Freedom to Be
Please enjoy this encoded message.
My frustration with language comes in many forms. Sometimes, it is due to my inability to write something I am proud of. Things from years ago grow more and more stale, and things from days ago stay rough and without impact. My rhymes and meter remain wholly unchanged, and my subjects pale in comparison to those I admire. But what of it? What falls from my chest onto the page is neither good nor bad, it is for myself. No, my real frustration with language is not the writing, but the speaking.
This is not to say I think we should try to explain the world away. The most wonderful thing about queerness is breaking out of the cishetero box. To while away the hours forming littler, more specific boxes is antithetical to what generations before fought for; to simply exist in all of life’s weird and wonderful ways. Embracing queerness, embracing otherness, is to fall onto an endless down comforter, and wrap yourself up in its soft warmth. However, to express depth of feeling, to speak of pain and joy, to describe your experience and your self and know that others understand, that is connection. And that is where my main frustration with language lies.
In communications classes you learn that communication is the sender encoding a message through whatever channel, and the receiver decoding that message. In that encoding and decoding process, there are certain phrases used as shorthand to convey information. Those phrases are widely understood, and thus are easy to use for the successful encoding and decoding of messages. We say things like “only friends,” and “more than friends,” and it means that the referred to person either is or is not a platonic relationship. Upon further analysis, however, what does that wording imply? The words “only” and “more than” indicate that being friends is a lesser status. It is not as important. It, at its best, serves as a jumping off point to something bigger and better.
In response, I do my best to shift my language to something more inclusive. I say “good friends” instead of “just friends,” I say “different than friends” instead of “more than friends.” For the most part, this does the trick. Although it is not widespread, people understand that romantic relationships and platonic relationships are neither more nor less, they are simply different, and so my encoded message is correctly decoded at its most basic value. And yet, and yet, and yet, I am left feeling enraged when it is said back to me. When I ask why my friend cannot find time for me, when I ask why my encouragement and support are not sought after, when I ask why the things we have done together for years are suddenly upended, the answer is because it is different. I am the one who does not understand.
It is here where, if I were in school, I would insert a quote to be analyzed. Some grain of truth from a book about the power of friendship or the results from some study about human connection. The truth is, on the surface they will say that non-romantic relationships are precious things, but on a deeper level I think I am decoding a different message than what was encoded. What many cherish in friendship is the ability to set it down for months when things are busy, and then pick it up again when things are settled. As if nothing has changed. I know in my mind that this is love. An unassuming, supportive love. A different kind of love. But in my heart, I feel not enough. I feel that our time is determined not by the quality of our relationship, but by how long nothing more important, or someone more important, gets in the way.
So, the language problem remains. If I continue to say, “different than friends,” what can you say except, “it is different.”