Setting the Rules: On friends becoming lovers

This month’s columnist explores when friendship crosses over romance

Feature by Esme Allman | 04 Oct 2019
  • Deviance Valentine's day

A few years ago, I stood outside a South London train station and tentatively held your hand. I didn’t know how to make it look as if we were just friends. You kissed me, long and hard, when we departed. I walked up the ramp to the platform, lightheaded, feeling as if everyone was staring.

Sometime after, you sat in my dorm over 400 miles away and we confessed that though it had only been a few weeks, it was undeniable there was something here. Though I was late to rehearsal that evening, I refused your cab ride; I needed to wander away my thoughts. 

Years on, after a summer commuting together, I can only say we kissed accidently. I saw you wrapped in someone else’s lap while I stumbled through the party and winked with mischief, even though you pouted back, shaking your head at the stranger. 

The following summer, I revelled in keeping this a secret. The important people already knew. I was enjoying the stretches of morning and night spent lounging and dozing, feeling the days move as if they were edged forward by a breeze. I was tired of justifying what this was and decided to just feel instead. It’s been a year now and I have not stopped feeling, comfortably making a home out of you.

Noname’s Song 31 opens with the line 'All my everything is for you.' Each time I hear it I think it a beautiful admittance of love. To love is to be vulnerable, and to be vulnerable is to admit someone outside yourself is worth being something more for. The snippets above reimagine moments when I’ve been lucky enough to cross that threshold of friendship to romance. To decided that the 'everything' Noname speaks of will become something different, more intimate: being on the brink of broaching an intimacy you’re not supposed to share with a friend.

It is complex. It unleashes a plethora of emotions: guilt, excitement, shame, confusion, delight. Each time I have asked myself, what does it mean to push a boundary – to toe a line? Who sets the rules here? Are we hiding behind the guise of danger? Will we do this? Why are we doing this? There are no definitive answers. Only trust in a feeling.