|Just how much is cultural?
||[May. 25th, 2010|08:10 pm]
I'm reading Team of Rivals, a book about Lincoln's presidency. It isn't Lincoln himself that I'm particularly interested in — rather, learning about America in Lincoln's time has been fascinating.
There is one aspect of the culture that is I find really intriguing: intimacy between men. Apparently, it was normal for men to share a bed, especially when traveling, but often between roommates as well. Weird as that sounds in our time, it isn't too hard to believe that it could have been the norm in a different century when lodgings were a lot more expensive.
But it gets weirder. Men seem to have relationships that we simply don't have a word for in the 21st century. It is stronger than friendship, but it is not sexual. They do profess their "love" for each other all the time, and if they move apart then each writes letters to the other confessing how the separation is killing him. The bond lasts long, often for life, although it may become less fervent as the years pass.
I want to emphasize once again that this seems to have been the norm. Pretty much everyone I've read about so far seems to have had these relationships. They couldn't all have been gay and closeted.
I mentioned this to a friend who had a background in social anthropology and he found it not at all surprising. But as a lay person, I'm sure I'm not the only one whose credulity was stretched here.
Boy, Japan is starting to look a lot less weird now.