Emoblog/2017/11/12/collaborative friendship

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Apparently[1] it has been proposed that there are five basic ways in which people communicate love to each other, and that these may be briefly summarized as:

  1. gift giving
  2. quality time
  3. words of affirmation
  4. acts of service (devotion)
  5. physical touch

The theory also proposes that "each person has one primary and one secondary love language." This much is consistent with my feelings, as (without knowing that part of the theory) I responded that physical touch was hugely important to me, closely followed by quality time[2], but that the rest didn't really mean anything to me and I have to remind myself that other people may sincerely feel them as an expression of love.

I do feel that there's one item missing from the list, though.

When I imagined my "ideal relationship", it always involved creating things together – music, writing, whatever. I sort of have it wired in my head as the end goal of all meaningful relationships that go past a certain depth. It's my way of saying "look how amazing and brilliant this person is! and look at how amazing we are together!".

A handful of examples from my own history:

  • So, like, Tigger writes down two or three short lines (summer of 1985)... I write another half-dozen verses spinning off of those, work out music for it, record it, and it becomes Your Brilliant Career... and I consider her an equal co-author because she had the original idea [ SECRET REASON: because I want there to be something we did together that is really cool and enduring and makes both of us look brilliant ] even though I did most of the follow-up to turn it into a finished thing.
  • Another: Anna plays and sings most of a song, age 6? 7? ...I think this is awesome, and manage to get her to record part of it, and then I put in background music and percussion and stuff and loop her voice as necessary to provide filler and turn it into something semi-presentable because I want her to feel that we created stuff together, that I helped her express herself.
  • Hilary runs into a bug with a program I wrote for the lab, and leaves me a note about it -- in the form of a parody of The Raven... which is just the kind of stuff I eat up with a spoon, so of course I do my best to respond in kind -- in the form of a parody of Jabberwocky. (They're posted together here.)
  • And, more recently, I think maybe some small part of me sees my annotations of Jenny's notes as being kind of like the ultimate collaboration between us. I specifically wanted people to know how brilliant she was.

I always figured maybe most people who sincerely want to have children do so for this reason – as an expression of that need for creative collaboration. I don't know if this is true; if it is, I suspect most such people don't consciously make the connection. In any case, it's kind of the only way I've been able to work out for how to relate to the idea of wanting to deliberately saddle someone you love with such a huge burden.

...but more likely my brain is just wired strangely. Maybe it's more reasonable to say that my wish for creative collaboration is a displaced reproductive urge? (But then what's real and what's displaced?)

Either way, I've never wanted to have children, and I've always preferred to put that kind of energy into my ideas. "My ideas are my children."


  1. h/t to Kimball Anderson for pointing this out to me.
  2. which can include things like writing letters to each other – when I sit down to a nice long letter from a friend, and respond to it, it feels something like spending time with them