Short Background On Bromance
In the 1990s, Big Brother Magazine editor David Ross Carnie came up with the portmanteau “bromance.” Finally, men had a word for an intimate, non-sexual relationship with persons of the same sex.
Yet the roots of bromance stretch back further than that, to days when no one even spoke English. It had no name then but bromance was first chronicled five millennia ago in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest literary works ever. In this epic poem, the fighters Gilgamesh and Enkidu were as close to each other as men can be without necessarily being lovers. When Enkidu died in combat, Gilgamesh was so overcome with grief that he too passed away.
Ancient history is teeming with more accounts of bromance. David and Jonathan in biblical times were bound to each other by it, and so were Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad.
Truth to tell, men prized bromantic bond among themselves during the rise of Western civilization. Having a bromantic partner was the ultimate sign of manliness then. The Sacred Band of Thebes in ancient Greece was formed by pairs of bromantically linked men, all willing to defend their partners to the last breath. These men were said to have drawn bravery in battle from their inextricable ties to each other.
Bromance was esteemed in the arts as it was in war. Arguably the first to philosophize bromance, Plato founded his work almost entirely on the notion of love between men. He knew well the formidable, singular bond binding man to another. It was “Platonic.”
In the succeeding millennia, innumerable men such as William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci continued the great tradition of male-to-male companionship. As late as the 19th century, men were not averse to sending each other loving missives expressing their most profound feelings for each other. In hindsight, these letters could have been homosexual in nature but many literary scholars beg to disagree. Nineteenth-century men were known to use the language of courtship for men and women alike.
Bromance has not been heard of since. Society became increasingly aware of the concept of homosexuality, demonizing blatant displays of otherwise non-sexual affection among men. In the wake of the Second World War, men were under constant pressure to rebuild and strengthen the nation by keeping families. Due to the thrust towards self-reliant and independent households, men were forced to recoil from each other, into domestic duties.
It was not until the last few decades when men began to rediscover the manly bonds of their ancestors. One could chalk it up to several factors, including – surprisingly – feminism and homosexuality.
Feminism may have reinstated bromance in two ways. First, feminist-mothers may have raised their male children since the 1970s to be more expressive of their feelings, thereby conditioning them for emotional attachments to others. Or feminism may have repelled men towards a more male-centered community with one another.
In a paradox, the growing tolerance of homosexuality in recent years has contributed to the resurfacing of the bromance. Sociologists seem to think the impediments faced by homophobia today have led heterosexual or “straight” men to build more intimate relationships sans stigmatization. Plus, this growing tolerance has somehow required the establishment of a concept separate from and irreducible to homosexuality.
With its reemergence, bromance has somehow vindicated its veracity. No amount of romantic feelings for women could take men away from bonding intimately with male compatriots. Soon, bromance’s place in society would be restored to its former glory.