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The Platonic Friendship Fake
by [?]

A charming little lady, the front elevation of whose name is Stella, takes pen in hand and gives the Icon. a red-hot “roast” for having intimated that Platonic Love, so-called, is a pretty good thing for respectable women to let alone. Judged by the amount of caloric she generates, Stella must be a star of the first magnitude, or even an entire constellation. She “believes in the pure, passionless love described by Plato as sometimes existing between the sexes–the affinities of mind as distinguished from the carnal lusts of matter,” and opines that the Apostle “must be gross indeed not to comprehend this philosophic and highly satisfactory companionship.”

“Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder what you are,
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.”

I plead guilty and cast myself upon the mercy of the court. I sorrowfully admit that my aestheticism is not eighteen karats fine, but mixed with considerable slag. When I should have been acquiring the higher culture, I was either playing hookey or planting hogs. Instead of being fed on the transcendental philosophy of Plato, I was stuffed with mealy Irish spuds and home-grown “punkin” pie. When I should have been learning to relish pate de foie gras and love my neighbor’s wife in a purely passionless way, I was following one of McCormick’s patents around a forty-acre field or arguing a point of ethics with a contumacious mule. That I am unable to appreciate that Platonic yearning of soul to soul, that deep calling unto deep on which Stella dotes, is my misfortune rather than my fault. It appears to me too much like voting the Prohibition ticket or playing poker with Confederate currency. When I love a woman I love her up one side and down t’other. I may be an uncultured and barbaric noodle, but I want to get hold of her and bite her neck. I want to cuddle her sunny curls on my heaving shirt-front when I talk to her about affinities. I believe with Tennyson in the spirits rushing together at the touching of the lips, and I just let ’em rush. Men may esteem women and enjoy their society with never a thought of sex. I have many female friends, some white-haired gran’dames, some mere girls in short dresses. But for their kindly interest and encouragement I would have cast aside the faber and fled to the desert long ago. The friendship of a noble woman is life’s holiest perfume; but that is not the affinity of souls, the supernatural spooning, the Platonic yum-yum for which fair Stella pleads. Love, as I understand the term, is to friendship’s non-consuming flame what the fierce glare of the noonday sun is to the mild radiance of the harvest moon. It is something which makes two people of opposite sexes absolutely necessary to each other. It is a glory in which the soul is bathed, an almost savage melody that beats within the blood. It is–O dammed; it’s that which transforms a snub-nosed dairy maid into a Grecian goddess, a bench-legged farmer boy into a living Apollo Belvedere. “Love is love forevermore”–differing in degree, but never in kind. The Uranian is but the nobler nature of the Pandemian Venus, not another entity. Love is not altogether of the earth earthy. It is born of the spirit as well as of the flesh, of the perfume as of the beauty of the great red rose. Few of those women who have led captive the souls of the intellectual Titans of the world could boast of wondrous beauty. The moment man passes the pale of savagery he demands something more than mere physical perfection in a companion. Purity, Gentleness, Dignity–such are the three graces of womanhood that ofttimes make Cupid forgive a shapeless bosom and adore a homely face. The love of a parent for a child is the purest affection of which we can conceive; yet is the child the fruition of a love that lies not ever in the clouds. Platonic affection, so-called, is but confluent smallpox masquerading as measles. Those who have it may not know what ails ’em; but they’ve got a simple case of “spoons” all the same. If Stella were “my dear heart’s better part,” and tried to convince me that she felt a purely Platonic affection for some other fellow, I’d apply for a writ of injunction or lay for my transcendental rival with a lignumvitae club loaded to scatter. Nobody could convince me that the country was secure. The Platonic racket is being sadly overworked in swell society. Like charity, it covers a multitude of sins. Married women go scouting around at all hours and in all kinds of places with Platonic lovers, until the “old man” feeds a few slugs into a muzzle-loading gun and lets the Platonism leak through artificial holes in the hide of some gay gallant. When madame must have her beaux, and maids receive attention from married men, there’s something decayed in the moral Denmarks. Mrs. Tilton thought she felt a Platonic affection for Henry Ward Beecher–was simply worshiping at the shrine of his genius; but she made as bad a mess of it as though she had called her complaint concupiscence. Even here in Texas, where we do preserve a faint adumbration of the simplicity and virtue of ye olden time, it is no uncommon thing to see a chipper married female, who moves in the “best society,” flitting about with some fellow who’s recognized, as the servants say, as her “steady company.” But as we have improved on the Pompeiian “house of joy,” so have we added to the French fashion of married flirtation a new and interesting feature. The French allow maids but little liberty so far as male companionship is concerned; but we remove the bridle altogether, and while the matron flirts with the bachelor, the maid appropriates the lonesome benedict. All the old social laws have been laid on the shelf and life rendered a veritable go-as-you-please. In real life there is no “pure Platonic affection,” whatever may betide in fiction. No man waits upon another’s wife, provides her with carriages and cut flowers, opera tickets and wine suppers with never a suspicion of sex, and no maid who values her virtue will receive marked attentions from a married man. When a virgin finds an “affinity” she should steer it against a marriage contract at the earliest possible moment; when a wife discovers one to whom she is not wedded she should employ a bread and water diet to subdue her “natural super-naturalism”– and reinforce her religion with a season of penitence and prayer.