and women. I’ve loved it in numerous television shows over the last twenty years and it’s what I explore in my own writing. It’s the foundation of the ‘ship’ for me, more so than the unresolved sexual tension. Carter and O’Neill–Stargate, Mac and Harm–Jag, Picard and Dr. Crusher, Star Trek: TNG, and let us not forget the king of them all, Scully and Mulder–The X-files. Even more recent: Mary and Marshall, In Plain Sight. They however didn’t fall prey to the trope. But there’s been a trend of late––the ‘Hey, let’s fight the Moonlighting curse and actually get them together’: Brennan and Boothe–Bones, Olivia and Peter–Fringe, Annie and Auggie–Covert Affairs (I don’t agree with that one. I ship for Eyal, so I’m really pissed that she left him in Amsterdam to go home and kiss Auggie because she’s a big fat chicken and needs a security blanket, but I digress.) There are tons more that I’m forgetting and you get the idea. One of the things that drove many episodes and story arcs of those great shows revolved around the sexual tension between the Male and Female leads. It is an epidemic.
Because it’s interesting and titillating and we can’t help but feel the same way or wish that it was happening to us. Fiction needs to reflect life for it to be relevant I would venture to say that most people have at some point or another been friends with a member of the opposite sex and had some kind of tingle in the heart and/or nether regions for them. It’s nature, an unwritten law of the universe, there is no way around it. Because it comes down to psychology (emotions) and science (pheromones). Friendships are based on common ground, a sense of camaraderie and above all trust. Good love relationships are also based on those same principles with the complication of sex thrown in. When we have trust, we feel close to that person and when we feel close to that person we share things that are intimate and private, whether it’s secrets, feelings, truths or sex.
Now, I am no pyschologist, just an observer and explorer of the human condition. But I extrapolate a lot from my own life experience I have had no less than 5 best friends who are male through the course of my adult life, not including the two men that I married. I have had sex with none of them, but I loved 3 of them, one of which was gay so that statement above of one being ugly or gay doesn’t always apply. (That’s a whole other psychology). One of them, no, not the gay one, I completely misread the signals and had my heart broken. Though I still would bet even odds that he was full of shit and just freaked out that the situation actually presented itself and just couldn’t handle it. He made me unable to read any kind of signal from a man. Radar is broken.
So why then does this intrigue me? I’ve tried to look at the answers over the course of my life and the mistakes that I’ve made. And boy I’ve made a few. But, through analyzing my past friendships, I think it comes down to one thing. I think women just want men to talk with them as equals and understand them. We feel empowered when a man understands us––like we’ve been privy to the key to a really secret club. We should hope that this comes from our spouse or significant other. But sometimes it doesn’t. Me, I’ve been very lucky. This time around the marriage arena, I’ve struck gold and he understands me perfectly clear. However, doesn’t mean that I still don’t relish in the understanding I get from my significant male friends.
The Dear Husband jokes that I have a stable of men. And maybe I do, some infinitely more important than others. Would any of them lead to an affair? Hah, in a perfect world with no consequences… where jealousy and territorial boundaries didn’t exist… then it wouldn’t be an affair, more a simple understanding that fundamentally human beings don’t mate for life. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe this.
Humans do not mate for life.
The idea of soul mates is fantastic and romantic. And yes we can meet our perfect other half. However, what is never discussed is that as we grow and change through our life, we often take a different shape and need a different perfect other half. Why? Because we don’t mate for life. Why else do you think that Ménage à trois books and the alternative lifestyle of swinging is coming to the forefront? It’s not just about sex with someone else. It’s about loving more than one person, sometimes at the same time.
We are not swans, gibbons, wolves, bald eagles, turtle doves or albatrosses. What is it with birds and the pledge of undying love, huh? Do they understand something that we don’t? Not really. They are animals that aren’t driven by emotional connections. We try to be dedicated to our one and only. But, in my whole life, I have only ever met one couple who were in complete and everlasting love until one of them died after nearly forty years together. And I’ll give you a hint––they never had children. It was just them. (Again, a whole other psychology to explain that one). More than fifteen years after her death, he was still deeply in love with her. Like George Burns and Gracie Allen. It was sweet. And completely unnatural.
Now that doesn’t make me a cynic, just a realist. I am a dyed in the wool romantic. I love the idea of deep, soul crushing love. It’s why I write romances. But I do believe that we can find that love multiple times in our life, if we’re lucky and connect with the right people. Different people come into our life at times for different reasons. If we think of life as a predestined path, we meet people along that path who are there for certain reasons, many of which are unknown to us at the time. They are there to help us, guide us, teach us, and share parts of ourselves that others don’t have the wherewithal, means or connection to do so.
How does this relate to the concept that men and women cannot be platonic friends? Well, if there is truth to the fact that we don’t mate for life, we seek out or discover connections to others to fill something in ourselves. Sometimes is starts as a friendship and then it morphs into something deeper. Sometimes it starts as an attraction and then morphs into a friendship. Depends on the pheromones and the boundaries or emotional state/needs of those involved. The pure fact that we can’t have a television show where the male and female lead aren’t flirting gratuitously, the sexual tension crackling on the screen is testament to that. We are excited by emotional connection. We love the build up and the evolution of a relationship, that ebb and flow of tension and release, the dreaded ‘C’ word–– Conflict. Relationships in books and television/movies without conflict, that fundamental something that keeps them apart, lack sizzle and the taboo of the ‘want’ and the ‘need’. We strive for the ease of connection in our own lives because living in a state of continuous conflict is tiring and stressful. But we crave it in our entertainment because it’s exciting and we flirt with it in our daily lives to make ourselves feel alive.
Do I want Sherlock and Watson to get naked and bump uglies? The jury is still out on that for me. He’s a tough character to fall in love with. Yeah, I fell head of heals in love with House because of his complexities and vulnerabilities that he denied, no doubt. He had infinite depth. Sherlock, the template for House, even in this modern incarnation, is fundamentally the same. Is he capable of loving someone who doesn’t fill some sort of purpose for him? Is Watson his other half? She certainly balances him and like all good functional/dysfunctional relationships, they feed off of each other’s needs. I’d love it if they explored it. But I’d also be thrilled if they took the trope and spun it on its head like they did in In Plain Sight with Mary and Marshall. Have the balls to do it differently. But then again, my little shipper heart wanted Marshall to pledge his undying love for her too and for her to accept it. He ultimately did, but not in the romantic way. It was quite beautiful. It’s still early for Sherlock and Watson. Elementary is sowing the seeds, that fabulous awkward confession was perfect fertilizer. The rest remains to be seen.
In the meantime, I will continue to explore this concept with my own characters. The Overwatch series is steeped in the idea of a man and a woman as best friends who fall in love. Their issues keeping them apart stem from the concept of ‘duty over self’. In my upcoming sci-fi romance series, I will examine the concept again between a man and a woman who’ve fought a war together for years when suddenly they realize the other person is and has been their significant other the entire time, that their strength comes from within themselves, but is compounded by the support and love from the other. And in the continuation of the Overwatch series, I’m going to flip the concept inside out and take a look at what happens when you can’t be with the one you love most. How do you reconcile that your other half has found their other half and it isn’t you?
So may ideas, so many men, so little time…
Story of my life.
**All images are not mine and belong to others.