“I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You” written by and illustrated by Yumi Sakugawa, published in Sadie Magazine, 2012.
I’m intrigued by how this lovely comic’s evocative and poignant claim-staking for friendship as a form of love and a kind of primary attachment relies on an ambivalent relation to what one might understand as the erotic. Because romantic/sexual attachments are so predominantly coded as the only attachments with visibility and meaning, the comic, to assert a passionate friendship, understandably needs to negotiate between two rhetorical poles. This is passionate, but not in the way that “passionate” usually signifies: “I might lean my left arm just a little bit against your right arm / but never would I try to put my head on your shoulder or try to hold your hand.” To invoke a passionate friendship, the comic needs to signify touch, eroticism, even romance, but predominantly in the negative, disclaiming them in the same phrases in which they are brought into view.
I’m ambivalent about how to read this. It’s certainly one way to try to guard against the ease with which eroticism slides narratively into precisely the kind of love story that erases the possibility of passionate friendship in the first place. Yet the repetition of the kinds of touch and intimacy the speaker disclaims is an anxious repetition, a set of reassurances to their addressee that they will not burden them with too much desire, too much touch, too much intimacy because these things (presumably) threaten to exceed the bounds of friendship and “that would be weird.” How else might we propose a wider spectrum of passionate attachment that might leave room for a variety of erotic attachments within friendship while maintaining a distance from normative narratives of romantic attachment and coupledom? Or, to put it more simply: I think of how I do hold hands with some of my friends, how important that is to me, and how each friendship negotiates these boundaries differently without one uniform definition of what the proper bounds of friendship are. I believe in the radical possibilities of queer erotic friendship and I think “weirdness” is to be sought out and embraced.
Of course, there’s another way to read it: the comic may be about just this. The play between reaching out and pulling back, between declarations of desire and reassurances of its limits, happens in the empty spaces between panels and occasionally in images that might be read in tension with the text. After the speaker declares they would never try to hold hands, “because that would be weird,” three images follow: two clouds shaped like figures with hands that almost touch, one cloud that still looks like a human figure while the cloud next to it now looks like a cloud, and finally, two clouds that look just like all the other clouds around them. The repeated compulsion to place limits on the kinds of desire allowable in friendship might in fact be another instantiation of the devastating possibility that the addressee might not reciprocate the speaker’s love, and of the melancholy suspension with which the comic ends. Might this be read as both a viscerally sad evocation of all that stands in the way of making our friendships passionately “weird,” and a call to imagine what it might look like to dare ask for a friendship that refuses the bounds placed on it by normative models of kinship and attachment?
(At the same time, I certainly don’t want to imply that the only way to signal or desire passionate friendship is through the forms of touch the speaker here disclaims. I dream of a world in which every relationship, no matter its label, involves ongoing negotiation of what kinds of touch are and are not within the bounds of that particular, unique relationship, and so touching arms but never holding hands is one of many possible negotiated boundaries that such a world would accept and celebrate in any kind of relationship, not just friendship. And yet the way it works here, the repetition of “that would be weird,” cannot but call to mind memories of the uncomfortable dance of negotiating friendships with straight girls when I was a teenager and felt the preemptive compulsion to reassure them that I would keep my queer desires safely away from them at all times…)
Presented at Milan’s Design Week 2013 the floating book support called “Extend”.
Extend is a serious matter of illusionism giving you the feeling that you are watching a pair of books floating. Extend “can be ﬁxed to a tabletop by a clamp and the length can be adjusted as you like.”