You know, I don't believe in labels. Adjectives of all sorts are monstrously overused in our brand-conscious world. We are used to buying without examining the object itself; rather, we are propelled by preconceptions and influenced by advertisement. Likewise, we are used to finding and dating people based on simplified descriptions that prevent us from opening ourselves to others. Modern technology, such as social networks and dating apps, makes the problem worse.
But there is another trend working against simplification, stereotyping and traditions. Once in a while I meet people who prove my point that labels, especially those referring to human sexuality, are completely meaningless.
Let me introduce you to Jorge and George. I met them in Barcelona this summer. They are both 32, both sport a really cute beard and a fit body, and both are into the same sports. Jorge makes pottery; George is a cook. They met at university 12 years ago, moved in together 10 years ago, and have been a couple ever since. Except that they are not gay.
"The last time we had real sex together was six years ago, the night we moved into this apartment. We tried it a few times before. It's OK, you know, one can get off, but it's nothing like sex with a girl. We both like girls."
I was surprised, because they kiss each other, spank each other, fool around like teenagers together. They like running around the apartment naked, and interviewing them was an exercise in self-control. Yet they have separate rooms and do occasionally date women.
"But we don't plan to get girlfriends and marry. Women aren't really our thing, you know. Neither of us wants children, and we both find bras and bracelets very... fumbly. Look at our clothes. It's all simple stuff: jeans and T-shirt."
For a while I didn't believe them, but we spent three days together after I promised them that they would make an appearance in one of my books one day.
"But you have to keep it real," they warned me. "You can't end the book by us getting married or something!"
We now have another unfortunate label for what I am describing: "bromance." But I don't think that's apt. "Bromance" is a term hyped by the media to sell celebrity gossip without offending conservatives, and it belittles what Jorge and George share.
"What we have is much more," said Jorge when I took him out for a beer alone. "You see, I love him. We could sleep together easily. We don't mind physical contact. It's just that we don't find gay sex all that hot. And anyway, sex is so overrated in a relationship."
The next day I had lunch with George and tried to see if maybe one of them was hopelessly in love with the other and simply didn't want to admit that he was gay. It happens.
"Everybody we meet, really everybody, thinks we are lying," he told me. "They think that either we say we are a couple to make us more interesting, or they think that we lie about having sex. But I really don't think 'gay' is the right word for us. It's meaningless. I love him. He loves me. We touch each other when we need it. We hug, fool around, sometimes wank together. But it's not a gay marriage."
I absolutely love the ambiguity, the openness to anything. It's exactly how I imagined 21st century lives would be: free and unconcerned with stereotypes and role models. But men are men, and they, too, have a biological clock.
"You mean that one day we'll want to split up and find girls and... procreate? What for? The purpose of life is creativity. Procreation is only the simplest form of being creative. Anyway, I've been to the sperm bank 30 times already, so there's enough offspring of me out there. Sometimes I look at a baby in a pram and think, 'That could be mine.'"
What is it all about, this new paradigm? Is it a real thing, a genuine option?
"I am actually dating a straight couple right now," Jorge told me, his beautiful blue eyes sparkling like mad. "It's the best sex ever. He's really bi and passive, and she is a beautiful Swedish girl. They made a pass at me at the cafeteria, you know, both of them at the same time."
I asked them if they bring home girls.
"We did for a while, even picked them up together, but it's a bit complicated. Most girls can't handle how close we are. I like to touch him, hug him, when he is with a girl. Most chicks freak out when they see that, but there's nothing I can do. I am not responsible for other people's tunnel vision."
And what about boys?
"Well, sometimes. Especially thin, geeky types with no body hair. That works. But ultimately, our relationship is about us, how we get along. He is the best buddy a man could have. We don't really see ourselves splitting up and marrying women."
The last question I asked them was only logical: "So you want to grow old together?"
After I'd observed them so closely for so long, the answer did not surprise me: "Absolutely!"
It's all too easy to dismiss them as "weird" or label them "gay," but I believe we will see more and more forms of sharing lives that defy tribal notions or biblical stereotypes. In the 21st century we are finally discovering how individualistic we can be. And that's a good thing.