I've been learning a lot about this word recently. From what I've seen thus far, it's far too neglected in among the lexicon beside love, lust, horny, just-as-a-friend, etc. Yet, I think it's the most gracious, perhaps even pure, of all these qualifications of emotion.
Some back story:
This began on new year's eve. Unexpectedly, I wound up raving at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre. I went alone, but I knew that I would run into a certain individual that I knew from a few months previous. We had met last summer at a party and had wound up talking, cuddling, kissing, all those great things. The problem - not really 'problem' but more like extenuating circumstance- ? his boyfriend of five years. They're both nice guys, as am I, with a few rules that provide some leeway at these parties to allow for some PG adventures with others. This was a lovely suprise the first couple times, but on this night instead of going and dancing and enjoying the feelings I used to justify my partying ways at the beginning (newfound sense of sociability, freedom within a slightly crippled body), I spent the entire night in a corner with someone else's boyfriend, cuddling and essentially transferring onto him what I have wanted for myself. There was nothing revelatory about this; I went home feeling base and immoral, not because of his boyfriend, but because of who I was at that party. This did not work for me. The entire thing was, well, icky. Not at the time, but in the days after I just felt unclean. At first I was confused as to why it bothered me so much and then, about five days later, I realized that on that night I had reverted to my 17 year old self, the one to whom the very notion of holding hands without commitment is abhorrent. Since then I've been drug-, alcohol- and sex-free, save for the odd glass of wine and I've been, shockingly, happy. Not hills-are-alive happy, but definitely more at peace than I was this fall. I'm trying not to analyze it too much. Since I've put vice for the most part I've been freed to get to know people rather than try to squeeze them into the mold of what I hope they could be. That too has been lovely and I've made a couple of potentially great friends in the past month, which brings us back to affection.
Whenever we meet someone new, there's a tendency to try to place them into a box which corresponds to what we're missing in life. A lot of times this is a committed romantic partner. This is even further magnetized in the queer community where our odds are further decreased 9:!. We make grocery lists of the qualities we want in The One and upon meeting this new person immediately cross check whether or not they have the minimum required characteristics to begin down the road to romantic bliss. The first check point is always attraction, which has been generally been my curse (though occasional gift as well) as I'm pretty much not attracted to anyone, ergo it's pretty easy to rule people out right away for that kind of relationship.
Being in this new state of chastity, though, I've essentially thrown out the check list and have started to really take people on for who they are, and what I've come up with is a lot of affection. Affection for those that have been around for years, as well as for new people I just met a couple of weeks ago. But I worry sometimes if that's enough for them. I don't think people really understand this word. When I say or act in a way that says, "I am really very fond of you," I'm getting these, "Great! Let's date!" reactions, and there's nothing that I can say to assure them that my saying no is not a rejection of them.
I'm fond of you, motherfucker, isn't that enough?!